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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 18:1-17: Approaching the Throne
Luke 18:1-17: Approaching the Throne Print E-mail
Sunday, 08 September 2013

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If you have been attending long, then you know that one of my favorite hymns is ĎBefore the Throne of God Above.í  I love the words, the music (at least, the new music), the way it builds, and just about everything else about the song.  There are no wasted lines, which is hard to do when you are trying to write a song.  I regularly quote the second verse to myself to encourage me in my battle against sin and Satan and to remind myself of the just justification that Christ purchased at the cross.  I have often told my wife that whatever else happens at my funeral, be sure that ĎBefore the Throneí is sung.  It is an amazing hymn, probably my favorite.

Yet, the question that I want to begin with this morning centers more on the actual title of the song: how should we actually come before Godís throne?  We talked last week about the coming of Godís Kingdom with the coming of Christ the King.  We know that He has inaugurated the Kingdom with His life and death for our sins.  He has cleared the way so that we could be reconciled to God the Father.  We have been redeemed and adopted into the family of God.  All of these (and more) are the blessings that we enjoy as Christians. Yet, as believers, as those who have turned from their sins and trusted in Christ as Savior, how are we to approach Godís throne?  In our passage this morning, Jesus teaches us a couple of parables about coming before Godís throne.  I want to look at each of these to see the lesson that He teaches.  So then, how should we approach the throne of God?

We should approach continually (v. 1-8)

This might not be your first thought when you think about coming before Godís throne.  Sometimes when I contemplate the greatness and majesty of God, I am tempted to believe that I should be hesitant when coming before Godís throne.  Although we should have fear for God and recognize His greatness, this does not mean that we should be hesitant in approaching His throne. 

Jesus teaches us this lesson through the first parable.  What is interesting is that Luke tells us the main point of the parable before we actually read it.  Look at what he says in verse 1.  Luke probably included this statement to show the connection between what Jesus is about to teach and what we have just read about the future coming of the Kingdom.  We will have to wait for the return of Christ.  We are never told how long and we should always be expectant, but we may have to continue to wait.  It is difficult to remain faithful in times of waiting.  It is difficult to always pray and not lose heart as we await the return of Jesus.  To encourage us, Jesus tells us the parable of the persistent widow.

So what does He say?  Look at verses 2-5.  Jesus tells us about two characters: the judge and the widow.  The judge neither feared God nor respected man, two things that the Law expected of a judge.  Jesus is telling us that he was not a good judge.  In contrast, the widow was simply coming to him asking for justice, which she had a right to do.  We are not told why, but for a time, the judge refused to give her justice.  Yet, eventually he decided he would give her justice.  What changed his mind?  The persistence of the widow.  She continually came before him and continually made her case known and continually asked for justice.  She was not going to give up.  So, even the unjust judge gives justice in such a situation.

Jesus applies the parable in verses 6-8.  Look at those verses with me.  Jesus is not saying that the Father is like the unjust judge.  Rather, He is saying that if the unjust judge will eventually show justice, then how much more can we depend upon our God to show justice?  He is a God of justice.  He loves His chosen people and hears them when they cry.  Things may not happen as quickly as we would like for them to at times, but that does not mean that it will not happen.  In this particular context of waiting for the return of Christ and the vindication of His people, we can pray with all confidence.  On that Day, all the wrongs will be righted and God will judge with justice.  I struggle at times with being Ďthe justice police.í  I want justice, I want it now, and if I donít get it, then I am upset.  Although we may need to fight for justice in certain situations (like with the abortion debate), this does not mean that we are to forget that our God will make all things new.  He will bring justice in His timing.  So the question is not: ĎCan we trust God for justice?í  Rather, the question is: ĎWill we continue to believe in Him in spite of the delay?í  As Jesus says: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?  By His grace, may we persevere in our faith, coming before His throne continually, knowing that He is just.

We should approach humbly (v. 9-17)

Yes, we should come continually before the throne, but that does not mean that we should come with arrogance.  Apparently there were those in Jesusí day who did not recognize this.  Jesus tells us another parable about coming before Godís throne and Luke once again tells us the purpose in verse 9.  Look at that with me.  The problem here is self-righteousness, or people who think that they are right with God because of their own goodness.  They look down upon others who are not as Ďgoodí as they are. 

