People of the Cross
Jesus was the master of bringing to us extreme contrasts of personalities that were in conflict with the truth. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican Jesus gives a very serious warning to those who make professions of faith but do not possess what they profess. The warning to the Church is that the Body of Christ is made up of both the wheat and the tares, what St. Augustine called a "corpus permixtum", that is a "mixed group" - those who have faith and those who do not. The Pharisee had a blurred view of God. He believed in justification by segregation, keeping himself clean from anyone who would be polluted. To assume that we are going to enter heaven because we live the good life, or tried to live a better life than others around us is a huge mistake. Standing in stark contrast to this man is the Publican beating his breast saying, "God be merciful to me," unable to even raise his eyes to heaven. At the conclusion of this parable Jesus says, "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."
The death and resurrection of Christ brings us to some serious warnings for those who think their personal merit and self-righteousness will gain them access to God. Jesus' death on the cross accompanied by His resurrection guarantees our salvation not because of any merit of our own, but because of Christ's perfect obedience to the Father.
Do you struggle with guilt and fear that God would never accept you into His Kingdom because you have not been good enough, because you have failed too many times, because of the sin that continues to haunt your mind? You are not alone. Remember Paul's warning to us in Romans 3:10, "There is no one righteous, no not one." It is by His death and resurrection that Jesus imputed righteousness to you. To believe in God the Son, both confessing with our mouths that Jesus is the Christ, and believing in our hearts that He is risen from the dead, is the only justification for our salvation. Go in peace with this and let your heart and mind never lose sight of it.