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July 1, 2018

Trust

by Matt Fray

...He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=bbaf9a4f7a&e=82a9a8f891)

 

Jesus is a master storyteller, and the parables are among His best. The settings and characters are earthy, but they reveal heavenly realities (Matthew 13:34-35). They are brief, but then linger in our minds (Mark 4:30-32). The plots seem familiar at first, but the endings always surprise (Luke 15:11-32). In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, we see all three of these features on display. But it is the surprise ending to this parable that makes it the best of the best.

To appreciate the surprise ending, we must read the parable as a whole, and pay close attention to what happened after the men leave the temple. The surprise ending comes, as it should, in the last verse of the parable. Jesus concludes the story by revealing something otherwise invisible and unknown: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” For the sake of clarify, we can fill in the specific identities of the men in this way: “I tell you, the tax collector went down to his house justified, rather than the Pharisee.”

There are two aspects to the surprise ending contained in Jesus’ divine pronouncement.

First, Jesus’ words reveal that it was the tax collector who received favor from God, rather than the Pharisee. Like Jesus’ original audience, we tend to assume that it is the outwardly good and openly religious who please God. But Jesus surprises us; He upends our assumptions and exalts the outcast sinner who humbly prays for mercy. Jesus doesn’t ignore or normalize the tax collector’s professional or personal sins, and He doesn’t suggest the Pharisee’s concern for holiness is worthless. And this parable certainly does not teach us to pray, “God, thank you that I am not like this Pharisee!” Instead, through this parable, Jesus shines a light on the necessity and beauty of humble dependence on God’s gracious initiative to save us.

Second, and most surprising of all, Jesus’ words reveal that the tax collector received far more than he asked for. He asked for mercy: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” In his earnest pleading, the tax collector begged God to withhold the just punishment he deserved as a sinner. But the tax collector did not merely go down to his house unpunished; he went down to his house, “justified.” This is the word the Bible uses to describe being in a perfectly right relationship to God. The tax collector wasn’t begrudgingly treated by God as not guilty; he was positively accepted by God as perfectly right in His sight. How could a just and holy God treat such a sinful and guilty man with such obviously unfair grace? Not by ignoring the tax collector’s sin, but by giving His own Son as the substitute.

The genius of this best-of-the-best parable is that it quietly but powerfully directs our attention to the storyteller, Jesus Christ Himself. The only way the tax collector could go down to his house justified is by Jesus coming down out of heaven to take his place. The themes of humility, justification, and the work of Jesus that we see swirling in this story are organized for us in Philippians 2:5-8.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus did this in love (Philippians 2:1) so that we, like the tax collector, may receive the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).

Both those who struggle with a spirit of pride before God and those who struggle with a spirit of unworthiness before God find their struggles strongly rebuked, tenderly quieted, and faithfully overwhelmed by this parable of gospel grace. This best of stories has come to life in us who wholly lean on Jesus’ name! In Christ, God has given us far more than we have asked and far more than we dare hope. And so we all can join in singing:

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son.
All praise to the Spirit, whose whisper divine,
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
—John Stocker, “Thy Mercy My God is the Theme of My Song” (1776)

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About the Author

Matt Fray
Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Matt grew up in South Florida and first sensed a call to pastoral ministry while a high school student at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Covenant College, and Westminster Seminary in California, he spent four years serving as the assistant pastor of a PCA church in Savannah, GA. In 2014, he returned to serve at PCPC as the Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation. Matt and his wife Erin have three children: Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel.

