“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 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.’ 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!’ 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.” – Luke 18:9-14
Most of us have heard a rumor about them. They're legendary. Who, you may ask? Those spiritual discipline “legends.” I met one once. At McDonald’s, a man told me he has read the Bible every year for 40 something years. Maybe you have met one too. More often than not its one of those “I know a guy who knows a girl” encounters. “This lady has memorized the entire Bible.” “I know a guy who has memorized the entire new testament in Greek!” Years ago I met a man who wouldn’t leave his prayer closet until he got his answers from God. He didn’t eat or sleep. He just prayed. Then, he told me about it.
I once heard a story about a woman who did a horrible thing. One of those things that marks you for life. She now wrestles with the truth of the gospel and doesn’t know if God could forgive her. Recently, she made a profession of faith, but she is still haunted by her terrible sin. She trusts in Jesus but she feels too guilty to open her Bible and she is confused when the pastor uses big theological words.
The man is one type of person, the woman, another. Both live long lives. One grows in popularity because of his Islamic-like discipline. He received the accolades of man and the type of peace that only a good performance can bring. The other lived a hard life and never really found the peace that the gospel offers. She stumbled forward. She was never fully accepted in community group cause she perpetually didn't understand things.
One stands before the Lord and hears the word, “Justified.” One stands before the Lord and receives the word “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” One enters into eternal peace and joy. The other? “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
One was an unlikely saint.