“He [Jesus] 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 ESV)
In the Old Testament book of Lamentations, we read this: “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!” (Lamentations 3:40) Accordingly, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit, we are enabled to speak the words in Jesus’ parable, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And God assures us of His forgiveness through the apostle John, when He writes, “If we confess our sins, God is indeed faithful and righteous to forgive us all our sins, and to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
David knew well of the life-giving, soul-nourishing power of confession. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5 ESV).
With the psalmist’s confession is also a rejoicing in what God promises and gives to all who humbly acknowledge their sins before Him. Confession is the God-pleasing act of emptying ourselves of our self-righteousness so that our Heavenly Father can fill us up with the perfect righteousness of Jesus who was crucified and raised again for our justification.
In truth, the confession of our sins should always be near to our lips. As we recognize our guilt before God, we turn to His matchless grace and mercy for our redemption, knowing that He—and He alone—can bring restoration and peace to our lives. Today, just as in ancient times, He will do this for us. “If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).
We Pray: Heavenly Father, lead us by Your Holy Spirit to confess our sins and so be healed by the salvation won for us by Jesus. In His Name we pray. Amen.
From “A Wrong Comparison,” a sermon by Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on April 30, 2022
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. Why is it so easy to compare ourselves—favorably—against others?
2. How can we take a more realistic view of ourselves-like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable?
3. Do you ever think of our country as humbling itself before God? How might this take place?