November 4, 2012   Luke 18:9 – 14   Brokenness 

      There was a very lost, wicked, and rebellious man who decided it would be good for business if he went down to the church and joined it. He was an adulterer, an alcoholic, and had never been a member of a church in his life.   But when he went down to place membership, he gave public testimony to the church that there was no sin in his life, and that he had grown up in the church, and they readily accepted him as a member.   When he went home he told his wife what he had done, and his wife, a very godly lady, exploded.   She condemned him for being a hypocrite, and demanded that he go back to the church the next week and confess what he really was.   Well, God used his wife to really break him, and he took it to heart.  The next Sunday he went back to the church, walked down to the front again, and this time confessed to the church all of his sins. He told them he was dishonest, an alcoholic, an adulterer, and that he was sorry.   They revoked his membership on the spot.   He walked out of the church that day scratching his head and muttered to himself: "These church folks are really strange.    I told a lie and they took me in; and when I told the truth they kicked me out!"  

     Did you ever study this passage and think about it.   Anybody want to comment on this passage?   I think there is something in this passage that we can over look.   I think it teaches us at least me something that perhaps we miss at times.   There are 2 characters in this study that Jesus mentions and one of them is a Pharisee.   Now the Pharisees were highly respected.   These guys were extremely careful about being clean.   They wash their hands before eating and certainly after going to the bathroom.  They are learned. They have studied the scriptures.    They are religious leaders and therefore they were to be respected and esteemed highly for their position and their work.     I have read that many of them were business men.   They are powerful men and they have money and money you know speaks.   So it seems that these guys would be on the inside track with God.   You would think they are the cream of the crop so to speak.  One would think that if anyone would be walking with the Father and hearing from God it would be them.   These men have so much to give to God.   God surely must see and respect them.   They are would seem to be the blessed pillars of the church.   They would be the foundations of righteousness.  

     The Pharisees are the glue that holds the nation together and without them the people could not even worship /God.   They had the power to excommunicate you and if you wanted to be around God you had to go to the synagogue or the temple.  I suspect the many people of the day thought that God was totally delighted with these men.   These are the kind of men that churches look for today.  They are strong and they work.   They are learned and they give money.   They live life by the book.  They tithe on the smallest of things.   They are not like other men.  They are not in trouble with the law.   They are not robbers.  They are not evil doers.  They are good family men and they do not cheat on their wives.    They do not sleep around.   They fast and they are not obese.   They make good money and give a tenth of all of it. 

      Their credentials are impressive.  Right?   They are good looking church goers.   They have everything going for them and they are giving God so much.  But there is a problem.   Jesus is not impressed with him.   This man goes away and he is not justified before God.   We have all done this blame game stuff.   All of us have compared our self with others and sometimes we rate our self lower than the other but many times we come out on top.   I am better than that guy because I don’t do that.   I am better than her because I do these things and she does not do them.  I serve the Lord and I gave some of my money and by the way I have more money to give than she does.   And when we do that we do not leave God justified.   It seems to me that Jesus had the most problems with folks like me.   II Corinthians 10:12 tells us do not compare yourself with others.  We should compare ourselves with Jesus.   That is a whole different ball game.  God does not grade on a curve.  Proverbs 6 tells us that these 6 things I hate yea 7 are an abomination to me and number 1 on the list is a proud look. .  Philippians tells us to think of others better than you.    That certainly does not mean that we look a homeless alcoholic or drug addict and say gee they are better than I am.   I like how Paul handled this – He said I am a debtor to all men.  And that was his focus.  

      It seems to me that Jesus did not play those compare games.   And by the way he was perfect so if anybody could play the games he could have.  .  To the sinner Jesus said do not sin any more but those that came to him humbly and in faith Jesus responded to them.  He would welcome the lowest of the low.   He would not condemn the prostitute and the lepers he would touch.   To the blind guy that Jesus healed in John 9 who got thrown out of church Jesus looks him up.  Jesus is meek and lowly in heart and because of that you can find rest for your soul.   Sally tells me a little about the games that kids play in high school.   Part of her job is investigating the bullying in high school and these kids can play some interesting games.   They have their clicks and there is the higher arky and pecking order of groups.   Jesus does not do that stuff.  He is not into that at all with you.    

