Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, introduction: We Are All in Need

Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, introduction: We Are All in Need

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 14, 2022

Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, introduction: We Are All in Need

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 14, 2022

Do you know Jesus?

Do you really know Jesus?

Okay, for those that said yes, that means you are perfect, right?

You no longer have any hurts, correct?

You no longer have any bad habits, correct?

Of course not, we are still walking the Christian life stumbling towards Jesus.

Today, I am beginning a sermon series on dealing with life’s difficulties. During the coming weeks, we will talk about many of the difficulties of life and how a Christian should respond. We will talk about things like the death of the innocent. How should we reconcile the tragic death of children? We will talk about anxiety, depression, and many other subjects. This series will end before Christmas, but I think I will use some leftover topics as occasional sermons. After Christmas, I plan to preach on Heaven.

Today’s theme:

We are all needy in a broken world. Even after we are saved, we are still in process of God making us more like Jesus.

  1. Firstly, we all are in need for salvation.
    1. The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collectors.

R.C. Sproul shares:

In 1969, I worked in a church in Ohio as minister of theology and teaching. I also was the minister of evangelism, and I trained people in the Evangelism Explosion program for outreach. We took two hundred people into the community each Tuesday night, visited people in their homes, and presented the gospel to them. We used well-known diagnostic questions to begin the gospel conversation. The first one was this: “Have you come to a place where you know for sure that when you die you will go to heaven?” The large majority of people were not sure they were going to heaven.

The second question was this: “Suppose you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God asked, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ What would you say?” We tabulated the answers of hundreds and hundreds of people, and 90 percent of them gave some kind of “works- righteousness” answer: “I tried to live a good life.” “I went to church every Sunday.” “I tithed my income.” “I did this good work and performed that good work.” Ninety percent of the people answered that they were trusting in their own righteousness.

Probably the worst answer ever given to that question was from my own five-year-old son. I said to him, “Son, if you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God asked, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?” My son answered, “Because I’m dead.” My own son believed in justification by death, that all you have to do to go to heaven is die. In reality, that is the popular view of many. People are sinners until they die, and suddenly, they become saints when you attend their funerals and hear the stories that are told.[1]

