Turn Around


Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. What did you think of the service on Sunday?  What did you agree with?  What did you disagree with?
  2. What does it mean to you to say “I’m sorry”?

Our Study:  Turn Around

“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 13:5

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9


Small group members and guests will:

  1. Know the Biblical injunction for turning from sin and turning to God
  2. Commit to living a life of repentance and obedience to Jesus Christ
  3. Experience the forgiveness and cleansing of the Holy Spirit

Study – Read Luke 18:9-14

Who is this parable addressed to? Verse 9 and the surrounding context give us the answer: those who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.  It’s very easy to assume that this parable was simply addressed to the Pharisees or Sadducees, but both verse 1 and verse 15 – mention that the disciples are present; verse 15 also mentions other followers of Jesus who wanted Jesus to bless their children present; verse 18 mentions a rich ruler who initially shows interest in following Jesus but leaves dismayed.  It appears that this parable is addressed to everyone.

Who are the Pharisees? The Pharisees were a popular group, numbering around 6,000 at the time of Jesus.  The name “Pharisee” means “holy ones” or “those who are separate”. They were also popular with the general population as they practiced a strict and conservative interpretation of Jewish law that did not incorporate Greek or Roman practices. Paul (after his conversion) comments that to be a Pharisee is to be in the “strictest sect” in Judaism (Acts 26:5).  The Pharisees were known for their alms giving (giving to the poor), long prayers, tithing, and fasting (compare with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6).

Who does the Pharisee compare himself to? He compares himself to other men (v. 11) in general and describes them as robbers, evildoers, adulterers.  He specifically refers one man – a tax collector. Tax collectors of the time were not like IRS agents but more like extortionists.  A tax collector would first bid for control of a certain area, promising the Roman government a certain amount of money.  Tax collectors were only responsible for providing that amount to the government – the rest of the money that they earned they could keep.  Jewish tax collectors were especially despised because they were considered traitors as they were complicit with the oppressive Roman occupation government.

Is the Pharisee wrong? In one sense, no.  The Pharisees had a strict regiment of fasting twice a week and meticulous tithing of everything they owned.  Jesus pronounces judgment on this fasting not because they don’t do it but because they neglect justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt 23:23-24). So in this sense the Pharisee is right: they do fast twice a week and tithe ten percent of all they own.  In a more fundamental sense the Pharisee is wrong: his confidence is based on the fact that these actions make him “not like other men

What is the attitude of the tax collector? It is one of abject desperation shown by the fact that he stands off at a far distance and does not look toward heaven (v. 13).  He is self-conscious of his sins and instead of boasting to God about his work he begs for mercy.

Who is justified? To be justified is to be declared righteous by God.  Only those who seek His mercy can be justified by Him.


For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v. 14)  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; Prov. 3:34) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10) Knowing this, we should humble ourselves before God and seek His mercy.  Just as when we pray for faith our trust in God will be tested, when we pray for humility we will be humiliated.  James 3:13 gives us a good place to start: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3) “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) We must humble ourselves to each other as well because Christ came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28).  A good starting point is in Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”


  1. Confess that we have not loved God with all of our minds, all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our strength.  Ask God to forgive us these failures.
  2. Ask God for mercy.
  3. Thank God for sending His son, the epitome of humility, to die for us, the epitome of vanity.
  4. Ask God for the humility to accept His love.
  5. Thank God for sending the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us.
  6. Ask God that we might replace self-righteousness with Christ’s righteousness; that we may take confidence in the work He did rather than our own.
  7. Close with Philippians 2:3-11

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    but made himself nothing,
    taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
    that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Further reading – 1 John

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