Luke 18:9-14 says, “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; and I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
There is one way to take this message wrongly: Don’t hear me saying that holy living, and Christian disciplines like prayer, fasting, bible reading and memorization, purity, tithing, etc. (things the first guy took part in) have no place in our lives. Don’t hear a message like this and then pray, thinking you’re in the shoes of the tax collector, “Thank you God that I am not like that religious person!” Do you see that that is just the same as the religious person?! We don’t do these things so that God would bless us, love us, or accept us! Rather, we do Christian disciplines because in Jesus we have been blessed, we have been loved, and we have been accepted! Christianity is not a “you have do this or that in order to be accepted by God” type of faith, it’s “God has blessed me, loved me, and accepted me and I now it is the greatest pleasure in my life to live a life that is pleasing to this God who loved me and gave Himself for me!” It is not “look at the long list of religious things that I have done”, it’s simply pointing at Jesus and saying, “I’m with Him!” A soul that says that yearns to do those disciplines regularly.
The radical, sold out life that Jesus calls all people to does not look like the greatness we learn from this world. Rather, it looks like a meek, humble, sinful person coming to the end of themselves, and at that end, when you realize your bankrupt of all goodness or righteousness, you embrace Jesus as your everything.
That’s what the radical life looks like. Coming to the gospel, and living under the gospel for your whole life.
Just like the hymn says, “Nothing in my hands I bring – only to the cross I cling!” May God bring us all to that point where we can cheerfully and joyfully, and happily confess that apart from Christ we have no merit at all.