You should not believe that all who pray have a godly spirit or that outward service cannot be done unless you have Jesus Christ as your savior. There are people who use the same prayers, bow their knees, move their lips along with others; and yet they are as different as light and darkness. All are not Christians who name the name of Christ. Bishop J. C. Ryle shares some thoughts on this matter:
We have daily proof that the disease spoken of in our text is as deep-seated and hard to cure as ever, and of all the mischievous delusions that keep men out of heaven, of all the soul-destroying snares that Satan employs to oppose Christ’s Gospel, there is none we find so dangerous, none so successful, as self-righteousness!
Perhaps you think this strange, and I dare say there are few who would not say, if asked the ground of their hopes, and how they expect to be saved, “We trust in the merits of Christ.” But I fear that too many of you are making the Lord Jesus but half your Savior, and could never stand the sifting of an inquiry which would draw out into daylight the secrets of your hearts. How much would then come out by degrees about ‘doing as well as you could’, and ‘being no worse than others’, and ‘having been sober and industrious and well-behaved’, and ‘having attended church regularly’, and ‘having had a Bible and a Prayer book of your own ever since you can remember’, and the like; besides many other self-approving thoughts, which often never appear until a death-bed. And all prove the root of all evil, which is pride, to be still vigorous and flourishing within.
Oh this pride of heart, beloved!—it is fearful to see the harm that it does, and the carelessness with which it is regarded. It is melancholy indeed to think of a man, weak frail man, the descendant of fallen Adam, the inheritor of a corrupt nature, forgetting his own countless sins, shortcomings and backslidings, trusting in himself, and despising those who are his brethren according to the flesh. And wisely has our Lord spoken the parable immediately following my text—”Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14).
Observe now how much more striking the lesson sounds when conveyed to us in the form of an example. How little many people would have been affected if our Lord had given a general discourse about the ‘evil of pride’ and the ‘excellence of humility’; about the danger of formality and the importance of a truly penitent frame of mind, if he had merely said, “Be not self-righteous in your dealings with God—but be lowly and self-abased!” And how much more are our hard hearts likely to be moved when we see, as it were, living specimens of two sorts of worshipers, placed vividly before our eyes!
May God the Holy Spirit direct the instruction here contained to the awakening of the self-righteous, to the comfort of those who labor and are heavy-laden, and to the edification of all! (“Self-Righteousness”)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church Leadership, Evil, God, Grace, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Justice, Living Life Tagged: | Christ, God, Holy Spirit, Jesu, Luke, Pharisee, Righteousness, Satan