Ce ntra l PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Lesson 11 | Renewal of Worship Bible Text Luke 7:36-50
are forgiven— for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Commentary Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, Worship is both a noun When the gospel grips our 38 and standing behind him at hearts, it fuels our worship. and a verb, a personal and his feet, weeping, she began When we see the centrality to wet his feet with her tears collective response to Jesus of the cross, we learn the and wiped them with the essence of worship. Worship for who he is and what he hair of her head and kissed is the Spirit-led human has done his feet and anointed them response to encountering the with the ointment. 39Now majesty, holiness, and grace when the Pharisee who had of Almighty God. Worship is both a noun and a invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this verb, a personal and collective response to Jesus man were a prophet, he would have known who for who he is and what he has done (the gospel). and what sort of woman this is who is touching The “sinful woman” in our story has no pretense, him, for she is a sinner.” 40And Jesus answering no social status, and no religious pride. Most said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to likely a prostitute, she is lost and knows it, you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” helpless and feels it, hopeless and owns it. 41 ”A certain moneylender had two debtors. One Encountering Jesus and his grace, she worships owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 him. Notice that her worship is passionate When they could not repay, he cancelled the (she weeps), sacrificial (she anoints him with debt of both. Now which of them will love him 43 expensive ointment), humble (she kisses his more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, feet), and genuine. Here is worship unveiled, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he 44 uninhibited, and unimaginable to the Pharisee. said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, Simon does not worship Jesus, because he “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; neither understands the Lord nor his own you gave me no water for my feet, but she has spiritual condition. Although he invites Jesus to wet my feet with her tears and wiped them his home (his motive for doing so is unstated and with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from most likely selfish), he does not follow the typical the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss Jewish customs of hospitality. He is the epitome my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, of self-righteousness. He not only judges the but she has anointed my feet with ointment. woman but judges Jesus as well (v. 39). 47 page 1 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, 36
The Parable of Two Debtors To expose Simon’s self-righteousness and affirm the woman’s worshipful actions, Jesus tells this simple yet profound parable of two debtors. A Greek denarii is typically one day’s wage. The sum of 500 denarii, therefore, is over one and a half years’ income; the sum of 50 denarii is less than six weeks’ income.
enter into a debt-free world of worship. That worship is genuine, passionate, humble, and joyful. The one who is forgiven little loves (and worships) little, while the one who is forgiven much loves (and worships) much. The Cross Chart
Perhaps the most graphic way to portray this is with the help of the “cross chart” developed by World Harvest Mission (now called “Serge”) and used with permission.
Imagine for a moment that you are checking out at a local convenience store and paying for a cup of coffee with cash. As you pull out the change in your pocket or wallet, you find yourself six cents short. The person standing in line behind you eagerly presents a nickel and a penny on the counter and simply says, “I’ve got that. Have a nice day.”
Next, imagine that you are jobless and have accumulated $40,000 in credit card debt. The most troubling day of the month is when that credit card statement arrives in the mail and you see, yet again, that more interest has been charged to your outstanding balance. One month the dreaded trip to the mailbox yields yet again a new statement. With disgust and dismay, you open the envelope—only to find that the balance has been completely retired and there is no payment due!
Pharisees don’t worship because they don’t love Jesus. They don’t love Jesus because they don’t believe he paid their debt. They don’t believe he paid their debt because they really don’t think they have a debt that needs to be repaid (if there is such a debt, it is only $.06 and they can handle it themselves). There is a Pharisee who lives in the heart of every Christian, and his name is Pride.
Sinners, like the woman, understand that their moral debt is far beyond their ability to repay. Once encountering the saving grace of Jesus, they page 2
GR OW IN G
AW AR EN ES S
OF MY FL ES H
It is probable that the person who aided you in the convenience store is lost in your memory, but how eager you would be to meet the generous benefactor who retired your credit card debt! How zealous and joyful you would be to express your heart-felt appreciation!
