Multitudes have grown up in a religious atmosphere, or have been religious most of their lives, who know nothing of true conversion. They are self-deceived, living under a delusion of self-righteousness. The reason is because true Holy Spirit conviction is missing in many modern churches, and from many pulpits across the land. If religious leaders do not know the way of salvation themselves, how can they be instrumentally used by the Holy Spirit in the conversion of others (Luke 6:39)? [Click Here to read a comment by C. H. Spurgeon on this.]
The self-righteous religionist, whether in the pulpit or the pew, has missed Holy Spirit conviction, and therefore has never seen himself as a lost, guilty, undone, Hell-deserving sinner before a holy, sin-avenging God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Romans 3:19; Romans 1:18, Psalm 7:11-13). Neither has he in repentance toward God sought for mercy on the basis of the substitutionary blood atonement of Christ on Calvary's cross (Romans 3:23-26, 5:6-11, 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18).
The Lord Jesus portrays the condition and attitude of the religiously lost in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple. Luke introduces our Lord's telling of this parable in this way: "And He spoke this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others" (Luke 18:9). The parable as recorded in Luke 18:10-14:
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon 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 every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
How about you, my friend? Do you see yourself mirrored by the Pharisee in this parable? Or, rather, has the Lord ever brought you by the way of grace under Holy Spirit conviction, so that your attitude was like that of the publicana lost sinner who was seeking mercy on the basis of the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christcrying out unto the Lord, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
According to the meaning of the New Testament Greek word, hilaskomai, translated "merciful" in this passage, the publican, as he gazed upon the bloody sacrificial lamb in the temple (an Old Testament type or shadow of Christ crucified), was pleading for God to be propitiated** toward himself a guilty sinnera clear reference to the substitutionary blood atonement of Christ (see 1 John 4:9-10), the Lamb of God (John 1:29), Who died in behalf of guilty sinners on Calvary's cross.
Do you KNOW HIM as your blessed Lord and Saviour?
**For a Biblical definition of propitiation, Click Here.