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God, have mercy on me, a sinner - James Bell

"God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

This statement comes from a parable given by Jesus in Luke 18: 9-14. Here Jesus contrasts the attitudes of two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee prayed about himself, thanking the Lord for his righteousness and that he wasn't like the tax collector, who simply said: "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Who was right? It's OK to pray for yourself, but if you contrast your righteousness to someone else, then you are judging them, which is wrong.

Jesus said of the tax collector, "I tell you, this man rather than the other, went home justified before God, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted."

The Pharisee was pleading his good works as his righteousness, while the other man admitted his sin and asked for God's forgiveness. "Justified," means that God reckoned him to be righteous, i.e., his sins were forgiven and he was credited with righteousness, not his own, but that which comes from God.

Many people today feel they are living lives that are good enough to get them into Heaven. When asked, "Why should God let you into Heaven?" -- they reply, "Because I'm not a bad person. I'm kind to people and try to treat everyone right."

Some even say, "Because I deserve to go to Heaven." Both of these answers simply mean, "I'm good enough to go to Heaven when I die." They are "works" answers and imply that one can work, or earn, his way to Heaven.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says; "For by grace are ye saved through faith. And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast."

What we all must realize is that we are all sinners (see Romans 3:23) and to get to Heaven we must admit our sin, believe in God and confess our sins.

The word "confess" is a word we don't like and don't understand, but it simply means-ask God for forgiveness. This is exactly what the tax collector did when he said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6. The Pharisee had an attitude of being holy because of his belief in God, but he did not believe in Jesus Christ. He thought the Messiah was yet to come and did not believe that Jesus was He.

God wants and expects Christians to be holy, for He is holy. I know what you are thinking-no mere man can be holy, because the Bible says we are all sinners, and this is true, but when we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we become sons of God and brothers of Jesus Christ.

Then we can be holy because we belong to God. This is not to say we cannot sin, for certainly we can fall into temptation and sin, but as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living within us who will convict us of our sin and lead us to repent and ask God to forgive us and restore our fellowship with Him.

Our Father God wants us to become more and more like His Son Jesus Christ. This is His will for each of us; He knows we can't be perfect but expects us to live our very best. When Satan does cause us to sin, the Holy Spirit prompts us to ask for forgiveness in Jesus' name, and He will forgive us.

The right attitude in life is most important. We must relate to others in a positive manner, loving them as we love ourselves and forgiving them when they treat us badly or hurt our feelings. The wrong attitude is one of hate and of "getting them back," for this is negative and against the teachings of Christ.

If you are a Christian, remember the golden rule and use it in your relations with others. If you are not a Christian, please hear the call of Christ and put your faith in Him. I pray you will.