Archive for August, 2013

Will the Real Church Ladies ‘Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up’?

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by Johnathan Pritchett
Graduate Student, Biola University
SBCToday contributing writer

Former Biola professor, Dr. John Mark Reynolds, (now Provost at HBU) taught a three-day lecture in 2011 for us students in his Cultural Apologetics class. Therein he mentioned the need for older, spiritually mature women to exert more influence in the church, again. Many of us didn’t think much of that then; but after seeing the hubbub surrounding the video of former Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus — who exhibited a ridiculously tasteless, debauched song-and-dance act at MTV’s VMA show — I realized exactly what Dr. Reynolds meant, and he was right.

See, Miley Cyrus is from a “Christian” family that went to church, not unlike Britney Spears (a Southern Baptist, by the way), and other former Disney stars who grew up to become tasteless and tacky. It isn’t that the entertainment industry in the United States is as absurdly wicked as that of Japan, but we are moving a whole lot closer every year. It also isn’t that we can put the blame squarely on the entertainment business either. Church-goers consume their products, and many of the Mileys and Britney come from evangelical churches.

In the 1950s, church ladies held power and influence. They decried the immorality in Elvis swinging his pelvis. And, while Ed Sullivan thought it prudent to show Elvis from the waist up, most people in the church figured the church ladies were overreacting. After all, Elvis was just a nice southern boy who grew up in church and sang some hymns mixed in with his other tunes, and the 1950s were a “wholesome” time in the good ol’ U.S. of A. So we are told.

However, as Peter S. Beagle wrote in the introduction of Lord of the Rings, “The Sixties were no fouler a decade than the Fifties — they merely reaped the Fifties’ foul harvest …” The decline in public decency in pop culture since the 1950s has been on a steady path to the gutter; and every decade, the voices of our dear church ladies are shouted down repeatedly whenever they speak against the decline in morality, taste, class, and manners.

We are now at the point where they hardly bother with sounding alarms in church anymore. This, of course, would be the church ladies of the Greatest Generation. Their daughters, the Baby Boomers, are a mixed bag when it comes to their moral and cultural compasses. Some have become fine church ladies like their mothers, but others have forgone the prospect of being a church lady, have undergone plastic surgery and other physical enhancements, and attend church and wherever else in the same sort attire as their granddaughters.

After all, who wants to be perceived as a nagging, killjoy church lady?

Most women in church among the Gen Xers and Millennials simply don’t have the same moral compass as some of their parents and grandparents. This is not to say they are immoral, but it is to say that they are, like the men of those same generations, simply desensitized to all this on the one hand, and at a loss how to prevent their sons and daughters becoming like these former teeny-bopper pop icons who embrace tasteless and tacky, immoral lifestyle of popular culture on the other.

The women who are of the Greatest Generation are mostly widows now, and the Baby Boomers in church, both male and female, are a mixed bag. The watered-down, milk-n-cookie preaching found in the worst of evangelical mega-churches is the product of the Baby-Boomers. They wanted their Gen Xer offspring to like church, so they made it “cool and hip.” That, combined with an abuse of Matthew 7:1 (forgetting all about Matthew 7:2-5), and we have the rapid decline of morality in both church and pop culture at the exponential rate we find today. The men who still have their moral bearings can still instruct men, but what the church really needs, and what the United States really needs, is for seasoned and mature church ladies to start wagging their beautiful, wrinkled fingers at all of us!

Consequently, however, such women have been stripped of most of their influence in both church and culture, having been written off as Chicken Littles, spoiling the congregation’s attempts at “relevance” in contemporary culture, and spoiling everyone’s fun on the weekends.

Well, the whole nation is all the worse for it!

We need church ladies to tell us that we need to have manners. They need to threaten to wash our mouths out with soap for being lax and using, by today’s standards, mild language such as “crap” and “fart” in the sanctuary.

We need them to yank upward the belts of boys (and some “men”), whose pants sag to the ground, thus revealing plaid boxer shorts.

We need them to rebuke the younger girls (and some of their own 30+ y/o daughters) for dressing immodestly at church.

We need them to get on the pastor and church staff for trying too hard to “relate” to the young folks through worldly means.

We need them to tell parents of any age to act their age, to have more class and good sense than the lost people their age, and to do a better job at raising and disciplining their kids.

