Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 13: Two Worshipers
Based on Luke 18:9-14
"Unto certain which trusted in themselves that they
were righteous, and despised others," Christ spoke the
parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee
goes up to the temple to worship, not because he feels that
he is a sinner in need of pardon, but because he thinks
himself righteous and hopes to win commendation. His
worship he regards as an act of merit that will recommend
him to God. At the same time it will give the people
a high opinion of his piety. He hopes to secure favor
with both God and man. His worship is prompted by
|The Two Worshipers.—Davis Collection.|
And he is full of self-praise. He looks it, he walks it,
he prays it. Drawing apart from others as if to say,
"Come not near to me; for I am holier than thou" (Isa.
65:5), he stands and prays "with himself." Wholly
self-satisfied, he thinks that God and men regard him with the
"God, I thank thee," he says, "that I am not as other
men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this [p. 151] publican." He judges his character, not by the holy
character of God, but by the character of other men. His
mind is turned away from God to humanity. This is the
secret of his self-satisfaction.
He proceeds to recount his good deeds: "I fast twice
in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." The
religion of the Pharisee does not touch the soul. He is
not seeking Godlikeness of character, a heart filled with
love and mercy. He is satisfied with a religion that has
to do only with outward life. His righteousness is
his own—the fruit of his own works—and judged by a
Whoever trusts in himself that he is righteous, will
despise others. As the Pharisee judges himself by other
men, so he judges other men by himself. His righteousness
is estimated by theirs, and the worse they are the more
righteous by contrast he appears. His self-righteousness
leads to accusing. "Other men" he condemns as
transgressors of God's law. Thus he is making manifest the
very spirit of Satan, the accuser of the brethren. With
this spirit it is impossible for him to enter into communion
with God. He goes down to his house destitute of the
The publican had gone to the temple with other
worshipers, but he soon drew apart from them as unworthy
to unite in their devotions. Standing afar off, he "would
not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote
upon his breast," in bitter anguish and self-abhorrence.
He felt that he had transgressed against God, that he was
sinful and polluted. He could not expect even pity from
those around him, for they looked upon him with contempt.
He knew that he had no merit to commend him to God,
and in utter self-despair he cried, "God be merciful to me,
a sinner." He did not compare himself with others. [p. 152] Overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, he stood as if alone
in God's presence. His only desire was for pardon and
peace, his only plea was the mercy of God. And he was
blessed. "I tell you," Christ said, "this man went down
to his house justified rather than the other."
The Pharisee and the publican represent two great
classes into which those who come to worship God are
divided. Their first two representatives are found in the
first two children that were born into the world. Cain
thought himself righteous, and he came to God with a
thank offering only. He made no confession of sin, and
acknowledged no need of mercy. But Abel came with
the blood that pointed to the Lamb of God. He came as
a sinner, confessing himself lost; his only hope was the
unmerited love of God. The Lord had respect to his
offering, but to Cain and his offering He had not respect.
The sense of need, the recognition of our poverty and sin,
is the very first condition of acceptance with God. "Blessed
are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
For each of the classes represented by the Pharisee and
the publican there is a lesson in the history of the apostle
Peter. In his early discipleship Peter thought himself
strong. Like the Pharisee, in his own estimation he was
"not as other men are." When Christ on the eve of His
betrayal forewarned His disciples, "All ye shall be offended
because of Me this night," Peter confidently declared,
"Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." Mark
14:27, 29. Peter did not know his own danger.
Self-confidence misled him. He thought himself able to
withstand temptation; but in a few short hours the test came,
and with cursing and swearing he denied his Lord.
When the crowing of the cock reminded him of the
words of Christ, surprised and shocked at what he had just [p. 154] done he turned and looked at his Master. At that moment
Christ looked at Peter, and beneath that grieved look, in
which compassion and love for him were blended, Peter
understood himself. He went out and wept bitterly. That
look of Christ's broke his heart. Peter had come to the
turning point, and bitterly did he repent his sin. He was
like the publican in his contrition and repentance, and like
the publican he found mercy. The look of Christ assured
him of pardon.
