“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14 (NASB)
The Pharisees boasted that they were better than other men. They lived by the letter of the law; they were strictly religious. This man in the parable declared that he did not commit adultery, he was not an extortioner, he was not unjust, he fasted twice a week–and moreover, he paid tithes of everything he possessed. Undoubtedly this Pharisee would pass as a leading citizen in any community today–yet Jesus plainly declared that in spite of his “good” life he went home without justification.
The tax collector, in contrast, was too humble and felt too unworthy to even lift his eyes to heaven. Contritely he beat his breast–and prayed seven simple words: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” But he went home justified. He did not tell God what he had done, or what he had not done. He approached God in the spirit of humility, confessed that he was a sinner, and asked for mercy.
The very best we have to offer is not enough. It took the best God had, Jesus gave the best He had (His life), and heaven surrendered its most precious Jewel in order to provide eternal life for us. God gave His Son, and the Son gave His life, that through His sacrifice we might have life eternal.
We are born in sin, and we must be redeemed–raised from the deadness of sin to new life in Christ. Salvation is not reformation or right living. Salvation is Christ–“Christ in you, the hope of glory!”