Filthy Rags

My 4 year old brother waddled into my family’s kitchen. I was around the age of 6, and was engaged in conversation with my mom (a highly intellectually stimulating conversation for her I’m sure). My mom slowly began to pay less attention to me and shift her focus to my brother Kaleb. He was sporting a very large grin (not uncommon for him in those days) and had his hands held behind his back. He slowly shifted back and forth on his feet, and eventually, once he was sure he had our attention, he held out his hand and proclaimed: “look!”  Inside his little hands, he clung to a tail, and dangling there was… a mouse. And a very dead mouse at that. He promptly stuck it out to show our mother his exciting find! How proud she must be! He had just found this wonderful looking thing dead in the other room on the floor! How great, right!? I won’t even attempt to begin to describe the face and noise that my mother made upon seeing it, but suffice it to say, it was glorious. Once she had overcome the shock of meeting Kaleb’s little friend, she quickly grabbed him and had him throw away his fun, new play-mate away in our trash can outside.

Last week in chapel here at Summit University, we sang a song that I first heard 6-7 years ago. It is called “Not What my Hands Have Done” or “Guilty Hands” by Aaron Keyes. The chorus begins with these words “These guilty hands are raised, filthy rags are all I bring.” Those words are so condemning, yet so true. They’re taken from Isaiah 64, where the prophet compares both his and his peoples’ righteous deeds to filthy rags or “polluted garments.”

Before salvation, we were all dead to sin. Dead. That implies the fact that we could do nothing. We were in bondage and could not overcome it, we had no power. But, Christ and His sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sin, and now we are redeemed! End of story, yes? We now often times come before the throne of grace and cast all of the deeds we perform at our Savior’s feet as we smugly proclaim “look at what I did for you Lord.” AND IT IS SO TWISTED! On one hand, we as believers are doing things for Christ; but it is completely with the wrong perspective and an arrogant mindset! Perhaps we need to be reminded of our humble standing before God. We aren’t righteous before God because of our own standing, but because of what Christ did! When we were declared righteous, it was because when the Father looked at us, He saw Jesus Christ and His sacrifice! And that is still true in the deeds we perform today! Our “righteous” acts are made possible by Him! When we come before the God with all of the things that WE have done, we’re shoving nasty filthy rags in his face!!! Rags stained by our pride, anger, sin, and the nastiness of a depraved heart! We’re like my brother when he was 4, proudly displaying the dead mouse to my mother! Our righteousness is nothing. When we come before God and show Him the things that we think we have done, we’re only showing off the very dirty rags that reflect the old man

That song I mentioned earlier by Aaron Keyes? The chorus ends with this “now these holy hands are raised, washed in the fountain of Your grace. Now I wear your righteousness.” Our hands have been washed and covered by Christ. His grace has washed away or sin, our shame, our filth. It is through Him that we are made and declared righteous.

How could we ever again be proud of filthy rags if we recognize that Christ has washed us white as snow?

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