Jesus told a parable about a prideful Pharisee that reminds us of the glory of grace! Grace is so amazing that we need regular reminders of its depth, breadth, and height.
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into 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 up 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 18:9–14, NASB95)
I am a believer in “grace-alone” salvation. I know that almost everyone says this, but not everyone really teaches this. Grace-alone means that you and I do not have a shred of goodness to offer God, but that He has, in grace, paid the penalty for sin and made an offer to mankind to be saved in Jesus Christ. Even so, we have an amazing ability and desire to add something to the simple grace-alone salvation revealed in Scripture. These additions put us in the same place as the Pharisees, who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” The Pharisee in the parable of Luke 18:9-14 was disgusted with the tax-collector because the tax man had not lived up to the works of pharisaical religion. It is the sin of pride, which is at the root of our continual desire to add to the Gospel.
One of the old hymns states, “nothing of my own I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” It is inspiring to sing, but it is oddly offensive to the human spirit. Who among us wants to admit that we have nothing to bring? Deep inside, we are convinced that we have at least a little goodness that caused us to become the person we are today. Because of this sinful tendency, we need to be careful, lest we add for others restrictions on salvation that are man-made.
If you listen carefully, you will find that many of our invitations to Christ involve or imply works. We say things like:
- Commit your life to Jesus
- Jesus needs to be the Lord of every area of your life
- Give everything you have to Jesus
These statements are appropriate in discipleship, but in evangelism they imply a “work-hard-to-be-saved” theology which is opposed to grace-alone. When the Gospel is presented, it should be presented for what it is: GOOD NEWS! It is, in fact, the greatest news! God has satisfied the requirements for the salvation of mankind, and now the offer is freely given to any who would believe. In other words, we do not need to present the demands of the Gospel, but the free offer of the Gospel. There are demands of discipleship, but we often try to develop disciples before a person has been saved! Jesus simply told Nicodemus, “You must be Born Again!” The Gospel only has one demand: believe! Jesus paid it all, and He is all a person needs to be saved. After a person experiences new birth, their lives will begin to change, and even more as we disciple them.
What does it take for a person to go to heaven? In a word: Jesus! That is why, after all, we are called CHRISTians. Christ is the fundamental difference. Be conscious about this grace-alone reality, and it will cause a never-ending spring of rejoicing to well up within you.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
 Julia Johnston, “Grace Greater Than Our Sin”