“The one who humbles him­self will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

The Pharisee in this parable came to God with his hands full. He had gathered his fasting, tithing, and obe­dience to the Mosaic law and held them up to the Lord. “See Lord,” he said. “Look at all my goodness.” And God could see it. He couldn’t deny all that the Pharisee presented to him. But there was a problem. This man’s hands were full. He had no room for God’s mercy. Indeed, focused on his own good deeds, it appears he could see no need for mercy at all. He thought that all his good deeds canceled out whatever missteps he may have committed— missteps that he didn’t even bother to mention.

How about you? Do you see your­self as occasionally stumbling on the path of godliness and just needing to try a little harder? Or do you see yourself as a sinner who can’t ful­fill God’s law without the help of his grace? These two views are very dif­ferent. One view acknowledges sins as individual instances of error, while the second view recognizes the power of sin at work in the human heart.

The danger of focusing only on individual sins is that we can become like this Pharisee, hoping that our good deeds will cancel out our bad ones. That kind of “balance sheet” mentality overlooks our need for Jesus. It overlooks the need for his cross to put to death the power of sin within us. It overlooks the need to have our hearts redirected and set on the path of Christ.

All of us will sin. There’s no way around it. But the way to deal with our sins is not to try to balance them out with good acts. Instead, we should take them as signs of how deeply we need grace from the Lord. They should spur us to cry out: “Be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Then we can know the joy of God’s forgiveness. He is always ready to take us to his side.

Today, when you examine your conscience, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Ask him to help you put off the power of sin and to give you a new heart. Rely on him, and he will help you.

“Holy Spirit, let your light shine in my heart today. Reveal everything in me that you want to change. Come and raise me to new life in Christ!”

Hosea 6:1-6;

Psalm 51:3-4,18-21