     I want to drive a little deeper into this today.   This is where my heart is with this message.   We would all agree that that there is a pride issue but maybe Jesus is really teaching us something else and that is where I really want to go today.    Is there something deeper in this passage?   I wanted to make my point clear to you today.   Maybe we need to ask ourselves some questions and take a different look at this passage.   What do you really have that you can offer to God?   What in your life impresses God?   What does God really look for?     It may not be the same things that people look for.   Maybe there is only 1 thing that we can offer to God.   Maybe - just maybe there is only 1 thing that really, really, really gets his attention and that is a broken heart.   Micah 6:8 He has shown you O man what is good.   And what does the Lord require of you?   To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Psalm 51:17 the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.   People tend to look to those that strong and have self confidence.   We do not look for the broken.  Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   That poor in spirit speaks to me of a humble person.  The humble person is God centered and trusts in God.  They are not arrogant and self centered.  

     Do you feel broken?  Do you feel like you have nothing to offer?   Do you feel at times so worthless?    Does it seem like that all you can see your brokenness?   You look at your life and your situation and you see so many things that are broken.    You see so many things that you would change.   And at times it is depressing and it brings you down.  Have you struggled and been humbled before man and before your God?   Maybe that is all you have to offer God today is your brokenness and maybe - just maybe that is all He is looking for.  That is a good place to be. 

     Let’s think about this tax collector for a minute.   I like this guy and I feel like I have some things in common with him.  He is hated.   The people hated him.   Are taxes still an issue today?   It seems like it is a key political issue lately.   Tax the richer and give to the poorer.   Taxes are still disliked.   Some cheat on their taxes.   They do not record all of their earnings.   The tax collectors gathered taxes for the Romans who controlled Israel at that time.   So the Jews hated them and they often collected more than they had to and put it in their pocket.   Well that does not make folks happy.   However I do not think that his collecting taxes has much to do with his prayer.  

    I think this man sees God as holy, holy, holy and he looks at himself and sees that he is not holy.   He looks at his life and says in and of myself and in my flesh dwells no good thing.   He looks at himself and sees that he lost his temper that week.   He sees his fear and how he has struggled with how he is going to get by tomorrow.  He has failed in his labor of faith.   He sees that he was selfish and that God is unselfish.   He sees that he cannot make it on his own.   He knows that he needs God to help him.   He needs God’s wisdom and he compares his strength to God’s strength and sees how much he has failed.   He knows that he cannot love his wife as he should but he sees that God is his answer.   Perhaps he is aware that he cannot be the man he should be without God.  Now as this person goes to the temple or church he does not judge the guy next to him.   He is not critical of those around him.   He is not comparing himself with others or being critical of others.  He is not thinking about this Pharisee who is puffing himself up at him.    He sees himself before God and says gee I need Jesus.   I need Jesus forgiveness.  I need to repent and I need Jesus to heal me.    I need his presence and I need his power in my life and I am so unworthy.   I am not worthy of God.   I am not worthy of God answering my prayers.   I am not even worthy to look up toward God and he refuses to look into the heavens.    God have mercy on me.   God help me.   I am a broken man without you God I am nothing and I have nothing.  I am nothing without you God. 

      I think that moves the heart of God don’t you?   Jesus seems to indicate that God notices that.   Jesus said this guy is justified before the Father.   He is clean.   This man is right with God.    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit a broken and contrite heart O God you will not despise.   What is a broken heart?   I don’t think we even need to discuss that today.  What I need to say is that God wants to fill your brokenness today.   He invites you to his table.   I think God is saying if you are broken come and drink freely at my table.  His table is blessed no doubt.   There is no lack at his table.   I think God wants us to feel the joy of his righteousness flooding our souls.