The promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, which I (the Apostle Paul) was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power …. so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church …. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have bold and confident access through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:6B-7, 10, 11-12

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 unwilling even 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 be exalted. Luke 18:9-14

Today’s thoughts from today’s verses:

Our Ephesians passage tells us that the Apostle Paul was a uniquely gifted minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God used him in special ways to help establish the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world of that day. The Apostle Paul says this all happened so that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church.” The centerpiece of the manifold wisdom of God is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel flows forth from the gift of God’s grace as an amazing and powerful provision of God. It has been the goal of the church down through

the ages to bring the gospel to the world. The Apostle Paul says “this was in accordance with the eternal purpose which he (God) carried out in Christ Jesus.

When we speak of the church we are talking about the church as a whole and each of the individual persons who make up the church. This means that the goal (purpose) of bringing the gospel of grace to the world which God gave to the church is both a collective and individual responsibility. In essence, those who belong to Christ, share Christ. The Apostle Paul concludes by saying that those who belong to Christ have boldness and confident access (to our Heavenly Father) through faith in him (Christ). The bold and confident access we have to God through Christ revolutionizes our lives so that we become wonderfully suited for carrying out the task of bringing the gospel to the world.

The gospel of grace which our Ephesians passage speaks of, stands in stark contrast to self-righteousness and contemptuousness dealt with in our Luke passage. Jesus, the Master Teacher and Storyteller, often taught in parables. The parables of Christ were powerful stories he used to draw-in to himself those who had responsive hearts. These drawn-in ones became new followers who stuck around and joined his other followers to hear him in private explain his parables and teach them the mysteries of his kingdom. Those who were unresponsive included the self-righteous Pharisees like the one we see in our Luke passage and like those to whom the parable was directed who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt. There is so much that is fundamentally wrong with the Pharisees.

It begins with the fact that they think they are righteous. It moves to them not knowing they are sinners who need to repent. Then, there are some people they absolutely despise and for whom they have absolutely no love. And finally, they think that if Jesus is really a spiritual leader, he should join them in their hatred of the so-called “scum” (like the tax collector in our story) and that he should have absolutely no association whatsoever with them. It is interesting that elsewhere Jesus says he did not come to call those who think they are righteous. I think Jesus says this because he cannot call those who think they are righteous. Jesus is talking about the self-righteous and the self-righteous don’t think they need a savior and if you don’t think you need a Savior, you don’t need Jesus and you certainly won’t follow him. Seeing how the gospel\of grace powerfully dispels the way of self- righteous and contemptuous religious practice is the emphasis in our Devotionals for the week.

Today’s prayer response from today’s thoughts:

Lord, I believe I am here to walk with you, be transformed by you, live for you, and share you with the world. I embrace this goal today and ask that you help it to be realized in my life in significant ways going forward. Deliver from all self-righteous and contemptuous religious practice that flies in the face of the gospel of grace. Thank you for the powerful provision of your grace that brought me to faith and I look forward to the amazing grace you will yet give me that will wonderfully bring about a lifetime of sharing my faith. Amen!