And, of course, we need them to call out the vulgarity of pop culture and celebrity behavior, as well as the church’s indifference to it. After all, many church folk spend lots of their entertainment dollars on this stuff, which helps keep it around while it gets worse every year.

In any case, Miley’s “twerking” isn’t something Miley invented. It goes on at high school dances, night clubs, and everywhere else younger church members go on their Friday nights out; and by younger, we can call that the 16-45 demographic these days.

So please, let the church ladies have their say again for all our sakes. Let them be what God has called them to be. Let them be the glorious naysayers, and more importantly, the moral compass that we need them to be, before their example is finally gone and there really is no going back. Let them instruct us, and, if they wish to scold us while doing it, all the better. We deserve it.

Words With Friends, part 1, Savabilism: A Whole, Positive, Acceptable and Unused Term

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by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Ala.

The Truth, Trust and Testimony in a Time of Tension Report stands as a visionary call for Southern Baptists to engage in collegial conversation regarding our differences in soteriology and other associated matters. Clearly, this outstanding report should not be viewed as a call to abandon the discussion, but rather as a challenge to those on both sides to conduct the conversation using our best manners. One might even compare the T5 Report to a football referee who gathers the captains from both sides prior to the kickoff and exhorts them to exercise good sportsmanship and to play a clean game. In other words, this important conversation is not over. It is only just beginning.

For quite some time, those with doctrinal convictions similar to mine have been in search of a term with which to identify ourselves. It is especially important to us that this term be acceptable among those with whom we disagree. Let us assure you that in our search for such a label, we are not seeking to offend, but to identify our position with the kind of theological precision that encourages mutual understanding. It is surprisingly harder than one might imagine to identify with an acceptable name the soteriological position which we believe to be the majority view among Southern Baptists. Thus far, our attempts have proven unsuccessful, but we are blessed with plenty of time and patience, and will eventually find a term everyone can agree upon.

The Disqualification of Every Currently Proposed and Utilized Term
Below is a listing of terms that, for the various reasons explained, are inadequate to define our soteriology and, in some cases, are even particularly offensive to us. By looking at all of the terms that do NOT work, we draw closer to the one that does.

1. Non-Calvinist: No one should have to define themselves simply by what they are not. This definition by negation sadly contributes to the unfortunate misunderstandings found in many of our discussions, as it is often assumed that our position is #2 below. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I would hate to go through life known only as a Non-Redskins fan.

2. Anti-Calvinist: Some Calvinists may misunderstand my view as consisting solely in the opposition of theirs. This is precisely why we need to state our position using a positive term. Certainly, the views will remain in conflict, but it will be much easier to see that each side is simply promoting their own position rather than attacking the opposing view. While I am FOR them and not AGAINST them, I am not WITH them, at least theologically, on this family of issues. I am certainly with them in sharing Christ.

3. Modified Calvinist: It has been suggested on occasion that all Southern Baptists are Calvinists of one sort or another. Those of us who disaffirm as many as four out of the five petals on the TULIP refuse to view ourselves as any kind of Calvinist at all.

4. Modified Arminian: This offensive label is a partial term. No one wants to be called a modified-this or a semi-that. It fails since Arminians view Perseverance of the Saints as a negotiable doctrine while our position is uncompromisingly committed to it. Since we disaffirm such Arminian baggage, most of us view this label as a pejorative term.

5. Semi-Pelagian: Most Southern Baptists believe that God has given all men the ability to respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the gospel. To disaffirm Total Inability is not to embrace a man-centered theology nor to suggest that man initiates the salvation process. In the summer of 2012, many Calvinists equated our position, held by seminary presidents, pastors, theologians and a Who’s Who of denominational leaders, with this 1500-year-old heresy. Fortunately, this ugly name-calling chapter is now over.

6. Biblicist: Some prefer to use this term, by which they mean that their position is the only one found in the Bible. Clearly, this label would be claimed by both sides. It is thus unacceptable not because it offends but because it fails to differentiate.

7. Baptist: Once again, one cannot simply claim to hold THE Baptist or Southern Baptist view on this matter, since there are many Southern Baptists on both sides.