  • In this parable, one person thought he was good on his own, and another person knew he needed God’s mercy. The audience of Jesus’ parable thought they were okay on their own.
  • We see the characters in Luke 18:9-10.
  • In verse 9, we see the audience.
  • Let’s read Luke 18:9: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
  • Notice how this begins. He, Jesus, told a parable.
  • Who does He address the parable to? He addresses the parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.
  • This parable is addressed to people who trusted in themselves. They thought they were doing just fine and did not need a Savior.
  • This parable is first and foremost about salvation, how we become righteous, and the only way is through Jesus.
  • In this passage, Luke 18:9-14, people thought they were okay, but they were NOT okay.
  • In verse 10, we see the two people praying. One is a pharisee. They are the religious elite of the day. Pharisees do not need Celebrate Recovery, they do not need any help, and they do not need Jesus, or so they thought.
  • Then a tax collector. They are not even supposed to be in the temple. They were looked down upon. It looked like they had sold out to Rome. The taxes were not regulated and held accountable so the tax collectors would charge extra taking advantage of people.
    • In verses 11-12, we see the first prayer.
    • Look at the pharisees prayer in Luke 18:11-12: The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
    • He thinks he is okay, doesn’t he?
    • Sproul: The Pharisee probably stood near the temple. He raised his head and his hands in prayer, and he thanked God that he was a righteous man. I wonder how much honesty was in that prayer of gratitude.[2]
    • He talks about all that he has done for God. But it is all about him.
    • I think the audience was laughing at this. They were probably thinking, “I cannot believe Jesus said that. He is going to get Himself stoned or crucified.”
    • In verse 13, we see the second prayer.
    • Look at the Luke 18:13: But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
    • The tax collector who was looked upon as a sinner was very humble.
    • The tax collector pleaded to God in humility.
    • He asked for mercy.
    • Sproul: In contrast to the Pharisee, who said he’d never stolen, yet who stole the glory of God and who was not an atheist but was an idolater, stood the tax collector. He was probably by the door of the temple. He, in fear and trembling, wouldn’t even lift his face up to heaven. His gaze was on the floor. He brought absolutely nothing to God but his sin. He had nothing to offer to God except his guilt. “Be merciful. Have mercy. It’s only by Your grace alone, not Your grace and my contribution.” This man understood the doctrines of sola fide and sola gratia: justification by faith alone and justification by grace alone. There are tens of thousands of Christians in America today who will affirm justification by faith alone but not justification by grace alone. You really don’t believe in justification by faith alone if you think you’re adding something beyond your faith, beyond the righteousness of Christ, for you to be justified.[3]
    • In verse 14, we see Jesus’ principle.
    • Look at Luke 18:14: I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
    • Jesus says the tax collector was justified. Jesus is saying that the tax collector was declared righteous.
    • Why?
    • He recognized his brokenness before God.
    • The humbled will be exalted by God.
    • This is the sum of the gospel, how do we get justified?
    • It is all about Jesus.
    • We all are broken, and we need Jesus.
    • This parable is mainly about needing a Savior for eternal life.
  • The first point today is we all need a Savior.
  • Even for the saved, we are needy.
    • Firstly, this is because we are in a broken world.
    • Secondly, this is because we are still dealing with our own sin issues.
    • Once we are saved it takes time as God sanctifies us, that means that He is making us more like Him.
    • 1 John 1:10: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
    • Romans 8:18-23: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    • All creation is waiting for redemption. We are saved, but we are not in heaven yet.
  • What do you think?
  • Are we okay?
  • In the New Testament, after we are saved, we are always called saints, not sinners. But we know that we are still growing. Once we are in heaven, we are perfected, sinless, glorified.
  • We are NOT okay, and it is okay not to be okay. It is NOT okay to stay that way. Allow Jesus to work in growing you into a mature Christian. The first step is admitting that we are not okay.
  • I know, I know, you are thinking, “But once we are saved we are fixed.” No, we are being fixed (sanctification: 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil 2:12-13; Titus 2:11-3:11). Our salvation is secure as long as we persevere in the faith. But for the here and now God is in the process of fixing us. God is making us more like Him. Beyond that we live in a fallen world.
  • Think of it like this: Imagine the Christian life like storming the beaches of Normandy. Suppose that you know you will make it to safety as long as you keep moving forward. Even though you will make it, you are still getting shot at. You are in danger. There are bullets all around you. Plus, you are affected by all of your fellow soldiers dying and getting injured. That is the Christian life.
  • Prov 30:12: There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.
  • Celebrate Recovery is code for spiritual growth.
    • We are going to start Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery helps people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
    • It is code for spiritual growth.
    • Do you have hurts, habits, and hang-ups? I do. If you do not, you are already dead and in heaven.
    • For example, do you have any relational issues? Do you have a broken relationship with a child, a grandchild, a sibling?