SI NF UL NE SS
The point on the far left where both lines begin is the start of the Christian journey. You have trusted in Christ as your Savior and Lord, and your Christian walk is represented moving from left to right. The top line represents your growing awareness of the holiness of God, and the bottom line represents your growing awareness of the sinfulness of your own heart. As the gap widens, you are increasingly aware of the beauty and power of the cross. As Jack Miller (founder of World Harvest Mission) used to say, “I am a really big sinner, but I have a really big Jesus.” “Shrinking the cross” is a term used to describe our natural tendency to distort the truth through two sinful strategies that attempt to lessen the gap between our sin and God’s holiness.
Rather than facing, owning, and repenting of the deep and habitual sin in our hearts, we want to reduce the gap and think of . . . [ourselves] more highly than . . . [we] ought to think (Romans 12:3). For example, when confronted with our own sin and failure, we often tend to deny that we are at fault or blame-shift by placing the failure on another person. The lower dark horizontal triangle represents all our efforts to not fully face and own our own sin. In doing so, we “shrink” the cross, in the sense that we diminish Christ’s gracious payment for our sin debt by pridefully diminishing the degree of that debt.
Questions 1. Name three or four differences between the “sinful woman” and Simon the Pharisee in terms of their responses to Jesus. 2. What is the significance of the parable of the two debtors that Jesus shared?
The other common strategy that we employ is to affirm and rest in our self-righteous attempts to be holy, represented by the upper dark horizontal triangle. We rely on our religious performance (our works) or we exchange the moral standard of God’s pure holiness (whereby we fall short) for the morality of others (believing we are superior to them). This is reflected in a spirit of harsh judgmental-ism and prideful performance. In short, we “shrink the cross” by diminishing God’s holiness and extolling our virtue. There is no cross-shrinking in the heart of the “sinful woman” of Luke 7. She knows her debt and is worshipping the only One who can pay it. She is bankrupt and knows it. The Pharisee is equally bankrupt but denies it. She is the one who worship[s] the Father in spirit and truth (John 4: 23).
3. Can you take a blank sheet of paper and, from memory, draw the “cross chart”? Why is this such a useful device for illustrating the gospel? Try drawing two “cross charts,” one with the “shrinking” triangles and the other with no such “shrinking.” Pray and ask the Lord for the opportunity within the next week or two to share these two charts with another person. 4. Give a specific example from your own life and relationships illustrating how you sometimes “shrink the cross.” What effect did that have on you? on the relationship? on your worship of Jesus?
What would the “cross chart” look like if we removed the two dark triangles from the picture? Moving from left to right, we would see that the cross is getting larger and larger. In other words, we would see that Jesus has paid our entire sin debt and there is no longer any need to pretend (deny our sin) or perform (earn our righteousness). Of course, this leads us to ask ourselves, every day in every circumstance, “How big is my Jesus?” The bigger he is, the more we worship. May it be so. page
5. Collectively, as the people of God, a congregation can also minimize the glorious grace of Jesus by “shrinking the cross.” Can you see how this has been done at Central? What effect has this strategy produced in us as a congregation? What can we do about this in the future? 6. As you ponder the Puritan prayer below, underline or highlight phrases that are particularly meaningful to you and share with another their significance to you.
“Cheer up! You are worse than you think and the gospel is better than you know!” (Jack Miller, founder of World Harvest Mission)
Suggested Prayer (from The Valley of Vision—A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, ed. Arthur Bennett, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975 p. 83) The Broken Heart
O LORD, No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in thy sight. Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart; Praise has been often praiseless sound; My best services are filthy rags. Blessed Jesus, let me find a covert in thy appeasing wounds. Though my sins rise to heaven thy merits soar above them; Though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell, thy righteousness exalts me to thy throne. All things in me call for my rejection, All things in thee plead my acceptance. I appeal from the throne of perfect justice to thy throne of boundless grace, Grant me to hear thy voice assuring me: that by thy stripes I am healed, that thou wast bruised for my iniquities, that thou hast been made sin for me that I might be righteous in thee, that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven, buried in the ocean of they concealing blood. I am guilty, but pardoned, lost, but saved, wandering, but found, sinning, but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness, Keep me always clinging to thy cross, Flood me every moment with descending grace, Open to me the springs of divine knowledge, sparkling like crystal, flowing clear and unsullied through my wilderness of life.