Now his self-confidence was gone. Never again were
the old boastful assertions repeated.
Christ after His resurrection thrice tested Peter.
"Simon, son of Jonas," He said, "lovest thou Me more than
these?" Peter did not now exalt himself above his brethren.
He appealed to the One who could read His heart.
"Lord," he said, "Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest
that I love Thee." John 21:15, 17.
Then he received his commission. A work broader and
more delicate than had heretofore been his was appointed
him. Christ bade him feed the sheep and the lambs. In
thus committing to his stewardship the souls for whom the
Saviour had laid down his own life, Christ gave to Peter
the strongest proof of confidence in his restoration. The
once restless, boastful, self-confident disciple had become
subdued and contrite. Henceforth he followed his Lord in
self-denial and self-sacrifice. He was a partaker of Christ's
sufferings; and when Christ shall sit upon the throne of
His glory, Peter will be a partaker in His glory.
The evil that led to Peter's fall and that shut out the
Pharisee from communion with God is proving the ruin of
thousands today. There is nothing so offensive to God or
so dangerous to the human soul as pride and self-sufficiency.
Of all sins it is the most hopeless, the most
incurable. [p. 155]
Peter's fall was not instantaneous, but gradual.
Self-confidence led him to the belief that he was saved, and
step after step was taken in the downward path, until he
could deny his Master. Never can we safely put confidence
in self or feel, this side of heaven, that we are secure
against temptation. Those who accept the Saviour, however
sincere their conversion, should never be taught to say
or to feel that they are saved. This is misleading. Every
one should be taught to cherish hope and faith; but even
when we give ourselves to Christ and know that He accepts
us, we are not beyond the reach of temptation. God's word
declares, "Many shall be purified, and made white, and
tried." Dan. 12:10. Only he who endures the trial will
receive the crown of life. (James 1:12.)
Those who accept Christ, and in their first confidence
say, I am saved, are in danger of trusting to themselves.
They lose sight of their own weakness and their constant
need of divine strength. They are unprepared for Satan's
devices, and under temptation many, like Peter, fall into the
very depths of sin. We are admonished, "Let him that
thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10:12.
Our only safety is in constant distrust of self, and dependence
It was necessary for Peter to learn his own defects of
character, and his need of the power and grace of Christ.
The Lord could not save him from trial, but He could
have saved him from defeat. Had Peter been willing to
receive Christ's warning, he would have been watching unto
prayer. He would have walked with fear and trembling
lest his feet should stumble. And he would have received
divine help so that Satan could not have gained the victory.
It was through self-sufficiency that Peter fell; and it
was through repentance and humiliation that his feet were
again established. In the record of his experience every
repenting sinner may find encouragement. Though Peter [p. 156] had grievously sinned, he was not forsaken. The words
of Christ were written upon his soul, "I have prayed for
thee, that thy faith fail not." Luke 22:32. In his bitter
agony of remorse, this prayer, and the memory of Christ's
look of love and pity, gave him hope. Christ after His
resurrection remembered Peter, and gave the angel the
message for the women, "Go your way, tell His disciples
and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall
ye see Him." Mark 16:7. Peter's repentance was accepted
by the sin-pardoning Saviour.
And the same compassion that reached out to rescue
Peter is extended to every soul who has fallen under
temptation. It is Satan's special device to lead man into
sin, and then leave him, helpless and trembling, fearing to
seek for pardon. But why should we fear, when God has
said, "Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make
peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me?" Isa.
27:5. Every provision has been made for our infirmities,
every encouragement offered us to come to Christ.
