Jesus also used this illustration with some who were sure that God approved of them while they looked down on everyone else. [Luke 18:9 (GW)]

Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us. [Romans 5:6-8 (GW)]

A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself. [A.W. Tozer]

Our Lady Cathedral, Antwerp

Our Lady Cathedral, Antwerp

The bus was loaded with skiers returning from the slopes and I took the last seat before realizing who was beside me. The man was mumbling, dirty, smelly and obviously high. Known around town as “Druggie Donnie,” he manages to survive on a small monthly stipend from his family and whatever he can scrounge up by panhandling or odd jobs. I shrank away from him in disgust. As the bus gradually emptied out, I couldn’t help but hear the words of a disheveled twentyish young woman sitting across from me as she spoke loudly into her phone. She was talking (actually boasting) to her friend about having partied the night before and waking up in an unfamiliar condo with a man she’d just met. I was shocked and sickened by her words. What a contrast these two were with the cheerful families who’d piled on the bus after a fun day of skiing. “These are my kind of people—the happy, sober, sane and moral ones; the good folks,” was my thought. “Oops!” said the Holy Spirit, “Your inner Pharisee is showing!” The town bus is filled with a cross-section of society and the Holy Spirit reminded me that, even though I may have little in common with some of the riders, they all are my kind of people.

Christ died for the ungodly—that includes Donnie and the young woman as well as me and all of those apparently nice upstanding families. Jesus didn’t die because people are good; he died because we’re bad! He wasn’t crucified for the righteous and the devout; He was crucified for the repentant thief on the cross and the Samaritan woman at the well. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have needed to be reconciled with God. The gospel message is that all sinners (not just the nice respectable ones) who believe in Him will be saved. The loving Father welcomes His wayward children home. The Good Shepherd doesn’t stay with the ninety-nine who have obediently remained in the fold; He goes out in search of the lost sheep who went astray.

I have more in common with Donnie and that young woman than I’d care to admit: we’re all sinners. The only difference between them and me is that I have been saved by Jesus Christ. I can’t be self-righteous because I had nothing to do with that salvation; it was His gift to me. I can only pray that some day, some way, they also will accept God’s saving grace.

Mercy seeks the guilty, grace has to do with the impious, the irreligious and the wicked. The physician has not come to heal the healthy, but to heal the sick. The great philanthropist has not come to bless the rich and the great, but the captive and the prisoner. He puts down the mighty from their seats, for he is a stern leveller, but he has come to lift the beggar from the dunghill, and to set him among princes, even the princes of his people. [Charles Spurgeon]

But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us.  We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.) … God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it. God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do. [Ephesians 2:4-5,8-10 (GW)]

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