8. Traditionalist: By referencing A Statement of the TRADITIONAL Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, this term actually met many of the necessary criteria: (1) it was not a term of negation, (2) it was not a partial term, and (3) it was not associated with any theological views containing unnecessary baggage. While it did gain a fair measure of support and usage on my side of the theological aisle, it was deemed unacceptable by Calvinists who interpreted the word “traditional” only in its historical and cultural sense. They assumed we were claiming that our Southern Baptist heritage only supported our position without including theirs. Interestingly, among dozens of articles, I never read a single Traditionalist who made this assertion. Regardless, the term Traditionalist is out. The search for an acceptable theological label continues.

A Case for the Use of the Term Savabilism
Before discussing the merits of the term Savabilism, I would like to make an appeal first to my Calvinist friends and then to my Traditionalist / Non-Calvinist friends:

  • Calvinist brothers, it is in your interest to show us grace as we define ourselves. Name-calling will not suit anyone’s purposes. When you choose a name for us that we do not like, it only inflames this “time of tension.” Perhaps you view us through your theological grid as Arminians or Modified Arminians or even Semi-Pelagians. Since we disaffirm these labels and consider them offensive, it would help if you would recognize our right to self-identify. When you think about it, a very basic part of any relationship is calling someone what they would like to be called. If we can agree upon a term and clearly define what it means, will you please consider using it in place of the more pejorative names used previously?
  • Traditionalist / Non-Calvinist brothers, it is in our interest to define ourselves using a term that is whole, positive, acceptable and unused, rather than one that is partial, a term of negation, offensive to Calvinists or already associated with other views. Finding this word disabuses us of the charge that we are merely AGAINST something without being FOR something. It gives us definition, direction and a sense of identity. But achieving this goal is actually much harder than you might imagine. The primary consideration cannot be the “sound” or “familiarity” of the word. In fact, a brand new word is actually quite helpful since it does not carry the sort of loaded baggage that has derailed our other proposals. It simply behooves us to settle on a term and insist upon its use so others will stop calling us ugly names.

Savabilism is a term that not only fits semantically but works quite nicely grammatically. It may not be perfect in every respect. It may take everyone a while to get used to it. But consider its many advantages:

  • It is a whole and complete word in the sense that it does not require a prefix like “semi-” or “non-” or “anti-” or an additional descriptor such as “modified.” The term can stand alone, on its own two feet, strong and independent of other views.
  • It is a positive term, or if you will pardon the double negative, it is not a term of negation. I believe this one consideration alone instantly improves soteriological relations in our convention. Until now, the conversation has largely been an issue of Calvinism: Pro or Con? The issue is framed as if those with convictions like mine have nothing better to do than pick on Calvinists. As a Savabilist, however, I can refer to my view positively without any reference at all to the “C” word.
  • It is a term without prior theological connotations. When we reference any form of a word like Calvinist or Arminian or Pelagian, we instantly invite confusion and a lack of theological precision, as we struggle to differentiate our unique position from the various strains found within these overarching, all-encompassing terms. Meaningful communication grinds to a halt when one uses such theological terms loaded with the baggage of various different meanings, all of which must be unloaded and repacked in order to clarify the present meaning.
  • It is a unique term unused even outside any theological context. Whereas the term “Traditionalist” carried with it the unfortunate hint of a historical or cultural sense, the term “Savabilist” does not invite any such misunderstanding. It is able to mean what we say it means, without the need to fight off preconceived notions drawn from its widespread use either historically or culturally.

What Is A Savabilist?

A Savabilist believes every lost person is savable.

A Savabilist believes that when he shares his faith, the other person’s response is truly free and has not yet been determined. A Savabilist believes God certainly knows what the other person’s response will be, but denies that He causes the person to respond in that manner.

A Savabilist believes God does not unconditionally choose but that He unconditionally loves.

A Savabilist believes that because of this unconditional love, Jesus died to atone for the sins of every single person. Hence, every single person is savable.

A Savabilist believes it is God’s one and only true will for every person to be saved.

A Savabilist believes God has given to every person the ability to respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the gospel, either by freely choosing to accept God’s grace or by freely choosing to resist it.

A Savabilist is not a universalist. A Savabilist believes that many people will die and go to hell.

A Savabilist believes the reason the lost go to hell is neither because God chose them for hell, nor because God declined to choose them for heaven, but rather because they freely chose to reject the grace of God.

