Preparing for Worship // May 28, 2017

Preparing for Worship // May 28, 2017

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Few fictional characters exhibit the pride and legalism that characterized the Pharisees better than Javert from Les Misérables. Javert is the police officer who has made it his mission to track down Valjean, a fugitive ex-convict who has turned his life around after being shown grace. Javert’s life is governed by order, rules, and legalism. His single-minded obsession with the law leaves him incapable of seeing the effects of grace in Valjean’s life; all he sees is a fleeing criminal. In the song “Stars” from the Les Mis musical, Javert says a lot of true things, for instance: “Those who follow the path of the righteous shall have their reward. And if they fall as Lucifer fell, the flames, the sword.” But completely absent from Javert’s thinking is any notion of his own sin, God’s forgiveness, or God’s gracious power in our righteous deeds. His inability to show grace to Valjean stems from his pride, believing that he is able to live righteously of his own ability.

This pride over one’s own ability to live righteously is the root of all legalism. Legalism, as we will see exhibited by the Pharisees in our passage this week, means doing good things out of a belief that this will earn you God’s favor and salvation. It is a prideful assertion of one’s own strength and independence that masquerades as obedience to God. While it is evident in the Pharisees and Les Mis’s Javert, this pride exists in each of our hearts. We think we are better than others because “at least I don’t do that.” We want so desperately to hold on to this pride that we create hierarchies of rules in our heads so that we come out looking good.

This legalistic pride also comes out in the way we respond when other people show us grace and forgiveness. The climactic moment in the conflict between Javert and Valjean comes when Valjean has the opportunity to kill Javert and be rid of his enemy forever. Instead, Valjean lets Javert go free. This act of mercy shatters Javert’s world, a world that was governed by his own rules and pride. Unable to humble himself and receive Valjean’s kindness, Javert commits suicide.

How you respond to grace and mercy says a lot about your heart. How did you respond the last time someone showed you forgiveness? Did you respond humbly, accepting their forgiveness in sorrow over your sin? Did you humbly acknowledge your fault and rejoice in the restored relationship brought about by their grace? Or did you respond with pride, trying to justify your actions and place the blame elsewhere? Did you feel an instant need to make up for your mistakes so that you would no longer be in that person’s debt? Next time you sin, next time you need forgiveness, search your heart and humbly acknowledge your failures and need of forgiveness.

THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 15:1-16:12
Sermon: Pride of Pharisaism vs Faith of Humility

SONGS

And Can It Be (Scott Roley)
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A Debtor to Mercy Alone  (Indelible Grace)
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Thy Mercy (Sandra McCracken)
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Not What My Hands Have Done (Indelible Grace)
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Song of Preparation: O Come to the Altar (Elevation Worship)
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Song of Response: My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less (Charlie Hall)
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