Climb Down the Ladder

August 2, 2020

David Sorn

If you’ve been spending a lot of time lately talking about how foolish other people are, it could be because you’ve put yourself on the wrong place on the ladder.

Climb Down the Ladder

August 2, 2020

David Sorn

If you’ve been spending a lot of time lately talking about how foolish other people are, it could be because you’ve put yourself on the wrong place on the ladder.



Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

Have you ever noticed how almost all of us are seeking approval in some way?

We want to be noticed, gain approval.

We want someone from the outside to tell us that “we are good”

Of course, it looks different for different people, but in every culture, every person has an innate hunger for approval and acceptance.

And it’s something that you can’t give yourself.

The Bible calls this righteousness.

Being declared good.

And we all want to be known as good.

It just looks different for different people.

Some people try and get it by being a rule-follower

Others by accomplishing more than everyone else

Others by being the most moral

Some try and seek approval, oddly enough by impressing peers by the degree of their rebellion

Others try and be a good person by showing how accepting they are or how tolerant they are of everyone else.

And ironically, the very fact that they are accepting and tolerant makes them feel like they are a better person (a more moral person) than those who they deem as not as accepting.

We all want to be declared “Good”… or “righteous” as the Bible would say.

Now, keep that in mind as we open up the Scriptures today.

We’re continuing in the Book of Luke…making great progress this summer…all the way in chapter 18 now

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(Luke 18:9-14) – NIV

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Okay, look at verse 9, our first verse.

Jesus is telling this parable to “some who were CONFIDENT OF THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS”

These are people that were sure that God approved of them and would say they are “the good people”

And often they believe God would approve of them because of their good deeds they perform “on the outside”…in front of others

That’s what we see with the Pharisee in Jesus’ story:

He goes to the temple to pray, but he says “I” FOUR times in one very short prayer.

“God, I, I, I, I am really great. You’re welcome for me being me.”

There is actually no “prayer” in anything he said…

And for many of us, we roll our eyes at the Pharisees in their pride.

But be careful here, pride is sneaky.

Don’t be like the Sunday School Teacher who taught her students this passage and then, without thinking, closed the lesson by saying, “Children let’s bow our heads and thank God that we are not like the Pharisee.”

Because as soon as you roll your eyes at the Pharisee, you’ve made the same mistake they made.

You’ve considered yourself better than them because of something you’ve done…or didn’t do.

And this is one of the plagues of the human race.

We constantly want to put ourselves on a ladder with everyone else, and then come up with a list of justifiable reasons for why we’re mostly on top or “above” everyone else on that ladder.

And before you say, “David, I don’t do that,” let me ask you where you rank yourself on being right on some of the following things:

I want you to think of your friends and family and then put yourself on the proverbial ladder with them.

In other words, rank yourself with them…

The person who is the best, or the most right, is on top of the ladder…

The person who is the worst, or the most wrong, is on the bottom of the ladder

Okay, first question:

Your response to the virus…deciding whether or not to be with friends, go out in public, restaurants etc.

Where would you rank your response compared to your friends and family?

Who has been more right? You or them? Whoever is the most right goes to the top of the ladder.

Where are you on the ladder?

Okay, second question:

What about politics?

Maybe think of your co-workers this time.. Or your neighbors.

If you had to rank everyone by who has the best political view (worst being on the bottom of the ladder, best being on the top)…where are you on that ladder?

Do you see how we justify ourselves?

What about “Who lives the most moral life?”

Where are you on the ladder?

And we could do this all day

We are blind to our own sins and shortcomings.

2 weeks ago, I sent out a survey to all of my staff, our board, our church planters, and a few others I work closely with and asked them to give me 360 Degree Feedback.

Basically they had to answer questions like, “What’s it like to experience David at his worst?” “Where does David need to grow as a person?”

And I got feedback from 16 of our leaders.

I threw a couple of positive questions in there as well, so no one would have to mop me off the floor

But why would I do this? Subject myself to such pain?

Because the reality is I am a sinner…with lots of faults.

And just because I might not see some of those faults, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

“As humans, we have an unbelievable ability to unique determine for ourselves the things that make us “Good,” and the things that make others “bad”

And these, always, quite conveniently, work out in our own personal favor.

We push off of others to get ourselves up higher on the ladder.

I suppose, so we can live with ourselves.

So we don’t have to sit in such a state of despair because of our sin.

That way, as we cast down stones to the people below us on the ladder, we can at least feel good about our high standing.

So let me ask you, “Who is below you on the ladder?”

Who are you better than?

Is it the liberals?

The conservatives?

Those who are divorced?

Those who wear masks? Those who don’t?

Who are you looking down the ladder to?

The answer should be no one.

Which is easier said than done.


I want you to know that there is a major downsides to looking down…looking down the ladder.

Not only is it not what God wants you to do, but there are other downsides as well.