A Savabilist believes that once a person freely places their faith in Christ and He saves their soul, they cannot possibly lose their salvation, but will persevere eternally since their salvation is sealed by God forever.
= = = = = = =

In Words With Friends—Part Two, I will labor to promote a more precise taxonomy for the broad array of positions currently crowded together under the banner of Calvinism. My fervent hope is that someday soon every Exit Sign on the Soteriological Highway will have its own unique street name so we can find our way home without confusion.

Two come to Christ

Now it's your turn to tell the world what God is doing in your church.

Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church
Ringgold, Ga.
Michael Kirby, pastor

I am constantly amazed at the power of a simple and straightforward presentation of the Gospel. At our service yesterday, we had two boys profess faith in Christ and desire to be baptized. They were moved to ask Jesus for His forgiveness and we praise God for His wonderful grace.

W.T. Conner on Imputed Guilt

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CONNER, WALTER THOMAS (1877–1952). Walter Thomas (W. T.) Conner, Southern Baptist theologian, received an A.B. degree from Baylor in 1906; in 1908 he received both a Th.B. from Baylor Theological Seminary (which chartered in March 1908 as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) and an A.M. degree from Baylor University. At Rochester Theological Seminary, he received a B.D. in 1910. Conner studied at the University of Chicago and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky, where he received his Th.D. degree in 1916. When Southern Baptist Theological Seminary began to award the Ph.D. degree instead of the Th.D., Conner upgrading to Ph.D. status with an additional thesis on the topic “The Idea of Incarnation in the Gospel of John” in 1931.

Conner was ordained by Harmony Baptist Church, Caps, Texas, in 1899, where he was serving as pastor. He served as pastor at numerous Baptist churches and was the first pastor of Seminary Hill Baptist Church (now Gambrell Street Baptist Church) in Fort Worth. In the Southern Baptist Convention, Conner often lectured at conferences and assemblies and spoke at state and national conventions. The Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board utilized him as a counselor and advisor in selecting missionary candidates.

Conner’s enduring legacy to Southern Baptist life lies in his 39-year teaching career at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He joined Southwestern in 1910, and endeavored to make theology practical rather than speculative; in the faculty his recommendations for prospective teachers were tantamount to administrative approval; and in the administration his long tenure provided continuity from the first president to the third. Systematic theology was Conner’s main responsibility, and he soon distinguished himself as the preeminent Southern Baptist theologian during the 1930s and 1940s. As a theologian, he was at home among both laymen and scholars. His lectures and books were written with the layman in mind, but they display an underlying academic depth and extensive knowledge of his field. His theology reflects the influence of three former professors: Benajah H. Carroll of Baylor, A. H. Strong of Rochester, and E. Y. Mullins of Louisville. But Conner’s theology still displays his own acumen; his theological works reflect a biblical rather than systematic approach. Conner’s complete theological system is best expressed in his works Revelation and God (1936) and The Gospel of Redemption (1945). He wrote 15 books and numerous articles for professional journals and other periodicals. He was a member of the Southwestern Society of Biblical Study and Research, and in 1946 he delivered the Wilkinson Lectures at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Chicago.

“We are safe in saying that no member of Adam’s race will be eternally lost apart from personal choice and personal guilt. Any interpretation that says that we as individual members of Adam’s race are lost because of covenant made with Adam in the Garden of Eden or because we were present in Adam and participated in his sin as an act of sin-any such interpretation as either of this is not interpreting Paul. It is in one case following some questionable principles of law in the realm of religion and in the other some questionable metaphysics invented several centuries after Paul. One goes back to a Dutch lawyer, the other to subtle Christian speculator of North Africa who brought much of both good and bad into Christian theology…

…What Paul meant to show us in Romans 5:12-21 was a wonderful Redeemer who gives more than we lost in Adam. But in a cloud of theological dust raised about the imputed sin of Adam we have lost sight of Paul’s wonderful Redeemer and have seen only Adam’s sin and an imputed guilt that never existed except in our imaginations.”

W. T. Conner, The Faith of the New Testament, (281-82), 1940.

The Results of Repentance, Luke 18.9-14.

PastorDanNelson

by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarillo, Calif.

The parable of the pharisee and publican is another great picture of repentance. The contrast in the way they prayed tell us the result of repentance and how it changes our perspective of who God is and who we are.

