Sermons of David Chadwell
THE GOD OF COMPASSION
Click here to listen to this sermon read by Greg McAbee.
There is a common terminology people in congregations often use
that easily is abused. While many Christians commonly use this terminology, most
who use it do not understand it. Maybe none of us uses the terminology
correctly. I am referring to the terms "faithful Christian" and "unfaithful
It is more demanding than many realize to discuss faithfulness and
unfaithfulness because that discussion involves many interrelated concepts. For
example, does God want each Christian to be as devout, as dedicated, as serving,
as obedient, as knowledgeable as possible? Certainly! If you are a Christian,
God wants you to grow into the most spiritually mature person you are capable of
being! He wants complete commitment to Him and to Christ in your life!
While a common commitment to excellence and spiritual maturity must be
understood by every Christian, that understanding does not deal with all aspects
of who is faithful or unfaithful. A second question is equally relevant. To whom
will God be merciful?
Is God a God of compassion? Certainly! Is God a God of mercy? Certainly! To whom
will God show mercy and compassion? Many Christians suggest God will show both
to people whom they regard as needing it least. The too common answer is that He
will show both to the "faithful" Christian.
Let me clearly state I am not talking about the person who rejects Christ. I am
talking about people who have entered Christ. This is my question: will God be
compassionate and merciful to the "unfaithful" Christian?
That question may make most of us uncomfortable. We do not want to give anyone
the impression that he or she can willfully choose to rebel against God and be
securely saved at the same time. We certainly do not want to discourage any
Christian from dedication to growth and spiritual maturity. Nor do we want any
Christian to believe he or she deliberately can exist in spiritual infancy for a
physical lifetime and be secure in Christ.
While those are legitimate concerns, they do not address another problem that
should be of concern. Who decides who is a faithful or unfaithful Christian? How
is that determination made? Is it a matter of church attendance? Is it a matter
of locally approved deeds? Is it a matter of positions on certain "issues?" Just
how is faithfulness and unfaithfulness decided?
Too commonly, "unfaithful" is used for the person who disagrees with my
conclusions or positions, and "faithful" is used for the person who agrees with
me. "Unfaithful" is used for someone who does less than I do or does not do
things I think are important, and "faithful" refers to the person who does as
much or more than I do.
What does it mean to decide a person is "unfaithful?" For many it means God's
mercy and compassion are not available to him or her, or it means he or she is
I want to share a parable from Jesus with you about God's attitude toward a
faithful and unfaithful Jew. The parable makes a statement about God's
compassion and about human attitudes. The parable is just plain frightening!
- Before we examine the parable, let's consider the need to understand the
- Our brotherhood is filled with divisions, clicks, and parties that have decided
they have a true understanding of God's real will.
- That is true of most any religious group you examine.
- You can see the problem most anywhere you turn.
- However, that fact that I see it among us gives me no comfort.
- All of our confrontational groups claim the same thing: "We are the faithful!"
What does a group mean by that?
- They mean, "God listens to and smiles on us, but not you."
- They mean, "When you approach God, it makes Him so angry He listens to nothing
- Sadly, the problem does not stop in the universal church.
- Similar problems exist in too many local congregations.
- The "faithful" in these congregations regard everyone else in the congregation
- If you could "improve" your congregation by getting rid of someone, who would
you get rid of?
- Have you ever wondered who would "get rid of" you?
- Do you really believe the Lord will forgive you and not forgive him or her?
- Consider Jesus' parable about the faithful and unfaithful Jew in Luke 18:9-14.
Luke 18:9-14, 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
- We are told to whom this parable is directed.
- It was directed to those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous."
- They were confident they were righteous because of what they did in keeping the
law of Moses.
- Righteousness was merely a matter of obedience.
- God was not the source of righteousness; human deeds were the source of
- They placed their faith in themselves, not in God.
- As a result in trusting in themselves, they considered others not like them as
- The Greek word used here is a strong word.
- It means to utterly despise.
- They are the good people God listens to and loves, but the "unfaithful" ones are
evil and despised by God.
- They are certain they despise people God despises.
- The setting is the temple area in Jerusalem.
