Jesus came into the world on a mission of mercy, to forgive all our sins, and heal all our diseases.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Jesus gave the parable of the Pharisee and the sinner to correct self-righteousness and point the way toward true righteousness.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others (Luke 18:9)
The prayers of the two men are very different. The one is an ornate, self-congratulatory speech; the other a simple broken-hearted plea.
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 19:10-13)
In this parable, Jesus not only juxtaposed two men, but two attitudes. He knew the typical attitude of the Pharisee, and He also knew the attitude of those who were turning toward Him. The Pharisees thought they were well and had no need of a Physician; those they called “sinners” knew they were broken and in need of repair.
The person who is broken before God knows they need help. They may not even know how to articulate their need. The essence of their prayer is a simple: “Help me.” They can only trust that the one they are looking toward knows better than they do how to fix them.
The publican in the parable was right as he returned to his house. We don’t have to be completely repaired before God calls us right. A humble confession of our need and a looking toward Christ for help deems us right in His eyes.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:14)
Those who “exalt themselves” focus on their “right” and another’s wrong. Those who “humble themselves” stay focused on their own need.
David became incensed at the wrong of another, when he was guilty of the very thing he condemned.
And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man … (2 Samuel 12:1-7)
When David was convicted for his own sin, he cried out for God’s mercy, wanting help at the deepest level of his being. David’s prayer epitomized the “broken and contrite heart” that attracts God.
<<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.>> Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar. (Psalm 51:1-19)
David was stunned as to how he could have committed such a heinous crime. He had “hit a wall.” He could not figure himself out, nor could he fix himself. The only thing he knew to do was to place himself under God’s care to fix whatever God knew needed fixing.
People don’t realize how desperate their condition is. They are “ticking time bombs” capable of all manner of evil. Their thinking that they are “good,” and their measuring themselves against the really “bad” people out there, only keeps them from coming to Christ. Getting the help we need begins with our knowing we need help.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
“desperately wicked” > Hebrew – anash > very sick, incurable
We are either trusting in ourselves or trusting in Jesus to be right. Christ calls us to Himself and away from all own labors to fix ourselves.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28,29)
We come to Christ for a complete overhaul, NOT a minor tune-up. As we stay in His “shop” we are taught His ways. Meekness replaces self-will. Righteousness replaces unrighteousness. Godliness replaces ungodliness.
Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee. (Psalm 25:1-21)