Unchanged or Unburdened?

Unchanged or Unburdened?

Pride, especially when it infiltrates my faith, becomes an attitude that says, “I am spiritually better than you.”  And this attitude was evident in the parable Jesus told about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector.

In Luke 18: 9-14 we are reminded how easy it is to fall into the trap of pride, especially when we begin to compare our righteousness with someone else’s.

And when we begin to compare our faith – our goodness – to that of others we will see that our prayer doesn’t resonate with the Spirit of God.  Rather, it drips with pride and selfishness.  Our prayer becomes polluted and lacks any concern for the will of God.

The Pharisee only prayed so that God and others could see how righteous and good he really was.  He had no concern for what God may want – He already had that figured out as he shared with us in his prayer.

But Jesus contrasted the attitude of the Pharisee with that of the tax collector.  And we see a prayer resonating with humility – a prayer that was only 7 words long, yet showed a man broken before God as he realized the magnitude of his disobedience toward God.

And this is what we want to look at specifically today – the attitude that exists when a person is in the presence of God.

So the question to be asked is:  When in the presence of God, how do you walk away from God:  Unchanged or Unburdened?

Pride is an easy temptation.  

Many of us find ourselves being lured by it, enticed by it, and Satan uses it as a means to bite us OFTEN.  And with the Pharisee, he was so far gone in his pride that there was no room in his heart to hear what God desired of him.  

The Pharisee came into the presence of God, did his religious thing, and walked away unchanged.  After all there was no need to change – he was religious and proud of it.  And that’s what you will often see in religious persons.

Religious people don’t need to hear from God – they’ve already got this faith thing already figured out – they know exactly what God wants from them and other people, and when others don’t live up to the expectation, these people are seen as weaker and looked down upon.

Yet the opposite of pride is humility, and we must seek it. 

True humility keeps pride in check.  True humility is grounded in Christ and desires to give credit where credit is due.  True humility says, “I am who I am and do what I do because Christ has redeemed me.”  And true humility is what we see in the tax collector.

The tax collector beat his chest; at a distance, not even looking to heaven because he knew he was guilty of disobedience toward God.  He was so distraught that his prayer was a mere 7-word prayer, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

So if you look very closely at the parable Jesus taught, the difference you will see between the Pharisee and tax collector in the presence of God was merely how they viewed themselves before God. 

The Pharisee viewed that God needed him.  And when he walked away from God, he walked away unchanged.
The tax collector on the other hand viewed that he needed God.  And when he walked away from God, he walked away unburdened.  He no longer was a sinner with a past, but a redeemed man with a future.  The burden of his sin no longer held him in captivity.

Too many people come into the presence of God, come to a worship celebration knowing that they are living in sin like the tax collector, but walk away from the experience like the Pharisee.  And Jesus asks “Why?”  Jesus asks, “Why do you let your pride keep you from living fully for me?  Why do you continue in your sin knowing that I am the final judge of your soul?  Why do you take advantage of my grace?”

Psalm 51: 16-17 states, “You (God) do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifices, O God, are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

In today’s terms it would state, “You (God) do not delight in how I worship you; you do not take pleasure that I play an instrument, sing a song, raise my hands, pray an eloquent prayer, or dance in the aisles.  No, you God desire that my worship is done in humility and done in response – in gratitude – for what you have done for me.”

So God is not delighting in persons who need to be needed.  No, He’s delighting in persons who need Him.

God is looking for humility, for persons who reverently say to Him, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”  And what does He do every time for that person if the prayer is sincere?  He grants mercy.  That’s the good news of Jesus Christ.

Humility is hard.  Pride is easy.  But God makes it clear, “You can either exhalt yourself now and be humbled later or take time now to learn humility and be exhalted later.”  And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather learn the lesson of humility now rather than later.  It won’t hurt as bad now as it will then.

So in closing, you’ve been in the presence of God today.  Are you walking away Unchanged or Unburdened?  It’s easy to be a Pharisee.  It’s right to be a tax collector.

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