Journal Luke 18 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “(Jesus) 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. The Pharisee, standing by himself, pray 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!’
(Jesus said) 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
Observation: Behold the difference between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Jesus is after the hearts of men, not the practice of men.
Analysis: A major precept of the Gospel is that “none are good, no one is righteous…” Ro 3. No one can stand before God on their own. Look at Luke 18:27; the disciples ask imploringly “Then who can be saved?” Jesus replies with a key, an important constant in the Salvation equation: “What is impossible with man…”
That is blunt. Said another way: “Salvation is impossible concerning Man’s efforts and abilities.” No one can save themselves, no one can do enough work, there is no amount of sweat, tears, and accomplishment—even depravations and sacrifices that, compounded together will impress God to allow for Man to come into His presence. God does not grade on a curve.
This is from the book of Job, Bildad conversing with Job: “How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure?” (Job 25:4) [note: this may be taken out of context with the entire discourse but is a truth, nevertheless]
To return to the premise, it is the attitude of the Tax Collector that should be carried in one hand while rejoicing in the undeserved Salvation in the other.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the Sacrifice that allows me, undeserving, to approach you humbly, well aware that I do not deserve your Grace.