Would You Wear Dirty Clothes?

No one would wear dirty clothing, much less clothing that is stained. But if you google it, people will wear dirty clothing, because people have different degrees of “dirtiness”.  There is even a scale for degrees of dirt on Reddit, the ultimate test still being the smell test.   The biggest concern is bacteria on your skin, so if we are going to clean out a wardrobe, best we get rid of anything stained or filthy.  Out it goes!

There is one filthy rag that can creep into our wardrobe without realizing it. 

It is a type of righteousness that we make for ourselves.  Isaiah 64:6 describes this filthy rag as a self righteous stink:

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.”

Ever met someone who stinks they are so righteous? This scripture tells us that any self proclaimed righteousness, or righteous acts that we present to God, are like filthy rags to Him. All have sinned, have fall short before God. (Romans  3:23). Therefore, the only righteousness that is acceptable to God is the righteousness that Jesus imparts to us through faith.

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ “(Romans 1:17)

But how does this filthy rag creep into our spiritual wardrobe?  Here it is important to re-evaluate our hearts and minds regarding righteousness or “rightness” with God.

There are four types of righteousness we encounter in the world:

Fake Righteousness: People who pretend to be righteous to impress people.  More and more, we see this in marketing products where suppliers come across as righteous, having a righteous cause or agenda, to increase their sales. For example, green washing powder is more appealing than ordinary washing powder. Likewise, influencers align themselves with a righteous cause because it would appeal to followers on their social media, only to be exposed as not living up to their cause.

All good and well if that is the case, but increasingly people and producers are caught out.  We as Christians are often called “hypocrites” for appearing more righteous than we are.  The original word for hypocrite comes from the term used to describe a theatrical mask, putting on a persona that you really are not.  Today we are finding more and more hypocrites who though sinful are putting on a mask of righteousness.

A Righteousness of Your Own:  This is religious self-righteousness where rules and regulations are followed or even standards that individuals make up for themselves. They often express it as “At least I don’t….” or “I make it a rule to never…”  Scripture says they are “confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else,” for these people, Jesus had a strong message in Luke 18:9-14 about being humble about themselves.

Paul also describes how he thought that this type of perfect righteousness was achievable in Phil 3:4-6,

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” 

He knew all about having a righteousness of his own making.  But concludes in Phil 3:7-9 (emphasis mine)

“But whatever were gains to me, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

When we are prone to living our lives by rules that cannot be broken, we pursue righteousness of our own making that is dependent on our success at keeping these rules without fault.  This is not possible which is why Jesus called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” because, despite their external behaviour in keeping rules, they were still prone to sin and the consequential death (Matt 23:27).

Righteousness based on the human estimation of good:  In recent years, social media and television increasingly guide us into what society thinks is right. Consequently, we adjust our behaviour to have a social “rightness” in our day-to-day living.  We speak, post on social media and adapt our behaviour based on what is currently socially trendy as right behaviour.  We are “woke” or “with it” to the issues around us and supportive in our opinion and behaviour.  This makes us socially acceptable and right to other people.  If we disagree with the current social opinion, we open ourselves to criticism and rejection. We are then considered socially unrighteous or narrow-minded. This is social self-righteousness.

This social self-righteousness would mean that we would even do what is biblically wrong in order to prove socially how “woke” or “with it” we are.  As believers it is important to remember that just because it is socially “right” does not mean it is biblically right with God.  To add ink to the water, if you then, as a believer, promote something that is not socially “right”, it is considered “hate speech.”

Judges 17:6 (ESV) called it being “right in our own eyes.”  We do what is currently right in our own eyes, currently trendy, currently woke, and so adopt a social righteousness, yet hide our own hearts.  People justify their behaviour by making public pronouncements about what is socially right, but it does not mean they are righteous.

Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matt 6:1)

The righteousness that comes from God: This is the righteousness we are supposed to pursue.  The “right-ness” we as believers have, is given to us as a result of our faith in Jesus, who is the only One able to pay the price for our sins.  In God’s court, we are declared righteous by Jesus blood as exchanged for our sin.  This rightness with God cannot be earned or deserved.  It is a gift from God that is given to us when we confess faith in Jesus.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

The acknowledgement of Christ as our Lord and Saviour imparts righteousness to us in God’s sight.  We are declared right (righteous) before God by our faith in Jesus.

But this is not where it stops.

We seek to please God by righteous living: We as believers have righteousness imparted to us, but we still make mistakes and still sin.  But by acknowledging Jesus as Lord by faith, we become new people.

 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:17-21 emphasis mine)

All believers display some degree of righteousness in their behaviour, as they strive to live according to the principles of scripture, but as we have seen, this is NOT what gets us into heaven and right with God.  If you think about it, all religions actually display some form of right living, some living according to a standard of behaviour, but it is a “right living” of our own making.  Good works and religious observance does not make us righteous.  Jesus does.

Now as believers, we live according to the principles of scripture and strive to live righteous lives to please God, not to earn our salvation.  We are children of God, but as any parent knows, there are still naughty children.  We do not always get it right, and are still prone to sin. This behaviour does not mean that we are not still part of the family; instead, as believers, we are disciplined by God and trained into a path of righteousness or right living.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph 5:8-11)

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” (1 Thes 4:1)

We live righteous in order to PLEASE God.

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:9-10)

When we come to know Christ, we are given a white robe of righteousness to cover our sin:

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10 also see Isaiah 1:18.)

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9)

I think it important that we examine our heart and look at what clothing we are wearing to the world.  Do we wear an appropriate humility understanding that Christ makes us righteous?  Is our “right living” motivated by a desire to please God or are our white robes tainted with self righteousness?

Reflection Questions:

  • What does your white robe look like? Have you exchanged the righteousness that you have received from Christ for a false righteousness? Or a righteousness that is dependent on keeping a whole number of rules? Or a righteousness that is socially acceptable but not necessarily based on God’s principles?
  • We have an enemy that would have us ignorant about what the bible teaches about right living (righteousness).  He will do all he can to keep us disconnected from a close relationship with God so that it would never lead to conviction and change in our lives.  To what extent have you allowed the enemy to control the outcome of your life?
  • What area of your life is God pointing at what is the right way to live, but you are not doing it and putting it into practice?  Perhaps it is time to wash that rag.

“ I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. “ (Rev 22:13-14)

Lord, thank you for showing me what the righteousness is that I should pursue.  Thank you Jesus that your blood declares me righteous, let me never believe that it is something that I have earned for myself, or that my life is better than anyone elses.  Help me to recognize that no-one is righteous, not even one and definitely not me. I am grateful for the wonderful gift of righteousness that I receive with salvation.  Help me to examine my heart and mind to ensure that I have not embraced a different kind of righteousness of my own making.  Help me to wash my heart and attitude clean, to have a right view of myself before You and to embrace what is Your gift to me through faith.

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