The Mindset of True Repentance

Title: The Mindset of True Repentance

Bible Book: Luke 18 : 13-14

Author: Donnie L. Martin

Subject: Repentance



Mental attitude is important in almost anything. This is true because, in most cases, outlook determines outcome. This is the reason that employers often seek positive-minded people to fill responsible positions. People with a positive mental attitude tend toward greater productivity.

It is important not only to have a positive mental attitude, but also to have a proper mental approach as well. For instance, a person could have a positive mental attitude about flying an airplane. But if their mental concepts about flying a plane are wrong, due to faulty information, the result is likely to be disastrous.

This is much the idea found in our text today. One’s attitude of heart and mind makes a vital difference as to whether or not a person truly gets saved. The Lord Himself said, “…Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6: 37b). It goes without saying however, that a person must come to Christ with the right attitude and motive before they can be saved.

In this parable told by Jesus, we will see a definite contrast between the mindset of a sincere seeker and that of a sanctimonious sinner. The former experienced a new relationship toward God, while the latter went away as he’d come—religious, but lost.

Theme - As we consider the mindset of true repentance, notice:

I. The Purpose of this Parable

A. It was Directed at those Depending on Personal Righteousness

Luke 18: 9a “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous…”

Trusting in ones own righteousness is futile.

Rom.3: 10b “…There is none righteous, no, not one:”

Rom.7: 18a “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” To approach God on the basis of personal righteousness is foolish.

Rom.3: 23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

Isa.64: 6a “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…”

2 Cor.10: 12b “…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

Almost anyone can look good when the standard is lowered to their own level. God’s standard for judging righteousness is His Son; and not even the best that man can offer could ever equal His impeccability.

Folks’ ideas about what constitutes righteousness are often vastly different from God’s, as the following would indicate:

A businessman well known for his ruthlessness once announced to writer Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read the 10 Commandments aloud at the top.”

“I have a better idea,” replied Twain. “You could stay in Boston and keep them.”1 The only reliable standard is Jesus, the Son of God the Father.

Rom.10: 4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

Titus 3:5-6, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;”

1 John 2: 2 “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The New Living Translation renders Rom.10: 4 as follows: “For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God.”2

According to Wiersbe, the word “propitiation” in First John 2: 2 means, “the satisfying of God’s holy law.”3 God’s law pronounced judgment upon the sinner when it said, “…The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek.18: 4c). Jesus satisfied the Law’s demands.

Folks, there’s only one standard for righteousness in God’s book; that’s Jesus. “You know what Mason said to Dixon? ‘You've got to draw the line somewhere.’”4 Jesus is where you draw the line.

B. It was Directed at those Who Despised Others.

Luke 18:9b, “…and despised others:”

The word “despised,” as used here, means, “to make of no account…to regard as nothing.”5

The idea here is what we often refer to today as a “holier than thou” attitude. Speaking of the Jews of his day, Isaiah described their attitude with the following words: “…Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou…” (Isa.65: 5a).

People who can criticize everyone’s faults but their own are saying something about themselves, as this story points out:

Don’t write or say anything that you won’t sign your name to. If you receive a negative, anonymous note, ignore it! If they’re not willing to sign their name, it’s not worth reading. Don’t take heed to it.

Like the pastor who received an anonymous note with nothing but the word “FOOL!” written on it. The next morning he got in church and said, “I’ve gotten many notes without signatures before, but this is the first time I got one where someone forgot to write the note and just signed his name!”6

II. The People of this Parable

A. One was a Pharisee.

Luke 18:10a, “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee…”

1. Pharisees were outwardly religious.

Matt.23: 14a “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers…”

2. Pharisees were oppressively rigid.

Matt.23:4-5a, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5a But all their works they do for to be seen of men…”

Speaking of religious Pharisees, Frederick Buechner once said, “The trouble oftentimes with religious people is that they try to be more spiritual than God himself.”7

3. Pharisees were obsessed with respect.

Matt.23:6-7, “And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”

B. One was a Publican.

Luke 18:10b, “…and the other a publican.”

NOTE: Publicans were simply tax collectors. The Jews, due to the fact the Roman government employed them, and were a reminder to the Jews of their oppression, sorely hated them. That opinion still runs deep in American society as well.

A man on vacation was strolling along outside his hotel in Acapulco, enjoying the sunny Mexican weather. Suddenly, he was attracted by the screams of a woman kneeling in front of a child.

