Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
I know. It’s kind of depressing if you think about it. We are sinners, there is no one righteous, not one. My righteous acts are like filthy rags when held in comparison to His holiness. And there is nothing I can do about it. I can never be “good” enough or righteous enough. Not great news for a people pleaser like me.
But God is good. We spent the better part of a 2 hour discussion at our small group on the book Good News for Those Trying Harder
debating the definition of “good.” I’ll save you some time and let you know that the answer—as difficult as it is to wrap our human brains around—is God. Only God is good. We are incapable of doing any good on our own, at least from God’s perspective.
Paul writes in Romans 7: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
We also looked at Romans 14:23, which says: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” We can reason then that anything done in faith is good. Anything done in faith is work done by God through us, and not really by us at all.
I know, I know. Before you say “But what about the person who feeds the poor or gives shelter to an orphan?” Those are humane actions. They are good by our human definition. But spiritually speaking, no amount of good will done on earth is of any value to God, unless it is done in faith. when we see things from God’s perspective, we can see that they are “filthy rags.”
Yet, God expects His people to live Godly lives and He provides all that we need to do so. We can only become righteous not through our own righteousness but through the power of Christ’s righteousness.
At BSF this week, we studied closely a song sung by Isaiah on behalf of God to the Israelites.
In the song, Isaiah paints a picture of a vineyard on choice land, a fertile hillside that God specially prepared and then He planted only the choicest vines. He watched over it to protect it and waited to reap an abundant harvest. Remember, these were God’s chosen people, whom he had lavished His love on and cared for over generations. God did all the work. But what He got was bad fruit, the original language ba’ushiym, which literally means “stinking” or worthless things: stinkberries.
This specially planted vineyard has turned out to be offensive in response to God’s extravagant grace. God expected the vine to bear fruit, but it produced only stinkberries. There is a huge difference between what Israel was called to be and what she had shown herself to be. But there was nothing more that God could have done. No amount of pruning or tending would have produced any different results.
Likewise, we cannot blame God for our bad choices, done in the flesh. It also does no good to dwell on them. Instead, look up and move forward. Like Isaiah who was “undone” by the gravity of his sin but was ready for whatever God had planned for him, before he even knew the details, simply obey. Say “Here I am!” and set your mind on things of the Spirit. If we trust in Him to take care of the details and we just don’t get in the way with our own selfish perspective or fears or desires, He can do great work through us. The result is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness—fruit of the spirit, not stinkberries.
“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:10-11