170301 Luke 18:9-14

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 March 2017 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Luke 18:9 – 14

Sermon Theme: Repent: Turn to Jesus and Not to Yourself!

This year in the Lutheran Church, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. 500 years ago, on October 31, Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, or statements, to the bulletin board of the day, the doors of the Castle Church. Luther's goal was to have a discussion on the truth of God's Word with the church leaders of his day. At the heart of the 95 theses was this practical question: What does it mean to repent? In the very first statement Luther wrote, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. (Luther, 95 Theses, No. 1)

What is repentance? Repentance is confessing that I am a sinner. Repentance is sadness over my sins. Repentance is trusting that Jesus Christ has paid in full the price for all of my sins. Repentance is a desire to turn away from sin. Repentance is the focus of our worship on this Ash Wednesday. Repentance will be the focus of all our mid-week Lenten worship services this year. Throughout the next six weeks, by the Word of God, you and I will be encouraged to repent and turn to Jesus. Tonight, based on the Gospel Lesson that we just read, God's Word encourages you and me: Repent: Turn to Jesus and Not to Yourself!

Before we go any farther, we need to make sure we understand two terms that are found in our Gospel reading. We are told, "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable..." What is righteousness? What smaller word do you find in the word "righteousness"? It is the word "right". Jesus is telling this parable to people who think that they can turn to themselves to make themselves right with a holy and just God.

The other word that we want to take make sure we understand properly is: "justified". This is a word that takes us right into the court room of God himself. As God the Father looks into your heart and mine, through his glasses that have been stained red with the blood of his one and only Son, Jesus, God the Father, as judge in that court room, declares you and me "Not Guilty!" This is what that word "justified" means. It means that, because of Jesus, God the Father looks into your heart and mine, and it is "just-if-I'd-never-sinned."

Let's take a few moments now and consider the parable that Jesus uses to teach you and me today. Remember that a parable is an "earthly story, with a heavenly meaning." It is a teaching tool that Jesus used many times during his days of ministry here on this earth. Jesus begins the parable before us this way: "'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.'" The men in this parable are complete opposites to the people of Jesus' day. The Pharisees were viewed to be the most spiritual, the most upright people in the land. While the tax collectors worked for the Roman government, and were seen only as liars, cheats and at the bottom of society.

But we note that this is not the only way these two men are opposites. Jesus continues, "'The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get."'" Rather than turning to the Savior-God with a repentant heart, the Pharisee turned to himself. He felt that he was in good standing with God because he was a far better person that anyone else around him. He felt that he was right in God's sight because of all the great things he had done.

A complete opposite attitude is found in the tax collector. Jesus tells us, "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Because of the guilt over his sin, the tax collector could not even look up to heaven as he prayed. In a sign of great sorrow over his sin, he beat his breast and with a repentant heart he pleaded with God, "have mercy on me, a sinner." Here the original language helps us to see that this man not only humbly confessed that he was a sinner, but he calls himself "THE sinner". Seeing himself as the chief of sinners, this tax collector threw himself on the mercy of the Lord. And, as Jesus teaches you and me today, "'I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"

Now allow me to ask you a question: "Are you sure that you are justified before God?" If being declared "not guilty" before God depended on what you or I could do, what question would we have to ask ourselves over and over again? "Have I done enough to make God happy today?" "Have I done enough good things to cancel out the bad things that I did today." If our being forgiven, if our place in heaven, depended upon turning to your efforts or mine, we could only walk around in doubt and in fear of eternal punishment. Because God's Word is so clear in James chapter 2, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." And again the Bible tells us in Romans chapter 6 that "the wages of sin is death." You and I are guilty of sinning against God's will for our lives. And the only thing we have earned for ourselves is eternal punishment in hell.

So you and I come before our gracious Savior-God, and with a repentant heart, we turn to Jesus. You and I plead in the words of the tax collector, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." As we humbly confess our sins, you and I hear the Good News that King David writes about in Psalm 51: "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

Because the loving Savior-God took action for us, you and I can be sure that we are justified before him. In his great love for you and me, God the Father sent his one and only Son to be the full payment price for all your sins and mine. Jesus was willing to be the Lamb of God, who takes way the sin of the world. God the Holy Spirit, by the power of his Word, has given you and me the gift of faith in Jesus as our one and only Savior. It is because of Jesus, and only because of Jesus, that you and I are declared: "Not Guilty!"

When you think about this wonderful Good News, I encourage you to think of an arrow. Rather than seeing the arrow pointed up, loaded with all the things you have done, trying to reach heaven with your best shot, see the arrow as pointed down from heaven to your heart. In his love and mercy for you and me, our Savior-God has penetrated your heart and mine with the arrow of his Gospel. With a repentant heart, as we turn to Jesus, and not to ourselves, you and I can be sure of the forgiveness of all of our sins. Because of Jesus, you and I are justified. Because Jesus won for us the verdict of "Not Guilty", you and I can be sure of our place in heaven. Because of Jesus, you and I are able to join with the hymn writer when he writes:

Chief of sinners though I be,
Jesus shed His blood for me;
Died that I might live on high,
Lives that I might never die;
As the branch is to the vine,
I am His, and He is mine. Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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Oconomowoc, WI 53066




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