The man knew enough Spanish to determine that the child had swallowed a coin. Seizing the child by the heels, the man held him up, gave him a few shakes, and an American quarter dropped to the sidewalk.

“Oh, thank you sir!” cried the woman. “You seemed to know just how to get it out of him. Are you a doctor?”

“No, ma’am,” replied the man. “I’m with the United States Internal Revenue Service.”8

1. They were considered the refuse of humanity.

Matt.11: 19a “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners…”

2. They were considered the rejects of society.

Matt.9:11b, “…Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?”

According to the thought of the average Jew of Christ’s day, a publican was the lowest of the low. They were not even to be associated with.

One fact stands out clear from the contrasts in these two men’s lives: God does not receive or reject a person on the basis of their position in life, or on the basis of public opinion.

III. The Pharisee’s Prideful Presumption

A. He Prayed with Himself.

Luke 18:11a, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself…”

The words “with himself” refer to the Pharisee’s attitude in prayer. “He was praying to himself or for himself.”9

The words “with himself” also imply haughtiness in this Pharisee’s demeanor as he prayed. The Amplified Bible translates the first part of verse eleven as follows: “The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously, and began to pray thus before and with himself.”10 The word ostentatious implies a pretentious or showy display.

The idea here is basically that this Pharisee was praying just to hear the sound of his own voice, and to show off. He was wrapped up in his own presumed spirituality.

B. He Prayed without Humility.

Luke 18:11b, “…God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”

Did you pick up on the pompous, prideful attitude of this guy? It’s rather obvious to us, it would seem. But the sad thing is that this Pharisee was too spiritually blind and insensitive to recognize his own haughtiness. Concerning pride, someone once said:

Pride is the dandelion of the soul. Its root goes deep; only a little left behind sprouts again. Its seeds lodge in the tiniest encouraging cracks. And it flourishes in good soil: The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.11

This man actually tries to convince God that he is a cut above the rest of humanity (“I thank thee, that I am not as other men are”). It was as though he saw himself as the pride and joy of God’s heart.

The fact was, this Pharisee despised others whom he deemed incapable of coming up to his standard. Though his actions may have been spotless, his attitude was sickening.

Don’t try to impress God with your good works. God’s standards are much higher than yours. The Bible says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy

rags…” (Isa.65: 6a).

IV. The Publican’s Penitent Prayer

A. He Prayed Humbly.

Luke 18:13a, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast…”

The prayers of the Pharisee and the publican are as different as daylight and dark. The Pharisee prayed seeking to advise God of his good works, while the publican prayed admitting to God his great wickedness.

The publican exhibits no haughtiness of attitude in his prayer, only sorrow and brokenness over his sin. Again, The Amplified Bible brings out the sincere intent of the publican with these words:

But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven; but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am!12

This publican had come to understand his grossness in light of God’s goodness and glory. “They that know God will be humble,” John Flavel has said, “and they that know themselves cannot be proud.”13

B. He Prayed Honestly.

Luke 18:13b, “…God be merciful to me a sinner.”

It is significant here that in the Greek, the definite article is used before the word “sinner.” In other words, the publican wasn’t implying that he was merely one sinner among many. In his view, he was “the sinner.” He was concerned only with his personal condition. The Pharisee on the other hand, comparing himself with others, thought himself better than the rest.

C. His Prayer was Honored.

Luke 18:14, “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.”

To be “justified” means to be declared righteous—to be given a right standing. In other words, true repentance is a matter of humility and honesty before God.

1 Moody Bible Institute's Today in the Word, September 1991, p. 32.

2 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Charitable Trust, Wheaton, Illinois. All rights reserved; pg. 1145.

3 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Real, published by Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois; pg. 36. 4 J.M. Boice, Our Saviour, God, p. 40.

5 W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, Vol. I, published by Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey; pg. 300.

6 Source unknown.

7 Frederick Buechner.

8 Bits & Pieces, March 31, 1994, p. 5.

9 Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, Editors, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, published by Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois; pg. 1058.

10 The Amplified Bible, copyrighted by The Lockman Foundation, published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; The Amplified New Testament, pg. 116.

11 David Rhodes.

12 The Amplified Bible, copyrighted by The Lockman Foundation, published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan; The Amplified New Testament, pg. 116-117.

13 Quoted in MBI's Today In The Word, November, 1989, p.20.

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