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Such Is The Kingdom Of God

Also He spoke this parable
to some who trusted in themselves
that they were righteous, and despised others
"Two men went up to the temple to pray,
one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself,
'God, I thank You that I am not like
other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers,
or even as this tax collector.
I fast twice a week;
I give tithes of all that I possess.'
And the tax collector, standing afar off,
would not so much as raise 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,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted

Then they also brought infants to Him
that He might touch them;
but when the disciples saw it,
they rebuked them.
But Jesus called them to Him and said,
"Let the little children come to Me,
and do not forbid them;
for of such is the kingdom of God.
Assuredly, I say to you,
whoever does not receive the kingdom of God
as a little child will by no means enter it."
Luke 18:9-17

In Luke 18, Jesus shared a parable about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. As we look more closely at the context of the passage, we will soon find that Jesus was not saying that Pharisees could not enter the kingdom of God whereas tax collectors could. He was addressing the message to those who trusted in themselves, self-righteous and proud, despising others.

In fact, the whole issue is not about their occupations or jobs. It is about pride. Humility pleases God while pride does not. When the two men went home after their prayers in the temple, it was the tax collector, not the Pharisee, who pleased God. The Pharisee was so full of self-righteousness and spiritual pride. His prayer began with a thanksgiving not about God but himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other men." He trusted in himself more than in God! He relied on his own good works for salvation and righteous standing before God. But God was not pleased with his pride and arrogance.

If we put ourselves above others, we will be put down. But if we humble ourselves before God and man, we will be honored. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.
James 4:6

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18

Today, many Christians have become the modern Pharisees. We may be one of them, praying, "God, I thank You that I am not like that sinner, that prostitute, that adulterer, that criminal, that murderer…" We always esteem ourselves higher, better than others, putting them down way below ourselves! But Jesus still gave us this same warning that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ,
if any comfort of love,
if any fellowship of the Spirit,
if any affection and mercy,
fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
having the same love,
being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind
let each esteem others better than himself.

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
Who, being in the form of God,
did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
but made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bondservant,
and coming in the likeness of men.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself and
became obedient to the point of death,

even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him
and given Him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
of those in heaven, and of those on earth,
and of those under the earth,
and that every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:1-11

Christ encourages us to live in harmony by showing love for each other, not to be jealous or proud, but to be humble, considering others more important than ourselves, and caring for others as much as we care for ourselves, just like Christ does. Though Christ is God, He gave up everything and became a Servant. He became like one of us, humbling Himself and obeying God even to die on a cruel cross! Because Jesus humbled Himself, God honored and exalted Him to the highest place, and gave Him the name above all names!

Interestingly, immediately after sharing the parable, people brought infants to Jesus so that He might touch them. But the disciples of Jesus were greatly displeased, and rebuked the parents! The disciples of Christ had totally forgotten the teaching of the parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector which they had just heard from Jesus. To hear God's Word is easy, but to do is another story. Very often, we did the same, forgetting the sermons after leaving the church. The disciples of Jesus were so full of themselves, despising the little infants and children. "We have lots of business and work to do for God. We have no time to waste on these infants and children. Please don't disturb and bother us."

Infants and little children can sometimes be very troublesome, crying and making noises during sermons and worship time. They cannot possibly remain still and silent. They also cannot understand the full meanings of the teachings, doctrines, commandments and creeds. They also have no money to give during offering time. They therefore must be confined within the nursery and kindergarten premises so that they will not cause any disturbances and chaos to the church services in the main sanctuary.

Jesus was not disturbed by infants and little children. They are not bothersome and troublesome to Him. He said, "Let the little children come to Me! Don't try to stop them. For such is the kingdom of God! You will never get into God's kingdom unless you enter it like a child!"

An infant has no pride. Have you ever seen a proud infant or baby? When he is hungry, he cries. When he wets or dirties himself, he cries for help. When he is happy, he smiles. When he is not happy, he frowns. He has no self-righteousness. He cannot do anything by himself. He cannot clean himself, change his own diapers, feed himself, put on his shoes, walk or talk, voice out his views and criticize others. He is helpless on his own. He just believes that his parents will do all the necessary preparations and arrangements to ensure he is properly fed, clothed and looked after. He just trusts and obeys as his parents looks after him.

Just like an infant, we cannot enter the kingdom of God by our own doings and credentials. There is nothing we could do except to believe, trust and obey! All was done for us! Jesus had prepared the way for us to come before our Father in heaven. He did everything for us! We enter the kingdom of God as we humble ourselves before God. He is our Father, and we are His children. We must come before God like children coming before their fathers. We must fully believe Him, trusting that He has provided everything for us. Simply trusting and obeying Him as He clears the messes in our lives!

The tax collector comes to God just as he is. He knows that he is a sinner, not worthy of God's love. But he also knows that God is merciful and gracious, forgiving and loving. He asks God to be merciful to him, a sinner.

The kingdom of God is open to all sinners who knows that they are sinners, and that God is our Father in heaven, full of mercy and grace! When tax collectors, prostitutes and murderers acknowledge this, they will be saved. And the kingdom of God is also open for Pharisees who humble themselves and acknowledge that they must be born again into the kingdom of God as little children.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus,
a ruler of the Jews.
This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him,
"Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God;
for no one can do these signs that You do
unless God is with him."
Jesus answered and said to him,
"Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless one is born again,
he cannot see the kingdom of God."
John 3:1-3

Even the Apostle Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee, can enter the kingdom of God (Philippians 3:5). God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Whenever tax collectors, sinners or Pharisees humble themselves, God will give grace and mercy to them regardless of race, language or religion. All the people of the earth belong to Him!

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Written on:
28 August 2007