Today’s Scripture: Luke 18:13
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Sin is more than actions; it’s an attitude that ignores God’s law. It’s more than a rebellious attitude; sin is a state of corruption in our inmost being, of vileness, even of filthiness in God’s sight. For this reason the Bible never speaks of God’s grace as simply making up our deficiencies—as if salvation consists in so much good works plus so much of God’s grace. Rather the Bible speaks of a God “who justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5), who is found by those who do not seek him, who reveals himself to those who do not ask for him (Romans 10:20).
In Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14, the tax collector did not ask God to simply make up his deficiencies. Rather, he beat his breast—a sign of his deep anguish—and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (verse 13). He declared total spiritual bankruptcy, and on that basis, he experienced the grace of God. Jesus said the man went home justified—declared righteous by God.
Like the tax collector, we don’t just need God’s grace to make up for our deficiencies; we need his grace to provide a remedy for our guilt, a cleansing for our pollution. We need his grace to provide a satisfaction of his justice, to cancel a debt we cannot pay.
It may seem that I’m belaboring the point of our guilt and vileness before God. But we can never rightly understand God’s grace until we understand our plight as those who need his grace.
As Dr. C. Samuel Storms said, “The first and possibly most fundamental characteristic of divine grace is that it presupposes sin and guilt. Grace has meaning only when men are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and liable to eternal wrath.” (Excerpt taken from Transforming Grace)