There is a vast difference between the view the self-righteous lost sinner has of himself and the view the saved sinner has of himself. The problem lies in natural man’s depravity which renders him totally incapable of discerning good and evil. For this reason, they judge those people who are moral, sincere, and dedicated to religion to be “good people” in spite of the fact that the Scripture plainly declare: “As it is written, There is NONE righteous, no, not one: There is NONE that understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is NONE THAT DOETH GOOD, no, not one. (Rom.3:10-12). Without question, every sincere, dedicated, moral religionist considers himself to be better than he was before. How many times have you heard this saying? “I’m not what I should be; I’ll never be what I ought to be; but thank God I’m not what I used to be.” Is this how you judge your position before the true and living God?
We have an example of this wicked and evil practice displayed in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18. The parable is prefaced with this important statement: “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves (i.e., they didn’t trust in Christ’s righteousness alone, but their own self-righteousness) that they were righteous, and despised others ”(Lk.18:9). Notice the Pharisees’ view of himself – “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself (his prayer was to himself, NOT TO GOD), 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,”(vss.11,12). Isn’t that amazing? He “thanked God”, i.e., he even gave God the credit for making him into this new and improved creature which he judged worthy of salvation. If you are a lost sinner, I know you consider yourself to be a “good person,” and this opinion of yourself reveals how little you value both the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Publican in this parable shows us how every truly saved sinner, whose heart the Spirit of God has opened, views themselves before God – “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 (literally, be my mercy seat, a propitiation) to me a (the) sinner” (Vs.13). Every child of God begins this journey with this solitary confession: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?”(Rom.7:24). And when we come to the end of this journey, our plea will be the same: “O wretched man that I am! WHO SHALL deliver US from this body of death?” Who can deliver us? Paul answered this question: “I THANK GOD through (because of) JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD”( Vs.25). Christ justified and delivered every son of God He represented with His onetime sacrifice at Calvary -- (II Tim.1:9). Thank God for His marvelous grace and mercy!