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A ‘Good Enough’ Sermon

Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18:9-14


You get to write the introduction to this sermon.  I need help, and this is just the right crowd to assist me…


Assignment:  Honestly, in your own words, write a brief answer to the following question, imagining it is the Lord Jesus Who is asking it to you:


“Why should I let you into heaven?”


We won’t collect these, but it is imperative that every person answer for themselves.  Though brief, your answer should be specific, not general like “because I’m saved” or “because I’m a Christian.”  Jesus is looking for what you base that on, as if He is needing convincing of why you are qualified to enter.


When done, show it to someone nearby, and check out their answer.

1 Peter 3:15
be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Philippians 2:12
…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.


Keep in mind that there are no exact words or magic phrases in what would be Biblically a ‘right answer.’  A correct answer could be worded in a multitude of ways, but will contain some key thoughts and concepts, and have at least a general idea present that is very important.  It will also be void of certain ingredients if it is a good foundation to build on.


I’d like to ask a few to volunteer and share your answer aloud as a testimony of how you were saved…


[read text]

A ‘publican’ is not the opposite of a democrat.  He was a tax collector.  Sorry to bring that up !  And the ‘Pharisee’ was a religious man.  You could call this “The Parable of the priest and the IRS agent”!


Here we find 2 different men, praying 2 different prayers, and getting 2 differing results.  One was saved that day and the other was not. 


Either could have qualified to be saved, but only one did.  There are numerous examples in Scripture of both Pharisees and Publicans that were saved. 


Either could have had the ‘right answer’, but only 1 did.  So what made the difference?


The Pharisees’ prayer was all about himself.

v. 11-12   He acts holy and like he’s thanking God, but really he’s praising himself.  He’s saying, “God, you must really like me because I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or kiss the girls that do!”


We all want to feel good about ourselves, but the Bible says to let another praise you, and not to praise yourself.  This man lifted up his own righteousness and good works, and it is clear that he is trusting in himself for his salvation.  If he was to make it to heaven on his own merit, I guess he would get the credit and be able to sing “How Great I Am” for all eternity.


The Publican’s prayer did the opposite.  He recognized himself as a sinner and realized his only hope for heaven was not in anything about himself but only in God and His mercy.


So, how about you?  Is your answer about good that you have done or about Jesus and what He did for you on the cross of Calvary? 


It’s very important at this point that we all be transparent as we think about our answer.  I beg you, make sure your goal is to be right, not to ‘have been right’ all along.  Be correctable. 


v. 14b      Don’t try to convince yourself that you are saved…ask God to convince you by the facts, or to convict you if you are not.  Humble yourself!


God forbid that your answer be about you being a good person.  How good is good enough?  The devil’s most successful lie is one that says that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.  Nothing could be further from the truth!


Romans 3:10
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Ecclesiastes 7:20
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Romans 3:12
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Isaiah 64:6
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Revelation 21:27
And there shall in no wise enter into it [heaven] any thing that defileth…


God cannot allow sin into heaven, and yet we are all sinners!  And so, somehow our sins must be covered, yea, erased, blotted out, forgiven…or put another way:  paid for!  And Jesus paid for your sins.  If you don’t accept His payment for your sins, then you will have to pay for your sins, which will take you an eternity in hell, because the price for sin is death.  Thank God that His Son Jesus died in our place, and the price for our sin was HIS death, if we’ll accept the payment!


God forbid that your answer be about any good works…

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Titus 3:5
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost…

 God forbid that your answer be about you being baptized, or becoming a church member, or giving your offerings, or keeping the 10 commandments, which, by the way, you haven’t!


Demonstrate how to use the “law” and the 10 commandments to get people lost so they can be saved.  If they’ve ever told a lie, stolen, or lusted after the opposite sex, for example, then they have broken commandments.

        If you tell a lie…that makes you a liar.

        If you steal…that makes you a thief.

        If you lust, Jesus says you’re an adulterer.

        If you take God’s name in vain, you’re a blasphemer.


If God judges you by the standard of the law, are you innocent or guilty?  Would you go to heaven or hell?

The Bible says in Psalm 19, verse 7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” What is it that the Bible says is perfect and actually converts the soul? Why scripture makes it very clear: “The law.”   See:  http://www.wayofthemaster.com/goodperson.shtml


Imagine if I said to you, “I’ve got some good news for you: someone has just paid your $25,000 speeding fine.” You’d probably react by saying, “What are you talking about? That’s not good news: it doesn’t make sense. I don’t have a $25,000 speeding fine.” My good news wouldn’t be good news to you: it would seem foolishness. But more than that, it would be offensive to you, because I’m insinuating you’ve broken the law when you aren’t aware you have. However, if I put it this way, it may make more sense: “On the road this week a camera clocked you going 55 miles an hour through an area set aside for blind children. There were ten clear warning signs stating that fifteen miles an hour was the maximum speed, but you went straight through at 55 miles an hour. What you did was extremely dangerous; there’s a $25,000 fine. The law was about to take its course, when someone you don’t even know stepped in and paid the fine for you. You are very fortunate.”


