What is your estimation of yourself? I’m not speaking in terms of estimating your financial worth or estimating your value to others in this world. What is your estimation of yourself before God? Do you consider yourself “pretty good” or “a decent person” or “righteous compared with others”? Or are you sinful? Are you one who has been greatly forgiven?
We must remember that the Bible teaches us that all fall short of the glory of God. All of us are born and conceived in sin, and therefore we have no righteousness before God from our very conception (Psa. 51). Not only that, but we have no interest or desire for God in our sinful condition, and so we sin against God in our words, thoughts and deeds (Gen. 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Eph. 2:1-3).
We should never say that we realize that we have a few faults but nothing more. It is not just that when we fail now and then we see our faults, rather our faults reveal our true sinful condition. We are sinners not merely because we possess sinful faults, we have sinful faults because we are by nature sinners.
Our sinfulness is first a condition of how we fare before God’s holiness. Before God we do not measure up, although we might look the other way and try to measure ourselves by others (of course it will be those who are not as righteous as we are in our estimation). But the Bible tells us that our predicament is so sinful that even our best works of righteousness, our best prayers, our best goodness before God is as filthy rags worthy only of rejection before God’s holy face (Isa. 64:6).
If we are conceived in sin, and we constantly commit actual sins throughout our lives because we resist God and selfishly want to live for ourselves, and our best religious efforts are tainted by sin, and are never acceptable before God, what are we to do?
How can we ever love God and others, if we find ourselves in this sinful predicament?!
God demands perfection of all human beings (Matthew 5:48). Everyone says: “Nobody’s perfect!”
But that’s the problem. No one’s perfect and yet God demands perfection.
Good news! The righteous perfection God requires of us, He provides for us by faith alone in Jesus Christ. By faith alone, we receive Christ’s perfect righteousness to cover our sins. This is God’s gift (Eph. 2:6-10).
So there was One who was perfect: Jesus Christ the Righteous One, the Beloved Son of God.
Look to Jesus Christ who is the very righteousness of God! Jesus Christ is the full revelation of the righteousness God requires of all mankind, and Jesus Christ is the full and gracious revelation of the righteousness God provides for all who believe!
In Christ, by faith alone, we find the love of God and the forgiveness of sins.
This is why we must learn to estimate ourselves rightly before God. If we are ever to love Christ and others as we should, we need to estimate ourselves rightly. If we are ever to repent daily, in a manner consistent with our sinfulness, we need to estimate ourselves rightly before God.
As we understand the great love and mercy and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ, so we learn how much we are forgiven of our sins in Him and for His sake, and we learn how to love.
In the passage from Luke 7 (36-50) that I quoted above, we see Jesus as the Savior of sinners, seeking and saving the lost. Jesus accepts an invitation to go to a Pharisee’s house to point out his pride and prejudice, and his dire need of a Savior from sinful self-righteousness.
A notoriously sinful woman (probably a prostitute) enters into Simon the Pharisee’s home, rushing toward the only person who can and will forgive her, and makes her humble submission to Jesus, showing her faith and love for Christ in her actions.
This sinful woman knows that her only hope is found in the mercy of Jesus Christ; she desires only to worship Him who is worthy and to be a recipient of His grace alone.
Contrastly, the Pharisee Simon, with pride and prejudice, criticizes Jesus in his mind for not being a good prophet (v. 39) because he thinks Jesus is unaware of her sinful position and actions in the world.
Simon the Pharisee is unaware of His need of the righteousness of God found in Christ alone. He compares himself with a notoriously sinful woman to puff himself up, and to find through comparison with another sinner a righteousness of his own making.
Because of this woman’s humility and right estimation of herself before a holy Christ, her “many sins” will be forgiven by Jesus because she recognized her sinfulness and came to him alone for forgiveness.
The woman is not seeking to compare herself with other sinners who may be more wicked than her. Rather, she is concerned first with her own heart before God; this is true faith and repentance in Jesus Christ!
Jesus uses this story to show that all sinners are debtors to God, and if one truly understands their condemnation under God’s holy law, that is if they have a right estimation of themselves before God, then they will be humbled and realize their great debt to God that they cannot pay back.
Simon the Pharisee understands that the woman is showing great love for her debt being forgiven, but he doesn’t understand his own debt to God as a Law-breaker- -that he too, is a debtor with a large debt.
Because of his pride and prejudice against Jesus and his teaching (and not to mention the sinful woman), Simon doesn’t feel the weight of his debt before God; nor does he understand that debts before God are only cancelled in Christ Jesus through faith alone!
It is important to note in Jesus’ story that it is not the love in action that brings the forgiveness, but it is the cancellation of the debt or the forgiveness that brings forth love and gratitude.
Jesus is not teaching that we are saved and forgiven by our love, but that our love for Christ and others shows that we have truly been forgiven!
Our love reveals and demonstrates through praise and worship of Christ, and the love of others, that we have a right estimation of ourselves before God, and that we realize we have been recipients of God’s grace and mercy- -apart from any works, or anything good that we have done.
The woman does not merit her forgiveness through her loving actions toward Jesus. Rather, she shows that she has been forgiven and because of the forgiveness she has already received by God’s grace through faith in Christ, she shows forth this forgiveness in true love.
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” – v. 47.
People of God: If we daily remembered how much we have been forgiven by God for our many sins, we would be more loving toward others, more worshipful before God, more humble, more serving, more forgiving, less proud, less critical of others, less judgmental.
We would consider others more significant than ourselves, and we would experience deeper repentance before God. Do you find yourself growing in your understanding of just how much you have been forgiven? Do you find yourself seeing Christ as more lovely and beautiful as a Savior as you grow in understanding the depths of your sinful heart?
The Christian life is not about becoming more like Simon the Pharisee: full of self-righteousness and self-importance.
Rather, the Christian life is about growing in our understanding of the sovereign and amazing grace of God that saved a wretch like me, and that helps us to realize that before God we have all been worse than sinful prostitutes in our words, thoughts and evil deeds!
And yet God has grace and mercy upon us in Jesus Christ!!
It is important to ask yourself if you are more like Simon than the sinful woman here in this passage.
Do you separate yourself from sinners (in the wrong way) because you believe you are more righteous, not understanding the forgiveness that you have received from God? Do you engage in constant comparison of yourself with others? Are you always needing to prove your righteousness before others?
Or do you worship and serve Christ like the sinful woman, and being humble like Jesus, do you extend a hand of forgiveness to even the most wretched sinner whose sins are many?
Jesus does not say: “For he who has loved little, has only received little forgiveness.” He says: “For he who is forgiven little, loves little,” implying that we must have a right estimation of ourselves before God and understand our great debt, realizing the wickedness of our own sins before we truly show forth genuine Christian charity in our lives for God and our neighbor.
The Pharisee in his own presumptuous self-righteousness considered before God that he only needed forgiveness for a few sins in his estimation, and for that reason his love for God was so slight in demonstration and action. In fact, I would say that the Pharisee’s best prayers, righteous works in his own strength and flesh were abhorrent, and as filthy rags before God’s holy face!
What is your estimate of your own sins?
Do you truly realize how desperately wicked your sinful heart is before God (cf. Jeremiah 17:9-10)? Do you consider yourself to be a “pretty good person” and not comparatively as bad as others?
OUR ONLY HOPE IS JESUS CHRIST; THE SAVIOR OF SINNERS. ARE YOU DESPERATELY SINFUL AND WICKED?
Come to Jesus; he will give you rest and relieve you from your slavery to sin! If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed! (John 8:32).
And you who are forgiven much will love much!
Love in Christ,