Jesus tells us a parable to correct the mistake of self-righteousness.  He begins by identifying two men who go to the temple to pray.  Look at verse 10.  The first man is a Pharisee.  He was a part of the religious elite.  We expect him to be going to the temple to the pray.  Yet, we do not expect the tax-collector.  These were the wicked men of society.  They were liars and cheats.  Itís like comparing pastors and drug dealers.  We expect the one to pray but not the other.

Jesus goes on to describe the prayers of these two men.  First, He tells us the prayer of the Pharisee.  Look at verses 11-12.  The Pharisee stands up by himself and thanks God that he is not like the sinners around him.  He even calls out the tax-collector.  He thanks God that he is not like him.  He does not lie and cheat and steal.  No, he fasts and tithes even more than is required.  He does good things so he is a good man.  The Lord should be grateful to have him.

The prayer of the tax-collector is different.  Look at how Jesus describes it in verses 13-14.  First, Jesus tells us that he stood far off.  He did not even feel worthy enough to be there.  Then Jesus tells us that he would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast.  The common practice of those days was to pray with your eyes lifted to heaven, but not the tax-collector.  He could not lift his eyes up.  He was too guilty for that.  He could only look at the ground and beat his chest in sorrow and repentance.  And what did he pray?  He cried out: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.  He has not come before God to list all of his accomplishments.  He has not come to brag or compare.  He has come to be honest: ĎI am a sinner.  I am unworthy to even be in this place.  I cannot even lift my eyes up before you.í  He comes to God crying out for the only thing that he can: be merciful to me.  He knows what he deserves, so he cries out for mercy.  The actual word that Jesus uses points to the idea of God turning from His wrath, or providing propitiation.  The man is crying out to the just God to provide just mercy.  He calls out for a sacrifice that will satisfy Godís wrath against his sin.  He begs God for mercy.

Jesus tells us what happened to each of these men in verse 14.  Look at that with me.  The tax-collector went home justified.  This is a legal term that the New Testament writers use to describe what happens to those who believe in Christ.  The tax-collector was justified because of his humility.  He did not do anything for his justification.  He simply cast himself upon the mercy of God.  And God provided.  God forgave.  God justified.  But not so for the Pharisee.  Jesus says that he was not justified.  His self-righteousness was not enough to justify him before a holy God.  It will never be enough for any man.

The importance of humility is also emphasized in the next story that Luke records.  Look at verses 15-17.  We are not told why the disciples did what they did, but for whatever reason, they rebuked people for bringing their children to Jesus.  But Jesus did not agree with them.  In fact, He had a rebuke for them.  He told them to let the children come because to such as these belong the Kingdom of God.  Then He once again shows us the importance of humility.  We cannot receive the Kingdom with pride and arrogance.  We cannot think that we are owed a spot in Godís family.  We either receive it like a child, with humility and trust, or we do not receive it at all.  A child knows its dependency on others.  We need to know our dependency upon the Lord.  We do not come with a list of reason why we are good (like the Pharisee).  No, we come humble and broken and beating our chests.  We come humble and dependent like a child.  This is how we are to approach the throne of God.

Jesus tells us to approach the throne continually and humbly.  We are not to grow weary in pleading with God for justice and the return of Christ.  He will bring justice.  And we must be honest when we come.  We must admit our sinfulness and cry out for forgiveness.  He will bring mercy. 

So then, will you come?  If you are here this morning and you have never trusted in Jesus, then let me tell you some good news.  The tax-collector cried out for God to turn His wrath away. He knew what he deserved and he cried out for forgiveness.  The glorious good news is that when Jesus died on the cross, Godís wrath against your sin was satisfied.  Jesus finished it.  If you will turn from your sins and believe in Him, then you can receive mercy today. 

For all of us, may we come before Godís throne continually because we can, because Jesus has cleared the way.  And may we come with humility because we know that we are sinners.  We know what we deserve and we marvel at what God has done for us in Christ.  Through the work of Christ, just like those children he welcomed that day, we are welcome in His presence.  We are welcome at His throne.  So why would we not come?  Come with boldness.  Come with humility.  Come continually before the throne of our great God.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 September 2013 )

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