The two came to the temple at the time for prayer, either 9 AM or 3 PM. They offered sacrifices and prayed. Jesus may have been watching an actual scene unfold. Prayer was not available until God accepted the sacrifice. Sins were covered by a substitute offered in the sacrifice. It was only possible to have access to God when atonement was made. The temple was the center of the universe in this regard. After the atonement is made, the men pray. Both approach God differently.

The pharisee actually “prayed to himself,” telling God how righteous he was. The publican would not even look heavenward, but in deep humility and sorrow of heart prayed to God for mercy after smiting his breast, crying: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” What a difference, what a contrast and what a different outcome! Jesus said the pharisee was not justified but the man who humbled himself before God was justified. One left unforgiven, unjustified, a stranger to God although he thought God couldn’t do without him. The other man left justified, right with God, prayer answered.

The contrast of prayers reveal the nature of true repentance. The goal or result of repentance is justification before God. Jesus told this parable to illustrate what approach we need to have when asking God to justify us. We see these truths about the nature of repentance in the parable:

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The question everyone should ask is: How is one justified by God? Bildad asked that in (Job 25:4).[1] This parable answers the question.

Many say Buddhists and Muslims can be made right with God without trusting in Christ’s work for salvation. There are really two religions, though: The religion of human accomplishment, and the religion of God’s accomplishment in Christ to be saved.

The longer you think you’re on the road of justification without justification, it’s harder to be justified. Have you ever been going down the wrong road, hoping it’s the right one? Just hoping it’s right road doesn’t make it the right road. All the time you may be getting farther and farther away from the right road. This is why it’s harder to reach older religious or non-religious people. Many people don’t realize they are on road to eternal separation from God instead of the road to justification by him. Jesus told of how many are on the wrong road in (Matt. 7:13-14).

Jesus told this parable against those who trusted in themselves. Their own self-righteousness kept them from God, and at the same time they were shunning others. The pharisees had a great following as leaders of Judaism. They trusted a religious system to be good enough to be saved. Jesus said that the righteousness people had would have to exceed the pharisees in (Matt. 5:20).

The pharisee essentially prayed the prayer Jesus condemned in (Matt. 6:4-7). The pharisee in his prayer was close to the Holy place way up front as close as he could get to God supposedly.

The pharisee begins to exalt his self-righteousness to God by comparing himself with the publican. He was thankful he was not like that publican who associated with all the sinners. He wanted admiration from God so he congratulates himself.

The pharisee stands aloof in a conspicuous place. He told how he fasted usually on Monday and Thursday. He went to markets and loved the greetings for he wanted the crowd to see his self-righteousness. His efforts were all for show in the flesh. He tithed 10 percent of his income but also paid 23 percent in a theocracy for temple taxes and the like.[2]  His real object of worship was himself and not God. He is not praying to God. He wants God to endorse what He is doing.

When “he prayed to himself,” was this a soliloquy? In his congratulatory state, he enjoys his form of righteousness. What he called prayer was boasting. He tried to beat around the bush and compare his life to others.

Jesus said, “Good fruit does not come from a corrupt tree” (Matt. 7:18). In reality all our works are as “filthy rags” according to (Isa. 64:6).

The pharisee may not have stolen, but he could have coveted. He did not commit adultery, but he could have lusted after some other woman. He did not kill, but he could have hated. God looks at the heart. I John 3:15 talks of the sins of the heart.  B.H. Carroll said, “He is simply congratulating himself upon his superiority over other people and he was absolutely in need of nothing.” [3]

In the unrepentant sinner’s prayer to himself, he comes before God with pride in who he was and left self-justified but not justified by God. He is like so many today who would blame others for the reason they sin. They stand up for their rights when they have done wrong. They feel if they are better than someone else or are looked upon as decent they are right with God and they are so deluded and wrong. At a recent fair a person had a T-Shirt which said, “I don’t want to repent I want your acceptance.”

This story tells that a person is justified not by what we do or don’t do but by God’s mercy and our trusting in His provision for our sins through Christ. We need to be justified in this life or we will never be justified before God in eternity.

Repentance fruit is preceded by an expression of contrition and humility to God

The people of Jesus time thought if any people could earn salvation it had to be the pharisees. Paul said I will match my religious experience and moral achievement with anyone to earn salvation as listed in Phil. 3:1-10 but it’s not possible without Christ.

The tax-collector was standing off in the distance, probably in a quiet corner.