    • Do you deal with any addictions?
    • Do you ever over-eat?
    • Do you have close family stuck in addictions?
    • Are you unhappy when others are unhappy?
    • Are you anxious?
    • Are you dealing with grief? Are you ignoring grief?
    • Other things: lust, pornography?
    • I was visiting an older saint who is now with the Lord and he said, “I like Fox News, but those ladies and their short skirts…”
    • Celebrate Recovery helps with what we are ignoring. Meaning we think these are not problems, but they are.
    • We are in a fallen and broken world, and as long as we live in this world, we will have trouble.
    • I was listening to Christian psychologist and author Dr. Juli Slattery, and she said we are all sexually broken. Some were startled to hear that. Some of you are startled to hear that now, but it is true. I have heard her share and explain that many times, but one thing she shares is: “We’re all sinners. None of us are righteous, not one. And apart from the redemption of Christ and the daily ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can never achieve righteousness. Why can’t we apply that to sexuality?”[4]
    • Romans 3:23, and really Romans 3:10-23, shares about how we are all sinners, every one of us. We are in a sinful world. We are impacted by our sin and the sins around us, and that means we are all broken. God is fixing us, but we are all broken. Either we understand that, or we are lying to ourselves and others.
    • Some of you right now are thinking, “Not me, I am not broken, I am not sexually broken, I do not have hurts, habits and hang-ups.”
    • I want to respond to that and say, “Yes, you are, and so am I.” Until we reach glorification (Romans 8:30) in heaven, we are in a hospital for sinners, and it is called the church.
    • Celebrate Recovery is code for discipleship. Think about it like exercise. Some of us prefer to wait until we are way unhealthy and take blood pressure medicine. However, if we could do it over again, we would have preferred to stay healthy to begin with. It is better to build healthy habits to begin with rather than have a heart attack and then adjust our habits. Think of Celebrate Recovery like that. Certainly, some have hit bottom, and Celebrate Recovery helps. Others, however, recognize they need help with depression, or anxiety, or alcohol, or anger, or lust, or pornography, or eating and they get help before it is a major issue.
    • Listen, we are all the problem. We all need help. We do. Many times, young men talk to me about their sexual sins. That is not unusual. However, I know of a pastor who had a young man talk to him about a problem concerning sexual sin, but the pastor could not help this young man. Do you know why? He did not come to church. He did not commit to youth group. He needed God’s help, but anytime there was a conflict between sports and church sports wins. Do you know why? The family did not realize they are broken. Now, suppose that young man started attending youth group and church, discipleship would help him. Or, suppose he attended the high school version of Celebrate Recovery and went through their discipleship program. That would help. Otherwise, it will get worse.
    • Some at Bethel have commented with concerns about Celebrate Recovery. Some are concerned that we do not want “those” people around our children or grandchildren. Do you know why that comment crosses our mind? I will tell you. It is because we do not realize we are all “those” people. Seriously, we are concerned about Celebrate Recovery when we are not concerned about choosing a sporting event over church. Really, we are concerned about Celebrate Recovery when we are not concerned about the dangers of wealth and affluence.
    • Someone asked a missionary how they could risk their family in a dangerous location and they responded about the dangers in America: dangers like wealth and affluence.
    • We are all broken.
    • However, do we realize that we need a Savior for this life now?
    • We are all broken.
    • We are all in need.
    • Take divorce for example. Even if you have not been divorced, you know others affected by divorce. You have children hurt by divorce. You have siblings hurt by divorce. You have friends hurt by divorce.
    • We are all affected by sin, and we need to run to Jesus for help.
    • Take homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ movement. All of us are affected by that because we see it in the media and the media is passively affecting us. Further, if our children are in the schools, especially public schools, they are definitely affected by it.

So, recognize two things:

We are not okay, but if we are a Christian Jesus is making us okay.

We need to stay with Jesus, and we need to recognize our brokenness. We must not think that we are righteous in ourselves.

The Christian life is firmly making the decision to be with Jesus, in order to become like Him, to learn and do that He says and arrange your affairs around Him (John 15:1-11).

Do we realize we are broken?

Stick with Jesus. Jesus wants to help us, but oftentimes we are ignoring the help He wants us to take.

You know the story of the man stuck on the roof during a flood. God sends 3 people to help, one had a boat, one a helicopter, and one something else, and he turned them away. He said, “God is going to rescue me.” He dies, gets to heaven and said to God, “Why didn’t you rescue me?” God said that He sent 3 people to rescue him. Don’t ignore God’s methods of spiritual growth.

The first step is to recognize we are needy. We need salvation, and we need help in this life now.


[1] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 457-458). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.

[2] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 459). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition

[3] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 459). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.


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