How many of you know what the word, “justified,” means? It means, “to be free of guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin.” And how is on justified? How is one freed from the guilt and penalty of sin? We all know the answer to that I’m sure. Justfication come in the acceptance of Jesus Christ through faith in His redemptive work on the cross. Justification is based on the work of Christ, which was accomplished through His shed blood.
Paul said in Romans 3:24 – We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” When we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, God justified us. Literally, He charged our sin to Christ and credited the righteousness of Christ to us. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
In my Scripture text we see two men who prayed, but only one of them went to his house justified. Have you every wished that you could walk through the door of your house with a clean slate, free from guilt and sin? Well you can, and in this message we are going to be exploring the simplicity of how you can.
Let’s begin by looking at these two different men who prayed in my text.
First, we want to deal with the Pharisee in the parable.
And as we deal with him, I want to first ask the question of why did Jesus give this parable?
According to verse 9 of my text He told it to those: who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.
Jesus used the illustration of the Pharisee praying, so that He could let those who were confident in their own righteousness know that their righteousness was not sufficient.
This Pharisee in the parable was a religious man who was trusting in his religion and in his religious works. And because he was religious and did good religious works he mistakenly thought that made him righteous. Notice how he prays, God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evil doers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.
Friend, its sad, but time hasn’t changed people much. Religious people often think they are more righteous than others because of their religious works. One of the dangers of Christianity is that after becoming saved, Christians often clothe themselves in a religious facade of self-righteousness, or should I say, religious works and they mistake that as righteousness. Then in our religiosity we look down upon, and even condemn others who did not do the things that we do. As if it makes us more righteous than they.
If we are not careful, we can become pharisaic in our attitude, and thus lose our standing of justification before the Lord, and not ever realize it.
The Pharisee was a good, moral man. He no doubt went to the synagogue and temple regularly. He fasted twice a week to show his dedication and commitment. But friend, Jesus wasn’t impressed.
As Christians we must realize we are not made righteous by what we do, we are made righteous by what He did. And even as believers in Christ, who have been saved, we do not continue in righteousness through what we do.
Some of you might say, “You mean, Brother Trammell, that my giving of my tithe, my faithful attendance to God’s house, my works and my labor and my sacrifice for the Lord, you mean, as a Christian these do not make me more righteous?” Nope, they do not.
As Christians we fail to realize sometimes that we are nothing more than sinners saved by grace. Because as a Christian you have not reached a place of perfection. That is your goal, and that is what you strive for: it is to be as much like Christ as is possible. Yet the Bible declares that inspite of our efforts, these are not good enough. For on this side of life we will never attain the sinless perfection of Christ. John said in 1 John 1:8 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. When he said these words, John was not writing to the world, or to sinners. He was writing to the church. One commentator writing about this first epistle of John states, “A lack of a special dedication and salutation indicates that this letter was circular, probably sent to the churches in Ephesus, where John later spent his latter years.”
At the time that John wrote this letter there had been some false teachers who had infiltrated some of the churches. One of the purposes for this first epistle of John was to give assurance of eternal life to those who had believed upon the Lord, and not to listen to the false teachers who were distorting the gospel.
So when John wrote the above verse, he was addressing the church. Men and women who had a relationship with the Lord. This let’s us know, brothers and sisters, that you and I continue in the righteousness that was imputed unto us when we were saved, not by what we do, but by what Christ continues to do in us.
So then, what does this have to do with us and the Pharisee pictured in the parable that Jesus told? It let’s us know that we must never be confident in our own righteousness, which we think is being produced by our good works. For even after being saved, if we depend on our works to produce righteousness in us we will be like the Pharisee who went down to his house unjustified in the eyes of the Lord.
We are justified when we humble ourselves before the Lord like the dishonest tax collector did.
You see he knew that he was a sinner. He felt unworthy that he could not even look into heaven when he prayed. And as a sign of deep remorse over sins committed, he beat upon his chest, and said, “God have mercy on me a sinner.” The Bible says of this man that he “went home justified before God.”
Church, even as Christians we need to have this kind of humility. For this is the only way that we can continue to be justified in His sight. For remember, as Christians we are nothing more than sinners saved by grace.
When the dishonest tax collector prayed the way that he did, his sins were given to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness was given to him, and thus, “he went to his house justified.”
But friend, there must be a continuance of this in our lives. It must not stop when we kneel at the altar the first time. There must be a continuance of this kind of attitude and humility if we are to remain justified in His eyes.
Our good works do not attain His righteousness. Our good works should be the result of His righteousness being continually imputed unto us.