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Sermon - August 30, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1226

August 30, 2015                                                                                 Luke 18:9-14

Dr. Ed Pettus                                                 

 

“Lord, Have Mercy”

 

  1. Critique of issues

 

Today’s message will not criticize Planned Parenthood.  I will not be disrespecting Political Correctness, not will I slam same-sex mirage.  The scripture today does not speak to any of the issues that deeply disturb our faith in relationship to America today.  For the last couple of months I have been reading scriptures and reflecting on many of the issues that threaten religious liberty.  Today, I want to turn the tables.  I want to turn the tables on us!

 

  1. Right to be critical, but…

 

We do have a right and a responsibility to be critical of the things of this world that lead to death.  We have to lift up the prophetic voice of scripture against the false voices of society and culture (of the world).  But, we also have commands to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and take the gospel to the world. 

 

  1. Prayer for the “enemies”

 

We often feel better about ourselves when we criticize the wrongs of others.  We see the evil of Planned Parenthood and the temptation is to think more highly of ourselves.  The temptation is to compare ourselves against those who are more sinful than we.  We give God thanks, like the Pharisee of Luke 18, that we are not like “those” people.  But, Jesus tells us to pray for all people, even the people we may not like and the people we might critique.

Comparison is a dangerous practice.  We are tempted to compare our lives with others usually hoping the comparison will lift us up.  But the reverse could also occur when the comparison is to someone more righteous or more talented or more of anything – and then our lives seem inferior.  Both problems lead to sin – either thinking ourselves superior in one case or inferior in the other. 

This does not mean that we cannot comment or point out sin when it rears itself, but it does mean that we cannot look down with contempt.  Instead, we can pray.

  1. Prayer for the issues

 

Yes, I said I would not raise any issues today, but I want to give a shout out to praying for the issues we critique as well as the people involved.  Our prayers should reach out to the people, the systems, the organizations, and the forces that promote bad ideology or evil practices.  One key to our critique is to temper them with prayer.  Prayer gives us deeper and wiser perspective and hopefully away from the dangers or temptation. 

 

  1. The Danger

[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.

 

  1. Arrogance

What are some of the dangers for us when we criticize?  Jesus speaks of trusting in ourselves, what is called self-righteousness.  He speaks of contempt.  My first thought in these two characteristics was our arrogance.  We pride ourselves in self-righteousness and contempt.  The Proverb is right:  Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Prov. 16:18). 

 

  1. Contempt

 

My first thoughts about contempt are in the courtroom.  Contempt of court is showing disrespect for the judge or the law.  Contempt in the case Jesus refers to is disrespect for others, for people.  It is a condescending attitude.  Contempt is sense of superiority in the one showing contempt.  It may be the most egregious of attitudes.  I say that because there is growing contempt for all things Christian these days.  But I also said earlier I would not critique anyone else today!  Contempt is a poison.

 

  1. Self-righteousness

           

Self-righteousness is easily defined by what Jesus says in defining his audience – trusting in ourselves as righteous.  You see, the proper place of trust is in God and his righteousness, not our own.  So often we think that our “getting it right” is the goal.  Yes, we should seek righteousness, but we should also do so when that righteousness is coupled with love and compassion and gentleness.  We cannot hold our righteousness over the heads of others in ways like contempt or condescension.  Instead, we seek righteousness with a proper perspective.

 

  1. Proper Perspective

 

There are lots of things we can practice to help us protect against self-righteousness and contempt. 

 

  1. Humility

 

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:10).  James must have known Jesus’ parable.  Humility sets us in the right position before the Lord.  It is really all we can do, submit ourselves to the Lord in ways where he can continue to mold us. 

 

  1. Obedience

 

You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always (Duet. 11:1).  Obedience is a part of our humility.  We submit ourselves to the commands of God and to his way of life. 

 

  1. Prayer

 

Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  Prayer too is a way of humility.  We pray because we know that we cannot do anything without God. 

 

  1. Lord, Have Mercy

 

I am preaching today to bring one simple message.  Pray for enemies and for issues and for ourselves and make it a simple prayer: Lord, have mercy. 

Have mercy on us for our contempt and self-righteousness.  Have mercy on those who are currently practicing evil.  Have mercy on our nation. 

 

  1. Psalm 103

 

Mercy is from God because God is merciful.  Psalm 103:8 - The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  This is a constantly repeated refrain in the life of Israel.  His mercy in the Psalm is revealed in the actions: he forgives, he heals, he redeems, he crowns, he satisfies, he works righteousness and justice (vs. 3-6). 

 

  1. Humility and Mercy

 

Do not think to highly of yourself.  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Romans 12:3).

 

Pleading for mercy requires humility.  We recognize in asking for mercy that we are in need.  We humble ourselves before the Lord and we humble ourselves in our attitude and actions. 

Humble in our critique -

Humble in our presentation of the gospel -

Humble in our demeanor -

Humble in all things -

 

Jesus says, at the end of the parable, the humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled.  Such inversions are common with God: the first will be last and the last first, the dead will live again, the hungry will be filled, the meek will inherit the earth.  This is the God who works possibility in impossible situations.  Let us humble ourselves before the Lord and seek his mercy.  Amen.