The Surprising Way Back to God

Some people work so hard to ingratiate themselves to God. They follow one law and one rule after another. They build and build, work upon work, until they feel confident of their own righteousness.

But to be in a right position with God is so much easier. And so much harder.

Instead of climbing a ladder of righteousness we have built out of our own goodness, we need to put that ladder down. Then we simply ask God to love us, to forgive us, and to show mercy to us. We beg him not to treat us the way we deserve to be treated.

This may come as a surprise. But the way back to God is not to climb up. It’s to humbly — repentantly — bow down. Because you have a Savior who wants nothing more than to give you his righteousness.

But only the empty-handed can receive that gift. And that’s why you want to put the ladder down right away — just like the tax collector did, in a parable Jesus once told:

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, April 17, is Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Luke 18:1-30 and Psalm 47:1-9.

Lord, give me a humble heart. I am a sinner. But I want to be a penitent sinner. Please grant me forgiveness of all my sins. With this tax collector I pray: Please have mercy on me, a sinner.

Header image based on "Ladder to heaven" by Johan Hansson, CC By 2.0