 

 

June 22, 2018

Home Address

by Robby Higginbottom

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

Matthew 7:24-27 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=6ba3bcd704&e=82a9a8f891)

Dear home builder,

I see that you’ve been given a plot of land, and it appears that you’re starting to build on it. That’s true for all of us around here, so I just wanted to reach out as you move forward with construction. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are lots of ideas floating around about how to build a great home. Your friends and family members have opinions. The rich and famous love talking about the homes they’ve built. These days, so many are concerned about windows, kitchens, bathrooms, and curb appeal. I’m not saying these aren’t important, but I want to remind you of something crucial that doesn’t tend to “sell” houses. Foundations. We take them for granted, they’re hidden, but they’re essential. Many have experienced that sinking feeling of buying a beautiful home, only to have an inspector inform them that the foundation is a disaster. The seller makes everything look great above ground, but we can’t see beneath the floorboards. When we’re confronted with the truth,
what are we going to do? We’re already emotionally invested. The Master Builder tells us that it’s folly—like building a sandcastle by the sea—but still, these places go up and sell every day.

You may be thinking: “Why all the doom and gloom? Just let me build this thing how I want! Nothing’s going to happen.” But I want to tell you. It rains around here. The kind of rain that falls sideways—and an umbrella won’t help. You never know when the flash floods are coming, and they will sweep you away. We get wind here, too. Wind that bends your trees, breaks your windows, and blows you over. I can’t tell you when the storms will come, but they will come. The Master Builder says so. And when they come, your landscaping, brick color, and fixtures won’t matter much if your foundation is faulty. Here’s the scariest part: You may not know the true condition of your home until it’s too late.

But there is a better way. It starts with giving up the thought that you can build your own home or trust someone else to build it for you. There is only one Master Builder. He has the power and the tools to build us a solid foundation. He only asks us to trust Him and to do what He says. His houses look different—not necessarily on the outside. They seem to radiate from within, even when the materials are rather plain. And that’s never more obvious than when the storms come. Did you know: The Master Builder has never seen one of His homes destroyed? We think His building codes restrict our freedom and kill our joy, but the truth is, He loves us more than we know, and He knows what makes a happy home. In fact, He paid the price Himself to guarantee that His homes will be filled with joy forever. Have you heard about the Master Builder? If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to read more about who He is and what He has done around here. He’s always at work, putting up model
homes all over the place. Rumor has it He has something even more amazing planned. I don’t want you to miss it.

Forgive me for the long note. I get excited about this stuff. Can’t wait to meet you.

Welcome home,
Your new neighbor

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About the Author

Robby Higginbottom
Assistant Pastor of College Ministry
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Robby Higginbottom was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. As early as high school, he sensed the Lord calling him to pastoral ministry. Robby is a graduate of Highland Park High School, Duke University, and Redeemer Seminary. Through the years, he has worked with high school students, college students, and young adults at PCPC. Robby currently serves as an assistant pastor. He is married to Ann, and they have two children: Will and John Harper.

 

 

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Nothing Else Matters!

    [Jesus said,] "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life."

    John 6:63 NIV

    Key Thought

    The apostle Paul said essentially the same thing as in today's verse when he wrote, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..." (Philippians 3:8-9). Paul was saying that everything is nothing without Jesus. So much of what we pursue — what I have pursued — really counts for nothing. Economic meltdowns, which invariably happen, are reminders that the only investments that last, that are sure, are investments in Jesus and his kingdom. So we are called to turn our hearts to Jesus, to be shaped by his words, guided by his Spirit and conformed to his character. Jesus' words are lasting, eternal, and life-giving. Better yet, there is someone lasting and eternal and life-giving in his words — the Holy Spirit. That is why one of the ongoing works of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is to bring to our minds the words of Jesus (John 14:26). So read the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But more than reading the words, ask the Holy Spirit to be alive as you read and are shaped and given life through the words of the Savior!

    Today's Prayer

    Holy God, I praise you! I thank you, Father, for sending the Son to die for our sins and for showing us the way home to you. I thank you, Jesus, as Son of God, for sending the Holy Spirit as my Advocate and Comforter, to be your presence within me and to bring me life through your words. I thank you, Holy Spirit, for living within me, and I ask that you conform me to Jesus and produce your holy fruit in me. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to you! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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