Today’s Scripture: Luke 18:11
“God, I thank you that I am not like other men . . . or even like this tax collector.”
With whom do we identify, the Pharisee or the tax collector? The prodigal son or the older brother? Obviously no one wants to identify with the Pharisee or the older brother. But are we willing to identify with the tax collector and the prodigal son, as sinners deeply in need of the grace and mercy of God? Are we willing to say, “God, be merciful to me the sinner” or “I am no longer worthy to be called your son”? Are we willing to acknowledge that even our righteous acts are no more than filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6)?
John Owen, known as the prince of Puritan theologians, wrote these words way back in 1657: “Believers obey Christ as the one by whom our obedience is accepted by God. Believers know all their duties are weak, imperfect and unable to abide in God’s presence. Therefore they look to Christ as the one who bears the iniquity of their holy things, who adds incense to their prayers, gathers out all the weeds from their duties and makes them acceptable to God.”
Owen speaks of Christ bearing the iniquity of our holy things—the sinfulness of even our good works. As another Puritan preacher was reputed to have said, “even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.” Our best works can never earn us one bit of favor with God. Let us then turn our attention from our own performance—whether it seems good or bad—and look to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God’s provision for our sin, not only on the day we trusted Christ for salvation but every day of our Christian lives.