For instance, if you believe you are higher up than others on the ladder, better than others, in time you will come to despise others.

Here you’re going to see that there is a strong link between good, Biblical theology and good Biblical living.

You can see this being played out right before your eyes in our culture right now.

This is the most divided our country has been in my lifetime anyway.

We are polarized.

And like the north Pole and South pole, people are putting themselves (and their right thinking) at the top while placing others (and their poor thinking) further down the ladder at the bottom)

But it’s not just that we’re saying one type of thinking is above the other …we have begun to despise the very PEOPLE below us

It’s moved beyond simply saying, “I think their core assumptions may be incorrect.”

We’ve begun to hate each other.

And it’s easy to do that when you’re core thinking is unbiblical

When you think that you are better than the other.

But you are not.

Friend, look at me, if you’re spending most of your evenings lately talking about how foolish other people are, and how mad they make you…

…it’s because deep inside of YOU, you still have this need for approval.

You have this need to be declared good…that you are right…and righteous.

It bothers you so much because you have a need to know that you’re right.

But hear me, you won’t satisfy that need by pushing yourself higher up the ladder.

If you can’t stop talking lately about how glad you are that you aren’t like those other people…

Realize that your heart is praying the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18…thank God I’m not like…

But friend, continuing to push yourself higher up the ladder of approval…all by pushing down on others…is exhausting.

Don’t you feel tired?

Stop pushing.

You’ll never climb high enough.

There’s another way to find that approval you’re looking for, and it’s not by pushing yourself up the ladder, it’s by climbing down the ladder.


Look at the tax collector…who was a hated man.

The tax collectors betrayed their own people to collect taxes for the Roman Empire.

Tax Collectors did awful things, and we’re clearly known as sinners in that society.

But this tax collector comes into the temple to pray…

He can’t even look towards heaven…

And he beats his breast and says, “God have mercy on me…a sinner”

This man knows He’s at the bottom of the ladder.

He’s not any better than anyone else.

And Jesus says, “He’s the one you’re supposed to be like”

But you’ll never be able to be like him unless you’re comparing yourself to the right thing.

You won’t be like him by trying to shame yourself into it

You won’t be like him by trying to say, “Well, I guess when I compare myself to this or that person, I do fall a little bit short”

No, stop comparing yourself to other people…and start comparing yourself to Jesus and the World of God.

And you’ll see, that the Bible clearly states that there is no one righteous, no one good enough on their own, no not one.

If you compare yourself to a holy and powerful God and can see yourself standing in his presence, in the midst of perfection Himself, and you FEEL his holiness…

You’ll see that you’re at the bottom of the ladder…and never were any higher.

Jesus is not saying that there is a person in this story who is righteous and another who is unrighteous.

He is saying that there are two unrighteous guys, but only one of them actually realizes he’s unrighteous.

The story is told that one day Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates.

Each of the prisoners told the King endless tales of how they were innocent, or misunderstood, or framed.

Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent.

“Well,” said Frederick, “I suppose you are an innocent victim too?”

“No, sir, I’m not,” replied the man.

“I’m guilty and deserve my punishment. I’m trying to learn from it”

Turning to the warden, the king said, “Here, release this guy before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!”

This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 14. Look at it again:

(Luke 18:14a) – NIV

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.

God can forgive the person that knows they are a sinner.

But He can’t forgive the person who thinks they’re on top of the ladder…

And he can’t forgive them, quite simply, because they don’t believe they need forgiveness.

And maybe you’re hearing that for the first time.

I want you to know that Jesus knows all of your sin, all of your shortcomings, and still He died on the cross for you.

He died for your sins…in your place.

And if you would believe in Him and become His follower, He could do what you’ll never be able to do by trying to climb the ladder of goodness.

He can “justify you”

Declare you righteous.

The Bible says God will take Jesus’ perfection (his righteousness), and place it over you…

So God will see you as forgiven.

There’s no other way to be forgiven…you can’t be good enough.

And for those of you that already know this truth intellectually, but emotionally, you haven’t been living in it these past few months.

I urge you to climb down the ladder today.

You’ll never find the approval you’re looking for up there.

What did Jesus say?

Those who exalt themselves will be humbled.

You’ll fall off the top.

No, climb back down.

Remember again…you’re no better than these other people you keep complaining about every night lately.

You are a sinner.

Your identity is not in the fact that you “do this” or “don’t do that”

Your identity is in the fact that despite being a sinful mess, the Son of God died for you and started a relationship with You

The creator of the Universe has declared He loves you…not because of how high you are on the ladder…He just loves you.

And if you could climb back down and see that again, it would lift you up…lift up your spirits.

That’s what Jesus is saying when He says, “Those who humble themselves, will be exalted”

You cannot find approval and love by climbing up the ladder, but you will find it when you climb down.

Climb down the ladder

Let me pray

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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