Filthy Rags

Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?

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.

No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and made us waste away because of our sins.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD;
do not remember our sins forever.
Oh, look upon us, we pray,
for we are all your people.

Isaiah 64:4-9

Who are we to think that we can stand before a Holy God? Who are we to think that anything we do, any work we accomplish is good in the eyes of God? Not one of us “is good” or “does good” in the sight of God.

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.

“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

Luke 18:18-30

Though we may think that we are living in a godly and upright way, all that we do, “all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags”. (Isaiah 63:6) There is nothing in life that we can do which makes us righteous before God. We are sinful creatures and no matter how hard we attempt to live an honest, moral life, we will always fail.

We all are unclean and filthy from our sin and cannot stand in the presence of God on our own. Because God loved us so incredibly much, He sent His only Son Jesus to die in our place so that our sins would be forgiven. The blood of Christ covers us and we are made clean.

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are they
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

Romans 4:4-8

It is only because of the blood of Christ that our feeble attempts at being righteous become enough. Nothing that we do makes us presentable before God but because of the blood of Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we are clean, pure, and blameless before Him.

“Doing the right thing” will never be enough before God. Though we are not holy, we are called to live a holy life that is pleasing to God (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
and only because of the blood of Christ and His work, His death on the cross are we presentable before God.

We are finite in our thinking. We read the Bible and think that what we interpret it to say is what it is and if others do not follow or believe exactly as we do then they must be lost or completely wrong in their thinking. This was my thinking for many years. I thought I had a clear understanding of all God wanted from me and knew exactly what He wanted me to do. At times I chose to listen to those around me for direction because I thought they knew just like I did about what God wanted for me but God has shown me differently. I have spent years making decisions based on what other people would think about me, not wanting to disappoint or look bad but over the past year God has clearly shown me that my choices should only matter to Him. I’ve learned that only God knows my heart, He knows every tear I have cried, every struggle I have had to endure, every circumstance in my life making only Him capable of telling me which way it is I am to go.

Through the commotion of “the crowd” around me wanting to give advice, I am reminded that they too, just like me are sinful and filthy before God. I cannot trust every word that comes from the mouth of another because they are not God and do not know every detail that has taken place within the circumstances that surround me. There is only one voice above the chatter of the crowd saying to me…..

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, they are plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

I have realized that the place I have found myself recently is because of choices I have made over many years. I believe God’s hand has been on me but that He allowed me to choose my own way. Many times the choices I made were wrong and have led me down a winding path where I have ended up lost, confused, and not sure which way to go. There are many voices calling out trying to get me to do what they think is best and sometimes those voices only lead me deeper into confusion. Scripture tells me that in order for my path to be straight, I must acknowledge God and trust Him will all of my heart. He alone knows the plans that He has for my life and though I may have detoured from the original path that He set before me, by choosing to listen to Him and trusting His ways now, He will not harm me and will give me hope and a future. Knowing those things, I have no reason to be anxious about all the decisions that are surrounding me at this time in my life.

With each step I take, I know that as I present every need and request to God, His peace will fill my life in a way that only I and no one else will understand. He will guard my heart and my mind because He is God, He does love me, and He knows my every need, my every hurt, my every tear, my every circumstance.