Telling you precisely what you’ve done wrong first actually makes the good news make sense.


Now in the same way, if I approach a sinner and say, “Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins,” it will be foolishness and offensive to him. It’s foolishness because it won’t make sense. The Bible says that: “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1Cor. 1:18). And it’s offensive because I’m insinuating he’s a sinner when he doesn’t think he is. As far as he’s concerned, there are a lot of people far worse than him. But if I take the time to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it may make more sense. If I take the time to open up the divine law, the ten commandments, and show the sinner precisely what he’s done wrong, that he has offended God by violating His law, then when he becomes ‘convinced,’ as it says in James 2:9, “convinced of the law as a transgressor”, the good news of the fine being paid for will not be foolishness, it will not be offensive, it will be “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).


Romans 3:19
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

So one function of God’s law is to stop the mouth. To stop sinners from justifying themselves and saying, “There’s plenty of people worse than me. I’m not a bad person. Really.” No, the law stops the mouth of justification and leaves the whole world guilty before God.


Romans 3:20
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.               [So God’s law tells us what sin is.]


1 John 3:4 says, “…sin is the transgression of the law.”

Galatians 3:24, “Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”


The law doesn’t really help us; it just leaves us helpless. It doesn’t justify us; it just leaves us guilty before the judgment of a holy God.

And the tragedy of modern evangelism is that years ago it forsook using  the law in its capacity to convert the soul, to drive sinners to Christ, and modern evangelism had to, then, find another reason for sinners to respond to the gospel. And the issue that modern evangelism chose to attract sinners was the issue of “life enhancement”. The gospel degenerated into “Jesus Christ will give you peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness.” Now to illustrate the unscriptural nature of this very popular teaching, I’d like you to listen very carefully…


Ill.--Two men are seated in a plane. The first is given a parachute and told to put is on as it would improve his flight. He’s a little skeptical at first because he can’t see how wearing a parachute in a plane could possibly improve the flight. After a time he decides to experiment and see if the claim is true. As he puts it on he notices the weight of it upon his shoulders and he finds that he has difficulty in sitting upright. However, he consoles himself with the fact that he was told the parachute would improve the flight. So, he decides to give the thing a little time. As he waits he notices that some of the other passengers are laughing at him, because he’s wearing a parachute in a plane. He begins to feel somewhat humiliated. As they begin to point and laugh at him and he can stand it no longer, he slinks in his seat, unstraps the parachute, and throws it to the floor. Disillusionment and bitterness fill his heart, because, as far as he was concerned, he was told an outright lie.

The second man is given a parachute, but listen to what he’s told. He’s told to put it on because at any moment he’d be jumping 25,000 feet out of the plane. He gratefully puts the parachute on; he doesn’t notice the weight of it upon his shoulders, nor that he can’t sit upright. His mind is consumed with the thought of what would happen to him if he jumped without that parachute.


Let’s analyze the motive and the result of each passenger’s experience. The first man’s motive for putting the parachute on was solely to improve his flight. The result of his experience was that he was humiliated by the passengers; he was disillusioned and somewhat embittered against those who gave him the parachute. As far as he’s concerned it’ll be a long time before anyone gets one of those things on his back again.


The second man put the parachute on solely to escape the jump to come, and because of his knowledge of what would happen to him without it, he has a deep-rooted joy and peace in his heart knowing that he’s saved from sure death. This knowledge gives him the ability to withstand the mockery of the other passengers. His attitude towards those who gave him the parachute is one of heart-felt gratitude.


Now listen to what the modern gospel says. It says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. He’ll give you love, joy, peace, fulfillment, and lasting happiness.” In other words, “Jesus will improve your flight.” So the sinner responds, and in an experimental fashion, puts on the Savior to see if the claims are true. And what does he get? The promised temptation, tribulation, and persecution. The other passengers mock him. So what does he do? He takes off the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s offended for the word’s sake (Mark 4:17), he’s disillusioned and somewhat embittered, and quite rightly so. He was promised peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness, and all he got were trials and humiliation. His bitterness is directed toward those who gave him the so-called “good news”. His latter end becomes worse than the first: another bitter backslider.


