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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner."—Luke 18:13 (NLT)
“It’s all in the approach.” Over the years I have found this expression to be true! When I was young, I was told the approach I took to courting a girl was important. If I came off too eager, it may scare her off, but too timid and she won’t notice me.
I was taught how to approach a job interview, an animal, and confrontation. I learned that sometimes the way an action or comment is perceived depends on your approach. I learned that whether advice is received or ignored depends on the way you approach the topic.
Here’s something else I learned: The way we approach God determines whether or not we are received by Him. James 4:6 (HCSB) tells us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The word used here for “resist” is antitassetai, which means “to set oneself against; to oppose intensely; to reject the entire make-up of something.” It was used in antiquity to describe an organized resistance, like an army assuming a specific battle-array position to resist an unwanted and unwelcome foe. What a powerful picture! Those who approach God from a position of pride are treated like a despotic force that must be resisted, like an invading army that must be kept out.
Jesus cements this with as clear a picture as you’ll ever see in Luke 18 through the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In this story, a Pharisee approached the Lord in prayer. This prideful Pharisee prayed, thanking God he wasn’t like other detestable sinners, exalting himself at the expense of others and lauding his righteousness, and he had the nerve to peddle that righteousness before God.
But, as today’s verse shows, the despised tax collector couldn’t even lift his head before Almighty God. He approached the Lord in complete humility, from a low position, knowing He wasn’t worthy of even lifting his head before a perfect God. He acknowledged his sinfulness and prayed for the Lord’s beautiful mercy.
This is how we should always approach God, even after 50, 75, or 100 years as believers—even with two master’s in theology, 20 years in ministry, or 1,000 baptisms performed and demons cast out. We are never righteous or holy enough to approach our Lord any other way. For “I know that nothing good lives in me” (Romans 7:18 NLT), and that I was made right with God solely through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). I pray we would always approach God with humility and reverence, leaving pride at the door!
DIG: Read Mark 10:13–31, Luke 18:9–14, Galatians 2:19–21, and Philippians 2:1–11.
DISCOVER: How have you seen your approach toward something impact the way it’s received or the way it turns out? How has the way someone approached you impacted your interaction and perception of them? How are you approaching Christ?
DISPLAY: Consider your approach any time you enter into prayer today. Intentionally approach the Lord from a position of true surrender and humility. Also, be intentional about approaching others in humility, compassion, and empathy.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.