I read a blog post on a popular christian site the other day. It had the following opinion:
"How can a holy God have a kingdom full of unholy prostitutes? There are two ways: either God overlooks sin or God transforms sinners."
On the surface, this is a innocent attempt to focus on the nature of God's mercy toward us, which accomplishes our salvation without compromising His holiness.
And yet, it's also an opportunity for discernment. Please take less than five minutes to listen to why this statement should raise some grave concerns, and yet also listen as the preached word also points us to "the subtle wonders of the Good News":
This text is about how to be justified. There's a way to do it, and a way not to do it ...
"He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt."
Now here's what you must not do, Bethlehem. If you should care about anything this morning, it should be, 'Oh God, don't let me do that'. Now, to not do that, you got to know what that is. And there's a lot of people who don't understand what's being condemned here.
Because everything hangs on this. Your life hangs on this. Your eternity hangs on whether you trust in yourself that you are righteous.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus ... 'I thank you. You're the one who did this. You're the one who helped me be moral. You're the one who helped me be devout. You've given me this inclination. And I thank you for working in me this moral, religious, righteousness. It is from you.
[[ We believe it takes God all the way to get us saved. We give all the credit to God. He subdues John Piper's will, and makes me willing to believe. And if I try to resist Him, He knocks down my resistance, and keeps me for Himself. Praise God, that's the only reason I wake up a Christian in the morning, is because God is on my side, working to keep me believing. ]] ... This man, may be that way.
The problem here, is not whether this man believes he produced his righteousness, or God produced his righteousness. He says God produced it. This man's problem is very simple. He trusts in God produced righteousness as what will commend him for justification. That's clear. He may believe entirely in the sovereignty of God, for all we know. He may say, "Not I, but the grace of God in me has worked this righteousness."
His mistake, was not in taking credit for his righteousness. His mistake, was that once God had given it to him, he trusted in IT as what would be the basis of his justification.
[By contrast...] What did the publican do right? ... "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.' " What did he do? What this man did right was ... he totally looked away from himself, and anything in him, ANYTHING in him, ANYTHING in him ... Totally, totally, totally, totally away from himself, to God's mercy which is now in Christ, our righteousness.
Faith is not looked to here. Faith is the looking away. You don't look to your faith as the ground of your righteousness. Faith is the not looking at faith. If you're looking at your faith you're not believing. Faith is looking away. Faith is a glorious gift of self-forgetfulness, and seeing the one righteousness that will count in the court of heaven ... and saying mercy, mercy, may I have it as a sinner ... and you will have it.
You're going to say, "Jesus, no matter what you work in me, I'm looking to You. I'm looking to You and not what you work in me as the ground of my acceptance with your Father." And oh what a sweet peace will come into your life. God wants you to enjoy the assurance of your salvation.
-- John Piper
From his Sermon, Aug. 6, 2006
"This Man Went Down to His House Justified"