Read: Philippians 3:3-9; Luke 18:9-14
Yesterday was the final Jeopardy program for the current season. I have enjoyed playing the game for decades. Before my father passed away, we would play against each other. He would keep score at his home, and I would keep score at ours. Sometimes, my husband would also play. Dad kept a running total of how many wins each of us had. He could best us, even when he was 80 years old. Friendly competition. It was fun keeping score. Whether it is bowling, a board game or Pickleball, almost everyone likes to hold out a winning score sheet, whether it is recorded on paper or on a hand held device. We like a bit of bragging rights. 😊
With this in mind, it is not difficult to see why it is so easy for people to believe that we can approach God for answers to prayer as well as salvation because of our own scorecard. I was raised with that belief. I thought that if the nice things I did outnumbered the not so nice ones, "I would win the game". Although it made perfect sense to me, I was wrong, not because I have changed my mind, but because it is what the Creator/Redeemer says. Let's take a glimpse into the scriptures to see why I can never present my winning scorecard to the Lord for His approval.
In Philippians 3:3-9, Paul shows us the scorecard he once held out before God. In the sense of human accomplishment, it was impressive. Paul's background and good works were stellar by man's measuring stick. Yet, we see a startling change in his point of view in these verses. When the man who formerly persecuted Christians came to understand that Jesus was offering him a righteousness not based upon his score, Paul changed his mind. He exchanged everything that he formerly held out to God for what Jesus offered him, Philippians 3:8-9. All of the good things this man had held with such pride evaporated in the light of Jesus' having clothed him in His righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:21. He no longer had anything to boast about, except what the Savior had done on his behalf, Galatians 6:14.
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a parable to really drive this same point home. It must have been startling to those who heard Him. Jesus compared two very different people. The first was a Pharisee. He was a prominent man in the society in that day. Most everyone in Jesus' audience would have both respected and looked up to him because he studied God's law in great detail. When he talked with God, he came with scorecard in hand. His accomplishment, which were many were presented before the Lord. Enter the second man in Jesus' story. If Jesus had presented this parable in the form of a melodrama, the Pharisee would have received cheers. And the tax collector? He would have been booed. Such men were considered to be traitors to their own people and not worthy to present themselves before God. In truth, they often did fleece their own countrymen. What scorecard could he present to God? Could he say that he was doing the best he could, and that a man simply has to get by? Instead this man came with nothing in his hand. He had no works to offer and no excuses. He simply asked for mercy, admitting that he was a sinner. Who would Jesus honor? The answer is truly wondrous. The Savior said that the tax collector was justified. A beautiful word. It means that before the court of heaven-the only court that ultimately matters-this man was counted to be not guilty.
What these two examples tell us is that the man Paul whose life seemed good to those who observed him and the tax collector whose life seemed wicked to those who observed him, had to approach God in the exact same way. Empty-handed. What does each one receive? God's beautiful undeserved and unearned righteousness, Isaiah 61:10.
Why does God offer this gift to each of us? It is because He loves us. He is the One who keeps score, and He offers only one way that we can be accepted by Him, John 3:36. What this means is that when we throw away our own way of approaching God and choose His, John 6:28-29, we will begin to truly experience the Scorekeeper's love.
Lord, Nothing In My Hand I bring-Only To Thy Cross I Cling-Rock Of Ages