This is the story of two men who went to the Temple to pray. Undoubtedly many have read or at least heard of this story. So why did I title this sermon “What Makes Us Become a White-washed Christian?” Well first, let me ask this, what is a Christian?
A Christian is one who follows Christ and has taken on the instructions, directions, guidance, and characteristics that Christ has given to us. Secondly, what does white-washed mean? It is the concealment or covering of flaws, failures, blemishes, or unpleasant facts.
The Pharisee did not enter into the Temple to appeal to God, yet to report to all that were within earshot how great he was. The tax collector went in perceiving his transgression and was asking for leniency — he begged for mercy.
Self-righteousness is perilous. It prompts pride and makes an individual loathe others and keeps the individual from taking in and learning anything from God.
The tax collector’s petition ought to be our supplication since we as a whole constantly need God's benevolence. We should try not to let our accomplishments and achievements cause pride to enter in and cut us off from God.
“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 18:14).
What Is a White-Washed Christian?
The Pharisee was proud of himself — “I am not as other men are.” He was saying look at what I am not. The Pharisee professed of himself and proclaimed his possessions — “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I possess.”
Here, he is saying to look at what I do and look at what I have. Basically stating, the Pharisee was self-righteous, he was sanctimonious, and he was just fake.
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat (Romans 14:10).
Every individual is responsible to Christ, not to other people. Commonly, some Christians base their ethical decisions on assessment, individual aversions, or social inclination instead of the Word of God.
We are to dislike the sin, not the sinner. There are many who become judgmental regarding how others in the world live. That is not our place nor our job. We are to reach out to them with the love of Christ.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5).
A few people, particularly the religious leaders, needed to be viewed as heavenly and holy, and a public petition was one approach to stand out enough to be noticed.
Jesus saw through their pretentious demonstrations and instructed that the quintessence of prayer is definitely not a public style yet private correspondence with God.
There is a spot for a public petition, however, to pray just where others will see and hear you means that your genuine crowd is not God but man.
What Does the Bible Say about White-Washed Christians?
Here, the tax collector realized his place (standing afar off). He realized his position (would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven) for he thought of himself as lowly. He realized his need for penitence (God be merciful to me a sinner). The tax collector was separated, he was sincere, and he sought salvation.
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12)
Jesus evaluated society's standards. A good reputation comes from serving and giving yourself to help God and others. Service keeps us mindful of other people's needs, and it prevents us from zeroing in just on ourselves.
Jesus came to earth as a servant. What sort of significance do we look for? Can we not see that the Pharisee had a “whitewash” on himself so that he would “look” appealing to other people? And do we:
1. Lack the ability to receive correction? I know what I am doing. I do not need help. Who do you think you are trying to tell me how to do this?
2. See wrong in others but not ourselves? Well, he did not help us with this ministry, she did or did not do this or that.
3. Feel we have been appointed to fix others? They need to do this and not do that to make their lives better.
4. Feel closer to God than others? They are not where they need to be. I am closer to God than they are.
5. Seek recognition for what we have done? Look at what I have done, I fixed this.
6. Have righteousness without a relationship with Christ? Praise the Lord I am so good. I am much better in the church than they are.
We can also ask ourselves:
1. Is our prayer life mechanical? God is great, God is good.
2. Are we or have we become critical of the Holy Spirit? Lord, you know you should have done something about this issue.
3. Are we too busy polishing our lamps that we cannot be a light to some soul? Look at how my light shines so brightly. It is no wonder people come to me about everything.
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Who are we attempting to impress? Rather than focusing on glory, we should search for where we can serve. When God wants us to serve on a more extensive scale, he will welcome us to assume a higher position.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6).
Pride makes us narcissistic and leads us to assume that we merit more than what we have. It creates a greedy appetite for far more than we need. By humbling ourselves before God, we can liberate ourselves from being self-serving.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6).
We frequently stress over our position and status, trusting we will get legitimate acknowledgment for what we do. Peter encourages us to recall that God's acknowledgment tallies more than human applause.
God is capable and able to favor us as per his own timing and planning. Comply and obey God and pay little heed to current conditions. God, in his own suitable time, either in this life or the following, will lift us up.
A Closing Hymn
Have thy affections been nailed to the cross? Is thy heart right with God? Dost thou count all things for Jesus but loss? Is thy heart right with God? Is thy heart right with God, Washed in the crimson flood, Cleansed and made holy, humble, and lowly, Right in the sight of God? (E.A. Hoffman).
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Chris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. He is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. You can check out his work here.
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