Christ offered up His broken body to purchase back
God's heritage, to give man another trial. "Wherefore He
is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto
God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession
for them." Heb. 7:25. By His spotless life, His obedience,
His death on the cross of Calvary, Christ interceded for
the lost race. And now, not as a mere petitioner does the
Captain of our salvation intercede for us, but as a
Conqueror claiming His victory. His offering is complete, and
as our Intercessor He executes His self-appointed work,
holding before God the censer containing His own spotless
merits and the prayers, confessions, and thanksgiving of
His people. Perfumed with the fragrance of His righteousness,
these ascend to God as a sweet savor. The offering
is wholly acceptable, and pardon covers all transgression. [p. 157]
Christ has pledged Himself to be our substitute and
surety, and He neglects no one. He who could not see
human beings exposed to eternal ruin without pouring out
His soul unto death in their behalf, will look with pity and
compassion upon every soul who realizes that he cannot
He will look upon no trembling suppliant without raising
him up. He who through His own atonement provided
for man an infinite fund of moral power, will not fail to
employ this power in our behalf. We may take our sins
and sorrows to His feet; for He loves us. His every look
and word invites our confidence. He will shape and mold
our characters according to His own will.
In the whole Satanic force there is not power to overcome
one soul who in simple trust casts himself on Christ.
"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no
might He increaseth strength." Isa. 40:29. [p. 158] "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The Lord says, "Only acknowledge thine iniquity,
that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God."
"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall
be clean; from all your filthiness and from all your idols
will I cleanse you." 1 John 1:9; Jer. 3:13; Eze. 36:25.
But we must have a knowledge of ourselves, a knowledge
that will result in contrition, before we can find pardon
and peace. The Pharisee felt no conviction of sin. The
Holy Spirit could not work with him. His soul was encased
in a self-righteous armor which the arrows of God, barbed
and true-aimed by angel hands, failed to penetrate. It is
only he who knows himself to be a sinner that Christ can
save. He came "to heal the brokenhearted, to preach
deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18.
But "they that are whole need not a physician." Luke 5:31.
We must know our real condition, or we shall not feel
our need of Christ's help. We must understand our danger,
or we shall not flee to the refuge. We must feel the pain of
our wounds, or we should not desire healing.
The Lord says, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and
increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest
not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and
blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried
in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment,
that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy
nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with
eyesalve, that thou mayest see." Rev. 3:17, 18. The gold
tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can
bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we
may do much work; but without love, such love as dwelt in
the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the
family of heaven. [p. 159]
No man can of himself understand his errors. "The
heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;
who can know it?" Jer. 17:9. The lips may express a
poverty of soul that the heart does not acknowledge. While
speaking to God of poverty of spirit, the heart may be
swelling with the conceit of its own superior humility and
exalted righteousness. In one way only can a true knowledge
of self be obtained. We must behold Christ. It is
ignorance of Him that makes men so uplifted in their own
righteousness. When we contemplate His purity and excellence,
we shall see our own weakness and poverty and
defects as they really are. We shall see ourselves lost and
hopeless, clad in garments of self-righteousness, like every
other sinner. We shall see that if we are ever saved, it
will not be through our own goodness, but through God's
The prayer of the publican was heard because it showed
dependence reaching forth to lay hold upon Omnipotence.
Self to the publican appeared nothing but shame. Thus it
must be seen by all who seek God. By faith—faith that
renounces all self-trust—the needy suppliant is to lay hold
upon infinite power.
No outward observances can take the place of simple
faith and entire renunciation of self. But no man can empty
himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish
the work. Then the language of the soul will be,
Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy
property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee.
Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self.
Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy
atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through
It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that
this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance [p. 160] step heavenward it is to be renewed. All our good works
are dependent on a power outside of ourselves. Therefore
there needs to be a continual reaching out of the heart after
God, a continual, earnest, heartbreaking confession of sin
and humbling of the soul before Him. Only by constant
renunciation of self and dependence on Christ can we walk
The nearer we come to Jesus and the more clearly we
discern the purity of His character, the more clearly we
shall discern the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the less
we shall feel like exalting ourselves. Those whom heaven
recognizes as holy ones are the last to parade their own
goodness. The apostle Peter became a faithful minister of
Christ, and he was greatly honored with divine light and
power; he had an active part in the upbuilding of Christ's
church; but Peter never forgot the fearful experience of his
humiliation; his sin was forgiven; yet well he knew that
for the weakness of character which had caused his fall
only the grace of Christ could avail. He found in himself
nothing in which to glory.
