READ: Luke 18: 9-14


"... If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NIV)



On the last day of our annual retreat which focused on "Having a More Vibrant Church", we were divided into small groups and requested to brainstorm how we could more effectively vitalize our

individual churches. Bill, a member of one of the local churches, led off with a long drawn-out description of the many things that he had done or was presently doing in his church. His numerous accomplishments consisted of successfully leading its recent building drive fund, conducting services in his pastor's absence, teaching an adult Bible class, serving as an elder, etc., etc.. As I listened to him enumerating his many deeds, I was reminded of the Pharisee reminding God of his piety and good deeds. When he paused to consider what else he had done, I rather sarcastically commented," Wow! Your church is certainly lucky to have you!" He rather

"modestly" agreed he had done many good things for his church! I went out of the session shaking my head in dismay at his lack of humility. However, during one of my devotional times during the following week I caught myself reminding God of some of the "good things" I had done! 


I realized then that unfortunately recounting one's good deeds is an easy trap to fall into! At times we even make it sound like God is fortunate to have our services! Further, I recalled the times I had asked God for strength to do a task but seldom consulting him if He really wanted it done or if I were the one to do it!


The publican in the parable realized that he fell short of God's expectations, as we all have. However, he did not remind God of any good works that he might have done. He only said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." The publican recognized his shortcomings and knew he was in need of mercy and God's grace. Further, as long as we have a strong faith in our own ability and the value of our own good works, God's mercy is of no effect. When our Lord said to His disciples, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), what was He really saying to them or us? I believe His message was to yield ourselves to Him and give Him the opportunity to show His power working through us. Too often we pray for the power to do some deed, whereas surrendering ourselves to allow Him to work through us would be the proper approach. It is

when we stop demonstrating our "goodness" and rely on Him that we can truly do "good works" and be justified.