The publican was unwilling to lift his eyes up to God. He prayed trembling, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” Tax-collectors were in that outer group with women and Gentiles, where they could go and go no farther. Because of his location and position, he is not even willing to lift his head because he feels so unworthy.

The publican had his focus on God, however. He was stunned by who He was and who God was. He saw the source of His forgiveness was not in who he was. He saw his sin separating him from God. He knew he was not worthy of forgiveness and knew he was wrong before God. His sin was a heavy burden, and although he could not feel it physically, he felt the full weight of it spiritually and emotionally. He did not seek forgiveness on the basis of who he was but on the basis of who God was.

John Miller said, “Penance is centered in human emotions and perceptions. But repentance is God-centered.”[4] This prayer was one of self-denial, humility and un-worthiness focused on God. It would seem natural to lift his hands up the way some of the Jews prayed. He could not even lift up his eyes.

The pharisee had seized the moment and said, “I’m so much better than that guy.” He may have even pointed to Him. That publican knew how to approach God however.

The publican beat his breast with his hands across his chest. Lk. 23:48 shares how the people beat their breasts at the cross. It takes something of great magnitude to do evoke this reaction. It was done at the cross by the people and is a common expression of great sorrow in the Middle East.

Why the beating of the breast? Maybe they beat their breast because it’s close to the heart. Jesus said it was out the heart that comes evil things (Mk. 7:20-23). This man is not interested in the religion of human achievement but the God of mercy. He is submissive and dependent.

The publican is a model of repentance and confession. His sin hurt God and he felt the conviction of God as David prayed in Ps. 51: 3-4. This is why God forgave David. He approached God this way. Paul said he was “the chief of sinners” in I Tim. 1:15.

The deceived one will only deal with the surface matters. For he who does not have the courage to look into the depths of his own heart cannot see more clearly into the heart of another man. We must look at our own hearts first to be right with God.

The publican came believing God might be merciful unto him by applying the atonement unto him. He knew he could not stand before God’s holy and just wrath and he is looking for mercy from God. So he says make the propitiation apply to me which is the way we are saved. He says let the atonement be for me. Remember they are only a few weeks away from the final atonement. The reason we have to trust in God’s atonement is according to what Billy Graham said, “So that no one can say I got to heaven by something I did or achieved.”[5]

The publican poured his heart out to God in the most free and unworthy manner. It was the same prayer flowing from the same fountain the prodigal prayed when he prayed, in Luke 15:17

“How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

All great men that have shaped history have been humble. Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?”

“It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”[6]

In a pastor’s church people laughed at a man who got on his knees and begin to pray. The pastor said, “I’d rather have him praying for them than those people.[7]

Billy Graham said before the Atlanta crusade back in the early 50s when praying with a group of pastors for and upcoming crusade, “Brethren, let’s pray and don’t let anyone say Lord make us humble because the Lord leaves that up to us.”[8]

The difference in the prayers is the pharisee went to pray and did not, the publican did nothing but pray.

The old song, “I am Coming to the Cross,” expresses the way the publican approached God:

“I am coming to the cross / I am poor and weak and blind / I am counting all but dross / I shall full salvation find. / I am trusting, Lord, in Thee / Blessed Lamb of Calvary / Humbly at Thy cross I bow / Save me, Jesus, save me now.”[9]

Repentance leads to justification from God

We get our accurate view of justification from the Son of God who made it possible. His grace and mercy did apply to this man who was forgiven by approaching God the right way.

Jesus said the publican was justified. Jesus was the greatest authority in the world to know how to be right with God and how to be still un-forgiven while claiming to be walking with God. The publican was truly repentant and the pharisee was not.  The publican was the man God justified.

The perfect sinless one pronounces the publican justified, forgiven, acquitted and not-guilty anymore. Unlike the pharisee who prayed to himself, there is no time lapse, no works required. Justification is extended because of the man’s recognition God’s mercy

Atonement is worthless to the self-righteous and he will receive no justification. But to the repentant, convicted, broken sinner who is dependent on God’s grace and mercy he shall return to his home every time justified right with God.

The reason the publican was justified and the pharisee was not was because Jesus said for “everyone who exalts himself he shall be humiliated.” So God honors humility and those who are not will not be honored by Him will be humiliated.

