Text: Luke 18.9-14
“You can rebel against God and be alienated from him either by breaking his rules or by keeping them diligently” (The Prodigal God, Timothy Keller).
Not long after Jesus relays the parable of the prodigal son, he finds himself in a similar group of men confidently discussing their own righteousness and patronizing everyone else. Like the comparison of the two sons, Jesus’ story revolves around two attitudes toward God as evidenced in their prayers.
The Pharisee, knowing he had diligently kept all the rules, puffs up his chest, walks up the temple stairs and offers a well-spoken prayer. However, his prayer orbits around him: thankfulness for his good works, how he is different, obedient, and even sacrificial. Jesus contrasts this prayer with that of a “sinner.” The tax collector, known by everyone as corrupt, didn’t approach the temple and wouldn’t even look up toward heaven, but beat his chest pleading for mercy.
Both parables depict two men—both alienated from God, but for different reasons. But only one man returns justified and exalted: the sinner. “For we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23). But we all get to choose: we can remain ignorant of our sin (like the older brother and the Pharisee) or we can admit our “right” living cannot save us.
If you’ve been living “rightly” out of your own efforts and have never cried out to Jesus for mercy, do so today. To start a conversation about how to cry out for God’s mercy, connect with someone at Ada Bible Church here.
Text: Luke 15.11-31
As Luke 15 opens, Jesus walks over and sits down next to the despised tax collectors and “sinners.” All the while the “good,” law-abiding Pharisees are muttering to themselves, “this man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15.2). As Jesus tells this “Parable of the Lost Son,” he recognizes his audience: law-abiding citizens, who not only need to understand the extravagant, boundary-crossing love of the Heavenly Father, but who’d be shocked by the scandalous actions of the father in this story.
No father in such an intensely patriarchal society, after being harshly disrespected, would divide his estate and offer his youngest son an early inheritance (15.12). Not only did the father pacify a deep insult, he went further and actually gave his son a portion of himself: what he had worked for all his life. Likely suspecting immaturity and self-seeking folly, the father remains hopeful of his son’s return.
At the first sight of his beloved son, overflowing with compassion, he exposes his legs as he runs to meet his son (this was never done!). He greets him with kisses, robes him with high honor, feeds him fine foods, and celebrates his miraculous return.
As you welcome God into your week and day, put yourself in the position of the older son watching as your father defies all societal boundaries to welcome your rebellious brother and eat with him. Identify and praise God for ways he has spilled over with compassion and love (acts of mercy, gracious gifts, and forgiveness) toward someone you know.
Text: Isaiah 6.1-5
The story in Luke 5.1-11 concludes with the conversation going from Peter declaring he’s an unworthy sinner, to Jesus telling him not to fear because he will equip Peter to “catch” people. Jesus sees Peter’s repentant heart and recruits him to be a part of his “fishing team.” Being on the team means Jesus is going to equip and grow him.
We become candidates for discipleship, not by embellishing our good behavior, nor polishing our ethical resume, but by recognizing our deep spiritual need for a Savior. Both Peter and the Old Testament prophet Isaiah began their ministries by perceiving their own sinfulness in the presence of a Holy God.
When we recognize our sin and place our faith in Jesus, we become his disciples. He saves us, calls us to follow him, and equips and grows us to be on his “fishing team.” Seeing God’s holiness is the beginning of being used by him. When we feel the most unqualified is when we are the most qualified.
As you welcome God into your day, read Isaiah 6.1-5 and see how Isaiah, standing in the holy presence of God, comprehends his uncleanliness before he can serve. Then memorize Psalm 29.2, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” Perceiving God’s holiness is where your ministry begins.
Text: Luke 5.1-11
The Apostle Peter was no stranger to Jesus’ power: Jesus had just healed Peter’s sick mother-in-law and others in his city. What he hadn’t seen yet was Jesus’ power over the deeper concerns of his own life.
When Jesus gives Peter the command, “Let down the nets for a catch,” he and his companions have been up all night fishing with absolutely no success. The likelihood of catching any fish is ridiculous. But Peter obeys and the catch is so huge the nets break and the boats begin to sink! The power of Jesus over Peter’s arrogance and pride brings him to his knees.
Most of us would be thanking Jesus for the great catch. But Peter’s perception of Jesus had drastically changed. Jesus knew what he was thinking. Compared to Jesus’ holiness, he is completely undone. Peter feels unworthy to even be in his presence saying, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”
You may know of Jesus’ power but, like Peter, need to honestly evaluate who he is compared to who you are. We can’t change until our perceptions change to the truth of the sin separating us from a Holy God.
As you welcome God into your day and week, listen to “Our Great God” by Fernando Ortega and Mac Powell and consider who God is compared to yourself.