Friends, instead of preaching that Jesus improves the flight, we should be warning the passengers they’re going to have to jump out of the plane. That it’s “appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). And when a sinner understands the horrific consequences of breaking God’s law, then he will flee to the Savior solely to escape the wrath that’s to come.


Peace and joy are legitimate fruits of salvation, but it’s not legitimate to use these fruits as the motive for salvation. If we continue to do so, sinners will respond with an impure heart, lacking repentance.


Now, can you remember why the second passenger had joy and peace in his heart? It was because he knew that parachute was going to save him from sure death.


Ill.--Now with that thought in mind, let’s take a close look at another incident on board the plane. We have a brand new stewardess. She’s carrying a tray of boiling hot coffee. It’s her first day; she wants to leave an impression on the passengers, and she certainly does. Because as she’s walking down the aisle, she trips over someone’s foot and slops that boiling hot coffee all over the lap of our second passenger. Now what’s his reaction as that boiling liquid hits his tender flesh? Does he go, “Ssssfffff! Man that hurt”? Mmm-hhh. He feels the pain. But then does he rip the parachute from his shoulders, throw it to the floor and say, “The stupid parachute!”? No. Why should he? He didn’t put the parachute on for a better flight. He put it on to save him from the jump to come. If anything, the hot coffee incident causes him to cling tighter to the parachute and even look forward to the jump.

Now if you and I have put on the Lord Jesus Christ for the right motive, to flee from the wrath that’s to come, when tribulation strikes, when the flight gets bumpy, we won’t get angry at God; we won’t lose our joy and peace. Why should we? We didn’t come to Jesus for a happy lifestyle: we came to flee from the wrath that’s to come. And if anything, tribulation drives the true believer closer to the Savior. And sadly we have literally multitudes of professing Christians who lose their joy and peace when the flight gets bumpy. Why? They’re the product of a man-centered gospel. They came lacking repentance, without which you can’t be saved.


Use God’s law, the 10 Commandments to help people see their plight, realize they are lost, and then WANT to be saved! 

Ill.--If I wanted to awaken you from a deep sleep, I wouldn’t use a flashlight in your eyes. That will offend you. I’d turn on the light dimmer very gently. First, the natural, then the spiritual.


The precedent for this is given in John 4. You can see Jesus’ example with the woman at the well. He started in the natural realm, swung to the spiritual, brought conviction using the seventh commandment, and then revealed Himself as the Messiah.


Now the wonderful thing about God’s law is that God has taken the time to write it upon our heart.

Romans 2:15
Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

Now, conscience means “with knowledge.” Con is “with,” science is “knowledge.” That equals conscience. So when he lies, lusts, fornicates, blasphemes, commits adultery, he does it “with knowledge” that it’s wrong.  He can then be convinced that none of us are ‘good enough!’


Ill.--You’re sitting on that plane, sipping your coffee, biting a cookie, and watching a movie. It’s a good flight, very pleasurable, when suddenly you hear the voice of the stewardess,

[usually we ignore their routine announcements…though I like Southwest…they are funny…one time I heard a stewardess say in regards to the no smoking policy, “if you feel the need and cannot help yourself, please go to an exit row and step out onto the wing of the aircraft!”  Another time when disembarking, “please watch your step…if you miss your step and hit your head, please watch your language!”]


…but on this day, imagine you pay attention and she says, “Attention ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make. As the tail section has just fallen off of this plane, we’re about to crash. There’s a 25,000 foot drop. There’s a parachute under your seat; we’d suggest putting it on. Thank you for your attention, and thank you for flying with us.” You say, “What!? 25,000 feet!? Man, am I glad to be wearing this parachute!” You look next to you; the guy next to you is biting his cookie, sipping his coffee, and watching the movie. You say, “Excuse me, did you hear the lady? Put the parachute on.” He turns to you and says, “Oh, I really don’t think they mean it. Besides, I’m quite happy as I am, thanks.” Don’t turn to him and say, “Oh, please, put the parachute on. It will be better than the movie.” Now, that doesn’t make sense. If you tell him that somehow the parachute will improve his flight, he’s going to put it on for a wrong motive. If you want him to put it on and keep it on, tell him about the jump. You say, “Excuse me, ignore the captain if you wish. Jump without a parachute…but you’ll go SPLAT!” He’ll say, “Ah! I see what you’re saying! Thank you very much!” And as long as that man has knowledge he has to pass through the door and face the consequences of breaking the law of gravity, there’s no way you’re going to get that parachute off his back, because his very life depends on it.


As we close today, I don’t want to know if this was a good enough sermon…I want to know if you’re good enough, and since you’re not, I want to know that you will follow the instructions to make it to heaven the only other way possible, thru Jesus Christ!

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