Charles Spurgeon reminded what is essential in repentance when he said, “Angels do not require God’s mercy. We do because we are sinners. It comes into exercise after we are broken and not until we are.”[10]

There are two ways a person is justified. We either we justify ourself or let God do it. The reason our self-justification will not work is because it falls short of the righteousness of God found in Christ. (Rom. 10:1-4. Phil. 3:10).

We have some in our churches who have not truly repented. They are like the pharisee instead of the publican. We need repentance in our churches from the pulpit to pew.

Someone has said that liberal theologians have filled churches and preached a blood-less gospel and a deity-less Christ. Now, evangelicals have filled churches with a gospel that lacks a call to repentance. Which is worse? The net result is the same.

B.H. Carroll: Trying to run a church without repentance is like trying to run a train without railroad tracks. We can’t build a house on a small foundation.”[11]

We must be clear in understanding what true repentance is. Very simply in this picture: Jesus said it’s a change of state God can wrought in our hearts. It’s allowing God to do His work in us to change us. The change is seen in our life. We must come to God, respond to Him, be willing to accept His rule and reign in our hearts.

George Whitefield is honest and forthright in explaining the fruits of repentance. He states, “Repentance results in the carnal and corrupt disposition of men being changed into a renewed sanctified disposition. Believing hearts must be broken lives must be changed, men must turn to Christ for salvation.[12]

In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It’s a change in belief without a change in behavior.” He goes on to say, “It is revival without reformation and without repentance.” [13] We must not be like Frank Sinatra doing it just our way.

Charles Spurgeon said: “Salvation is for the lost, ruined, undone. The blessings it brings is pardon and mercy and cleansing grace intended for the guilty and polluted. A heavy heart and a downcast eye were exchanged for a glad heart and hopeful outlook (in this story). He came to the temple trembling but left rejoicing. I am sure his wife and family noticed the difference. He went to the temple guilty but came back justified.”[14]

Jesus said that a person who lifts himself up will be brought down. it’s like blowing up a balloon. Every time I think I am better than someone else or remind God how good I am, I inflate the balloon a little bit. We say: I say thank you God that I don’t use profanity like my neighbor. We say, ”thank you God that that I give so much to you. God, I keep the 10 commandments so I’m much better than the other people. I thank you God, that you love me more than that old sinner over there because I have been in the church so long.”

The balloon is really full isn’t it? It’s full of hot air! I’ve blown the balloon up full of air by self-effort. Remember what Jesus said about a prideful person who lifts himself up? He said they will be brought down. The pharisee entered the temple with a lot of pride. His balloon was full. All you need though is a pin to burst it.

But Jesus said that he would eventually be humbled. He who is humbled and comes to God for forgiveness, believing  God who has provided atonement in Christ will be justified. Christ who stands to save us on the basis of His merit not our own. The publican let God fill him after he acknowledged he was nothing without God. God accepted Him (the publican) and filled Him with His presence. The publican would stay filled because he let God work in him instead of relying on his efforts. That is how God wants to fill us after we have humbled ourselves. We you let Him do it today?


[1] All Scriptural quotations or citations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated

[2] Message by John MacArthur, “Is Tithing Biblical” as heard on Christian Radio

[3] B.H. Carroll, Interpretation of the English Bible (Baker: Grand Rapids, MI, 3rd Printing, 1978), Vol. 4, Part 2, 187.

[4] John Miller, Repentance and the 20th Century Man (Christian Literature Crusade: Fort Washington, PA, 1980), 24.

[5] Billy Graham, Message from Cow Palace, San Francisco, CA 1957 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp-h4KR7Kco

[6] Norman McGowan, My Years With Winston Churchill, Souvenir Press, London, http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/h/humility.htm

[7] Story heard in a Revival Meeting when I was growing up in Agricola Baptist Church, Agricola, MS. I can’t remember the preacher or time frame.

[8]Story told by Paul James, former Executive Director New York Baptist Convention in the class Evangelism and Urban Missions at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, June 1975.

[10] Charles Spurgeon, http://www.godrules.net/library/spurgeon/spurgeon.htm sermon on pharisee and publican.

[11] Carroll, Vol. 1, 162

[12] Peter Gunther, compiler, Great Sermons by Great Preachers. Moody Press: Chicago, 1960

[13] C. Swindoll, John the Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, p. 16.

[14] Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on pharisee and publican