13But 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! -Luke 18:13 (AMP)
I remember a time when God was moving in my family’s life and we were leading youth at our church. Any given evening, you could walk into our home and find teens sprawled out on the floor. Some of these young people even stayed up one evening as we did our time in a twenty four hour prayer watch. We were praying between three a.m. and six a.m.
I will never forget sitting around the kitchen table with some of them watching the brilliant sunrise make its morning appearance. It was as if God was reflecting out in the heavens what was going on in that room.
Little by little, fleck by fleck, the golden light broke through the darkness. As each individual light came into being and joined in unison with the others that had peaked before it, they melted into a glorious golden array, dispersing the darkness.
Mirroring the glory of God’s unfolding morning, these young men and women in Christ, were finding themselves poking through the shadows of shame and fear to come together. Building upon the light shone by one’s willingness to open up and light the way, they were able to see their own way through.
I was amazed by the eagerness of each person as they sought to unload the weight of the burden of sin that they had fought so long to conceal. There was safety, comfort, warmth, and Light and they were meeting the need in one another by simply sharing.
God was so amazing in those moments, not that He isn’t always. But once in a while He will allow you to just participate in a truly glorious movement of His grace. I couldn’t wait to share it with their parents.
Three of the young people in this group belonged to one family. They ranged from fourteen to eighteen. Their parents were inspirations of oddly living to many in our church. I was stunned by the response of the mother when I approached her about the possibility of her children sharing their testimony with the entire youth group.
No, was the answer, much to my amazement. When I explained that I would also be sharing my testimony of a loving, graceful God restoring me after an abortion at the age of seventeen, she gave me a scripture reference.
Do not give that which is holy (the sacred thing) to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before hogs, lest they trample upon them with their feet and turn and tear you in pieces. –Matthew 7:6
Anyone who is acquainted with me for longer than five minutes walks away with the perception that I am not one with a lack for something to say. I was the kid in school who made excellent grades but ALWAYS had a “much too talkative” note on the comments to parent’s line. I was flabbergasted!
How could this be? How could you experience the Hand of God moving, see young people liberated and then say, “Um, yes, I understand that we teach Christians to share their testimony but not me or mine”.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident within the Body of Christ. This is not an exception to the rule, but in fact is the unspoken rule. That is exactly why despite the extreme rise of the Mega Church movement, the numbers of proclaimed Christians are dropping and the reputation of the Church has become one of “fakes”.
Let me make one clarifying point here: Jesus knew the Word, the devil knew the word and the Pharisees knew the word.
Jesus spoke the Word in love, telling the truth, “I know what you’ve done, I love you anyway” and “Be healed, go and sin no more”.
The devil spoke the word in manipulation and twisted it in temptation, “6And he said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will give His angels charge over you, and they will bear you up on their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” –Matthew 4:6
The Pharisees spoke the word to control, “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, See there! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful and not permitted on the Sabbath.” –Matthew 12:2
Anyone can quote the Word.
This tax collector in today’s Scripture was crying out to God. He couldn’t even lift his eyes, and all of this was in the shadow of the Pharisee’s eloquent prayer:
11The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men--extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers--or even like this tax collector here.
12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. –Luke 18:11,12
From the outside looking in it would appear that this Pharisee had it all together. He had all of the right moves and everyone would want to be like that, right? Well, what did Jesus say?
14I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man (the Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. –Luke 18:14
God has written your story for a purpose, a greater purpose than yourself or your need to be accepted by the local congregation. You have been accepted by the Kingly Congregation and that should take first place.
Your story is your witness born to bear fruit and truth to a loving, perfect, forgiving Savior in spite of all the shame you once carried! If it means that you are the first speck of light that shines the way for others to join with… then you be that light! God is getting ready to paint a brilliant sunrise on the dawn of a new day and He is inviting you to be a part of it. Lift Up Your Eyes!