If there is one thing I really cannot stand, it’s a messy house. I am not saying my house doesn’t get messy, because it does. But I can’t stand it that way. When I see a mess, I see chaos and clutter. Some days I can let it go, but then there are those days that I just cannot. I cannot go to bed knowing in the morning as I fumble my way to the coffee pot, I will encounter a housekeeping tragedy.
I am one of those weird people who enjoy watching other people clean their houses on videos. And let me clarify, I do not like to just watch anybody. The few who I do watch, who I am drawn to, are professionals or are reputable. Some older than me. Some are younger than me, but because of their experience, I can learn things from them about cleaning that I may not have known about. I may have been cleaning a certain way, and now I possibly may have learned a new, better, or more efficient way to get things clean and keep them clean.
Whether watching videos or in my own experiences of cleaning, one thing I do know is that what materials you use to clean matters in the results you will get. Inefficient tools produce inefficient results. And if one is trying to make something clean by using a dirty rag – it is not going to work. All you are doing is spreading the previous filth from which the rag was used, what appears to the naked eye to be clean, but now it’s riddled with invisible germs and all kinds of gross stuff you can’t see.
So, we see with those filthy rags we didn’t actually clean anything. We didn’t make anything right or better than it was before. All we did was re-contaminate what we thought we were cleansing.
Isn’t that like our human nature to step back and look at something and think that we made something right on our own, with our abilities, thoughts, and actions? To take credit for things we ought not to? Especially when it comes to spiritual matters and our Christian walk? It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we have obtained any of His goodness on our own. As if by our will, we can check off invisible boxes that said we were good enough in this area and that, therefore the graces, mercies, and salvation bestowed on us is our just reward.
No, my friend. That thinking is so far from the truth and reality of our stance before a holy God.
Isaiah let us know that no matter what we think the best of us is, in and of ourselves, it still amounts to nothing but dirty rags before a holy God. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” (64:6).
On our own, what we bring to the table of our lives and try to clean up, just amounts to mess on top of a mess. Our nature has been sinful from the beginning. This is why Jesus stressed to Nicodemus our need to be born again (John 3:3).
Outside of Christ, there is nothing within us that is powerful enough and good enough to wash away our sins and make us clean. Any attempts within us to answer the charge against us are just that – attempts. They are futile self-efforts of futile self-righteousness. And self-righteous efforts never go far in God’s account book of records. Because for one to claim self-righteousness means they can get right with God on their own and in their own way. Who they are, their works, and their efforts speak for what they think they deserve.
By all accounts, Saul, before he became the apostle Paul, ticked off all the right religious boxes to be able to boast of his own acquired righteousness in the flesh. In his own testimony of himself found in Philippians, he states:
“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (3:4-6).
Have you ever been there with the mentality that the good you are or have is because of you and your efforts? Have you ever looked down on another, even in just your heart, and felt they should be holy like you until God had to come in and knock you off your beast of pride like he did Paul to let you know you didn’t have it as together as you thought you did? You are still harboring some mess inside of you.
At another time, in giving a defense for himself, the apostle Paul said, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day,” (Acts 22:3). And still, to add to his accolades, Paul said at another time, “…I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee…” (Acts 23:6).
Paul supposedly had all the right stuff, and yet, he had nothing, and without Christ, he was nothing.
Back in Philippians 3, Paul continues to write:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (7-9).
Going off his own righteousness obtained by checking off the boxes of the law, Paul became a persecutor of the church. After his transformation, he went from persecuting Jesus (Acts 22:4-8) to calling Him in Philippians 3:8, “My Lord.”
My friend, I don’t care what we think we have or bring to the table. When we meet Jesus, we realize as Paul did, we have nothing on our own. And that is a good place to be!
No matter who we are or what we perceive we have or do not have, we all start out with Jesus in the same way. As Paul testified, “…not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” (Philippians 3:9).
So, whatever those “good enough’s” are that any are holding on to, without the righteousness found only in Christ, all those “good enough” efforts and ideas of self-realized righteousness are as “filthy rags.”
Throw away those dirty rags. We all need Jesus Christ in order to be made right before God; in order to be saved.
Jesus, Himself, said, “…without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5). He also said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6). To make a long story short, we all need Jesus!
I have heard some say something along the lines of, “Well, I’m not as bad as some. I don’t do this or that. What do I need to repent for?” In other words, they may not be super-saints (are any of us?), but they are not that bad either, so why do they need Jesus? Aren’t they good enough the way they are?
To them, I give Jesus’ answer: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6).
At another time, Jesus put to rest the idea of those who thought they were righteous on their own. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Bible says:
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14; bold emphasis added).
Friend, throw away any filthy rags of self-righteousness for they will never make one right before the Lord.
Come to Him humbly like that tax collector, realizing without Jesus cleaning us up on the inside, we will never be clean enough: “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
When one trusts in themselves and their own works of righteousness, they put themselves in the dangerous place of tossing God’s grace aside and adopting a prideful position in life that opposes God and His plan of salvation.
The Bible strictly warns, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
That is the best part of the gospel message. It is never about what we can do, bring, or add to the equation. It always has been, and always will be about Jesus Christ and what He has already done.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:6-11)
Some Pharisees and those in religious circles could not accept Jesus’ message because they, in their self-righteousness, thought they were okay the way they were. They were religious but didn’t have Christ. They looked to be okay in all the right places and to be doing all the right things but took credit for their own perceived holiness. Therefore, they looked down on others when it is only through the sacrifice of Christ that one can receive “atonement” and be made right.
Then, there are those who don’t know or won’t acknowledge Christ, because as previously stated, they are not as bad as some, and think they are “good enough” the way they are. But it is when none of us were “good enough”; when all of us were “sinners” that “Christ died for us.”
Self-righteousness is a set of filthy rags that many try to clean their life with. We may not see the surface dirt, but the invisible attitudes of the heart, God sees it all.
Friend, we must throw away any filthy rags of self-righteousness and realize none of us got here on our own. Everything we have and are is because of the work that Jesus Christ has already performed on the cross. No self-works. No self-efforts. No self-righteousnesses can save any of us. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
And, that salvation, my friends, comes through Jesus Christ alone!
If you want your life to be truly clean, then one must come through Him who is perfectly clean, “without blemish and without spot,” (1 Peter 1:19). No filthy rags will do.
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