How we approach God reveals quite a bit about how we see ourselves. Luke 18 gives us a few different ways people come to God, as well as showing how effective those approaches are.
When you are the recipient of injustice, what do you do about it? Yes, there are laws against certain behaviors, but what about injustice that’s not covered by the law? Gossip, rudeness, selfishness, name-calling, condescension, and a lack of integrity can really affect us negatively in more ways than one when we’re on the receiving end. What is our recourse?
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. ‘There was a judge in a certain city,’ he said, ‘who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’ Then the Lord said, ‘Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly!'” (Luke 18:1-8 NLT).
This “justice” isn’t just asking God for something and getting what we want. This is a justice that avenges wrongs.
I don’t know about your thoughts on the matter, but I think God can handle vengeance better than I can! Paul writes this to the believers in Rome:
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:19-21).
Two wrongs don’t make a right! We are called to do good, even to our enemies. In the meantime, we are to “always pray and never give up,” knowing that God sees and knows all, and He “will grant justice.”
Be persistent, and trust him with your circumstances.
Do you come to God with a well-put-together resume of your achievements and good qualities? Do you perhaps think these attributes earn you special access to his ear? My friend, you can send that resume to the shredder–it won’t do you any good!
“Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: ‘Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.'” (Luke 18:9-14).
We need to remember that we come before God not on any merit of our own, but only through the blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Every one of us violates the standard of perfection set by God himself; how could we ever think we’ve been “good enough” to earn his acceptance?
“Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22).
Praise God for this wonderful gift of unmerited favor! We don’t deserve it one iota, but God is full of grace and mercy. Aren’t you grateful?? I sure am!
Knowing that it’s not through our own “awesomeness” but through Christ helps us come to God in humility.
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
The next passage in Luke reinforces the theme of humility.
“One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it'” (Luke 18:15-17).
Children haven’t had time to develop an impressive resume! They just come as they are, often without pretense or fear.
May we come before our Heavenly Father in the same mindset, knowing we have nothing to give in return for the privilege of being in his presence other than praise, worship, and thanksgiving.
Next we move on to a rich religious leader who followed the rules carefully but couldn’t let go of what he owned in order to follow Christ. His possessions were incredibly important to him, but at what cost?
“Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: ‘Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked him. ‘Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’ The man replied, ‘I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.’ When Jesus heard his answer, he said, ‘There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.“ (Luke 18:18-23).
Doesn’t this sound like something from yesterday’s reading in Luke 17?
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it” (Luke 17:33).
None of the many things we own can ever buy us an audience with the King of kings.
May we see what’s truly valuable through the lens of eternity!
The final passage in Luke 18 ties this all together. It records a man who had absolutely nothing to give and no social status to speak of, but who boldly got the attention of Jesus and received what he asked for!
“As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. So he began shouting, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ‘Be quiet!’ the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘I want to see!’ And Jesus said, ‘All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.’ Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too” (Luke 18:35-43).
May we pray with the same knowledge that we have nothing of our own to exchange, but we have the heart and ear of our Heavenly Father because of what Christ has done for us.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).
“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” (Ephesians 3:12).
As Christmas approaches, let’s remember the Gift of Christ, who made a way for us to boldly enter the throne room of God and receive a personal audience with the King of kings!