None of the apostles or prophets ever claimed to be
without sin. Men who have lived nearest to God, men
who would sacrifice life itself rather than knowingly commit
a wrong act, men whom God had honored with divine
light and power, have confessed the sinfulness of their own
nature. They have put no confidence in the flesh, have
claimed no righteousness of their own, but have trusted
wholly in the righteousness of Christ. So will it be with
all who behold Christ.
At every advance step in Christian experience our
repentance will deepen. It is to those whom the Lord has
forgiven, to those whom He acknowledges as His people,
that He says, "Then shall ye remember your own evil
ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe [p. 161] yourselves in your own sight." Eze. 36:31. Again He says,
"I will establish My covenant with thee, and thou shalt
know that I am the Lord; that thou mayest remember, and
be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because
of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that
thou hast done, saith the Lord God." Eze. 16:62, 63. Then
our lips will not be opened in self-glorification. We shall
know that our sufficiency is in Christ alone. We shall make
the apostle's confession our own. "I know that in me (that
is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Rom. 7:18. "God
forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and
I unto the world." Gal. 6:14.
In harmony with this experience is the command,
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do
of His good pleasure." Phil. 2:12, 13. God does not bid
you fear that He will fail to fulfill His promises, that His
patience will weary, or His compassion be found wanting.
Fear lest your will shall not be held in subjection to Christ's
will, lest your hereditary and cultivated traits of character
shall control your life. "It is God which worketh in you
both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Fear lest self
shall interpose between your soul and the great Master
Worker. Fear lest self-will shall mar the high purpose that
through you God desires to accomplish. Fear to trust to
your own strength, fear to withdraw your hand from the
hand of Christ and attempt to walk life's pathway without
His abiding presence.
We need to shun everything that would encourage pride
and self-sufficiency; therefore we should beware of giving
or receiving flattery or praise. It is Satan's work to flatter.
He deals in flattery as well as in accusing and condemnation.
Thus he seeks to work the ruin of the soul. Those [p. 162] who give praise to men are used by Satan as his agents.
Let the workers for Christ direct every word of praise away
from themselves. Let self be put out of sight. Christ alone
is to be exalted. "Unto Him that loved us, and washed
us from our sins in His own blood," let every eye be
directed, and praise from every heart ascend. (Rev. 1:5.)
The life in which the fear of the Lord is cherished will
not be a life of sadness and gloom. It is the absence
of Christ that makes the countenance sad, and the life a
pilgrimage of sighs. Those who are filled with
self-esteem and self-love do not feel the need of a living,
personal union with Christ. The heart that has not fallen on
the Rock is proud of its wholeness. Men want a dignified
religion. They desire to walk in a path wide enough to
take in their own attributes. Their self-love, their love of
popularity and love of praise, exclude the Saviour from
their hearts, and without Him there is gloom and sadness.
But Christ dwelling in the soul is a wellspring of joy. For
all who receive Him, the very keynote of the word of God
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth
eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy
place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of
the contrite ones." Isa. 57:15.
It was when Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock
that he beheld the glory of God. It is when we hide in the
riven Rock that Christ will cover us with His own pierced
hand, and we shall hear what the Lord saith unto His
servants. To us as to Moses, God will reveal Himself
as "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in
goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving
iniquity and transgression and sin." Ex. 34:6, 7.
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copy of this enlightening book about the parables of Christ.
The work of redemption involves consequences of which [p. 163] it is difficult for man to have any conception. "Eye hath
not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that
love Him." 1 Cor. 2:9. As the sinner, drawn by the power
of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates
himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is
given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. God
Himself is "the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
Rom. 3:26. And "whom He justified, them He also glorified."
Rom. 8:30. Great as is the shame and degradation
through sin, even greater will be the honor and exaltation
through redeeming love. To human beings striving for
conformity to the divine image there is imparted an outlay
of heaven's treasure, an excellency of power, that will place
them higher than even the angels who have never fallen.
"Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and His
Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the
nation abhorreth, . . . Kings shall see and arise, princes
also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and
the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose thee." Isa.
"For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased;
and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
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"Shall Not God Avenge His Own?"