Unrighteous Righteous Deeds
Read Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
According to Isaiah, do our attempts to “do good” amount to anything of value? Can we be good enough to earn our salvation?
Have you seen the mantra “Be a Good Human” out there? Maybe it was on a T-shirt or a meme? What about “Just Be Kind” or something like that? It seems like good advice on the surface. We should try to be good humans and we should be kind to one another. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s certainly important!
But if we examine these two philosophies further, we will find that they come up incredibly short in God’s eyes. Why? Because God is holy and we are sinners. Everything that we do is polluted by sin. We are tainted. That’s why, in today’s verse, Isaiah says, our righteous deeds are like filthy rags. Even the good works that we try to do are disgusting and repugnant to Him. We are unclean. And because of that, we are separated from God. There isn’t anything we can do to earn our way back to Him. We deserve death.
We need a substitute. We need someone who is perfect and holy to take our place. Romans 3:23 says that all fall short of the glory of God. Thankfully, God sent us the perfect substitute! His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
Propitiation means appeasing or satisfying. In this case, we deserve God’s wrath and we deserve to die. But Jesus’ sacrifice satisfies the wrath of God on our behalf. Jesus is what we were not—clean! While our righteousness amounts to filthy rags, His righteousness is perfect, holy, and sufficient. When we are in Him, He makes us righteous. Not because of anything we have done, but because of who Jesus is and what He did on our behalf.
Friends, we have all sinned. We are not holy, blameless, or without blemish. Thanks be to God for sending His Son, Jesus to be a substitute. He is the acceptable sacrifice that we never could be. “He saved us, not because of the works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, ESV).
Jesus, thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for living the perfect life and being the Lamb without blemish that I never could be. My works are not my righteousness, You alone are. Amen.