“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” Luke 5:32
Heaven rejoices in the broken-hearted repentance of a sinner, not in the boastful pride of the righteous. Jesus makes a point to lay out examples of this truth time and time again throughout His ministry. One of the greatest of these examples that comes to mind is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) which is summed up like this: There was a religious man and a sinner, praying in a church. The religious man was standing tall with arms raised and proclaiming praises aloud. This was a man that many would have looked up to as living the model life, a man who could “do no wrong,” but we see that through his perception of his own perfection, he made the greatest error of all, believing he had no need for a savior. We see this man, arms seemingly raised to his savior while his arms remained crossed to his sinful neighbor. He begins to thank God aloud that he is not like the sinful man next to him. He finishes by listing off his own righteousness and, likewise, the tax collectors' unrighteousness, attempting to prove himself worthy. (Through his prayer, he reveals who he believes his savior to be. Himself.) But then Jesus gives us a look into the prayer of the sinner, who is seen beating his chest, face down, with tears down his cheeks and snot in the sand, and says ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This tax collector would walk home that day justified, knowing that he was in desperate need of it. But the righteous man would walk home un-justified, yet self-deceived, falsely believing he was. (Luke 18:14) For God humbles the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints, because Jesus came to save the repentant sinner, not the self-righteous.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 (ESV)
Heaven sings along with the praises of redeemed sinners. The sinner who knows he doesn’t deserve salvation but has it freely because of Christ rejoices greatly in its reward. He boasts only of knowing Christ because it is the greatest underserved privilege of his life. But the “righteous” person tends to rejoice only in himself because he believes he deserves the reward for his labor.
As it has been said before, there are two types of people in hell; the sinner who believes they’re so good they don’t need salvation, and the sinner who believes they’re so bad that they can’t have it. If this is true, then there is only one type of person who is in heaven: The sinner who knows his desperate need for salvation, believes in the one who offers it, and rejoices in knowing Christ as the greatest gift and privilege of their life.
We are all sinners. This means, ultimately, there is not the sinner and the righteous, only the sinner and the self-deceived. The most important question in your life is this; which will you be? Because Jesus came only for the one on their knees.