- The temple courtyards were "the" place to pray.
- The temple was the place God's presence dwelled.
- The temple area was as close as you physically could come to God.
- Those facts had to make prayer there more effective.
- Those close enough to do so were expected to pray at the temple area three times
- Thus people assembled at 9 am, noon, and 3 p.m. to pray.
- Do you remember that Peter and John in Acts 4 went to the temple at the hour of
prayer and healed a lame man?
- Do you remember that Cornelius was praying at the hour of prayer when the angel
came to him?
- The principle character of the parable is the Pharisee.
- The purpose of his prayer was to affirm his righteousness.
- The fact that "he prayed thus with himself" may mean one of two things.
- It may mean he prayed silently.
- It may mean he prayed to reinforce his opinions of himself.
- He declared himself righteous for two reasons.
- He was not like other "unfaithful" Jews--the extortioner, the unjust, the
adulterer, or the tax collector (who was near by).
- He did the "right things."
- He fasted twice a week [a custom followed by then devout Jews every Monday and
Thursday--a supposed declaration that they knew their place without God having
to act against them].
- He gave 10% of all he brought [not just prospered]; he went beyond common
- Please note nothing suggested his claims were insincere or false.
- He really thought he was righteous.
- He believed he did what was right and important.
- His obedience and compliance to tradition was meticulous.
- That was all he seemed to know to do--there is no reflection on the internal
realities of his life.
- The secondary character in this parable is the Jewish tax collector.
- Jewish society regarded such people as scum, traitors, thieves to be rejected by
- Nothing indicated that the Jewish tax collector was spiritually exceptional.
- The fact he stood removed could mean two things.
- It could mean he felt unworthy to stand by someone like the Pharisee.
- It could mean he felt unworthy to be near the temple.
- He did not assume the common prayer position--arms raised, face upward, eyes
- He was consumed with his unworthiness, so he bowed his head and beat on his
chest to declare contempt for his sin.
- He said one sentence: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
- He declared no self-virtues or religious achievements.
- He claimed no spiritual value.
- He asked for the only thing that could help--God's mercy.
- He did not ask for mercy because he felt he deserved it, but because he needed
- God's reaction in the situation was not at all what is expected.
- He was completely unimpressed with the Pharisee's prayer.
- He did not even respond to it.
- The man felt no need for mercy, did not ask for mercy, and received no mercy
- The man approached God on the basis of his achievements, and that is where God
let him stand!
- How tragic that he did not realize his need for mercy!
- God did not justify the Pharisee!
- The compassionate God was so moved by the tax collector's prayer that He
justified the man!
- You need to understand God's concept of justification to fully grasp the
- God removed that man's sins from his account!
- In essence, God declared the outcast tax collector guiltless!
- We need the proper focus on the parable.
- Was the Pharisee wrong in what he did and did not do? No!
- Then what was his mistake?
- His concept of righteousness was incorrect because it was grossly inadequate.
- He thought righteousness was focused on human deeds.
- He did not understand the importance of attitude and internal values.
- He did not realize his own desperate need for mercy.
- He was clueless regarding his own mistakes and sinfulness.
- He felt good about himself because of what he did, and not what God did for him.
- Was the tax collector right in the evil things he did? No!
- The parable does not justify failures and mistakes.
- It does not say it is okay to do evil as long as you pray about your mistakes in
the correct way.
- It does not turn evil into righteousness.
- The parable powerfully declares the kind of human response that touches a
compassionate, merciful God.
- God is touched by human awareness of unworthiness.
- God is touched by honest human acknowledgment of sin.
- God is touched by honest confession that utterly depends on His mercy.
- God is touched by earnest pleas for forgiveness.
The parable says the supreme human expression of arrogance is for a person to
believe he is righteous because of his own accomplishments and behavior. It says
God does not respond to prayers and lives when we declare we are better than the
"unfaithful" Christian. It says we do not prove our spiritual superiority by
comparing ourselves to another human.
The parable stings! It hits too close to our lives! It exposes too much of our
religious motivations in all their unattractiveness!
sermon posted 7 September 2006
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