To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- Luke 18:9-14
“’You are Simon….You shall be called Cephas’ (John 1:42). God writes our new name only on those places in our lives where He has erased our pride, self-sufficiency, and self-interest. Some of us have our new name written only in certain spots, like spiritual measles. And in those areas of our lives we look all right. When we are in our best spiritual mood, you would think we were the highest quality saints. But don’t dare look at us when we are not in that mood. A true disciple is one who has his new name written all over him— self-interest, pride, and self-sufficiency have been completely erased.
“Pride is the sin of making ‘self’ our god. And some of us today do this, not like the Pharisee, but like the tax collector (see Luke 18:9-14). For you to say, ‘Oh, I’m no saint,’ is acceptable by human standards of pride, but it is unconscious blasphemy against God. You defy God to make you a saint, as if to say, ‘I am too weak and hopeless and outside the reach of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.’ Why aren’t you a saint? It is either that you do not want to be a saint, or that you do not believe that God can make you into one. You say it would be all right if God saved you and took you straight to heaven. That is exactly what He will do! And not only do we make our home with Him, but Jesus said of His Father and Himself, ‘…We will come to him and make Our home with him’ (John 14:23). Put no conditions on your life— let Jesus be everything to you, and He will take you home with Him not only for a day, but for eternity.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
All believers are Saints. Some of us may be Saints fans, as in the New Orleans Saints of the NFL or the St. Kilda Saints of the AFL (Aussie Rules football), but we need to own that moniker and try to live up to it. We are Saints.
We are also sinners, saved by Grace. I have heard that once you pass from one state to the other, we should not consider ourselves sinners. After all, God no longer sees our sin, but we need to realize that we obtained Saint status by the Grace of God. We did not deserve it and we did not earn it. Thus, it is healthy and humbling to see ourselves as both. All the people of old who we consider Saints were also sinners, saved by Grace.
But once we cross that threshold and consider ourselves Saints, we must not be proud like the Pharisee. And in considering ourselves as saved sinners, we must not be proud in our self-flagellation to prove how humble we can be. Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount about that type of ‘worship’ (Matthew 6:5-18) when He talked about praying and fasting.
This is not a contest. We are not in competition with each other. Each believer is a Saint, who is a sinner saved by Grace. It was nothing that we did. God established the rules. Jesus, who is fully God, paid the price. God gave us the gift of faith. We did nothing. So, why do we brag about our humility?
When we pray or fast as Jesus described in Matthew 6, we are taking the focus off Jesus and placing it on ourselves. Let us keep the outward sign that we show people of our personal lives, especially our spiritual lives, on Jesus, and we can fade in the background.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.