Filthy Rags

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“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.”

Isaiah 64:6

What can we offer in exchange for an eternity in Heaven? Nothing. Even our most righteous acts are incomparable to the great righteousness of God. And yet, many are caught up in doing good deeds, not out of kindness but out of what we feel is a necessity. Ouch! are we really that selfish? What it really stems from is lack of understanding and low view of oneself. If we really understood that Jesus’s sacrifice was enough, we would not feel as though we have to “earn” salvation. First of all, we can’t earn something that we don’t deserve. And that brings me to the “low view” problem. The love that God expresses to us, and has already expressed through the sacrifice of His Son, is incomprehensible. It is a never-ending love that goes far above any love we have ever experienced on Earth. That is why we subconsciously strive so hard to “earn” salvation, we simply can’t believe that God has wiped all our sins away and has freely given us salvation! We still think we are worthless worms when he has crowned us as kings and queens! Do we deserve it? No. But because God called us worthy, we are.

Again I must say, God’s words are powerful and they do not return to Him empty. To deny what God has spoken of you is to call Him a liar. Do you really want to disagree with God (the one who created you) on the matter of your worth and His Word? Imagine buying a really nice expensive gift for your child. You can barely contain your excitement as you imagine their face lighting up and the overflowing joy your gift will bring him/her. You hand them the gift and wait beaming from ear to ear. But the child suddenly looks downcast, they refuse to even open the gift and instead thrust it back into your arms saying, “I can’t take this, I don’t deserve it.” You insist again and again that it is theirs and that it even has their name on it, but they continue to refuse….Our God calls us His children, not his slaves, and he even calls us His friends.

If I refused a gift from a parent or friend I would certainly hurt their feelings. Do I deserve their gifts? No. Turning another year older doesn’t come with some entitlement. No matter what society tries to tell you, we are entitled to nothing. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Timothy 6:7) However, because they call me worthy, and love me, they buy me gifts on my birthday. They spend time, energy, and money to bless me on a day that means nothing to everyone else.

Do you really want to please God? Accept what He has given you with thanksgiving. Let Him bless you! let go of this spirit of poverty and lowliness disguised as humility and be who God says you are. Live joyously in intimacy with Him and good deeds will just be a natural expression of God’s love flowing through you so that you can bless others. It won’t come from selfish intent. Just open the gift already! say thank you! and be His friend. That’s what He really wants, for you to be His friend and through your friendship to reflect His goodness to others, heal, raise, restore, and change the world one person at a time.We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)..and you know, the closer we draw in relationship with Him, the more we reflect His heart as well. We begin to notice those around us we completely ignored before in our daily rush, they aren’t strangers but brothers and sisters, lost sheep searching for Jesus…let them see him in you. Your gift of salvation can be shared and in fact was made to be.

I remember growing up thinking that if I sinned I had to pray extra long or read just one more chapter in the Bible or God would be upset. And then I would see someone at church who read and prayed even longer and begin to compare my “deeds”to theirs. Here’s a simple fact that will make you want to shake free of the “earning” mindset. There will always be someone more talented than you, more dedicated, more outwardly beautiful, more smart, more religious…the list goes on and on. Thank God we aren’t called to be the best, this isn’t a competition. God doesn’t pick favorites or sides. He loves everyone equally whether they read for 5 minutes or 55. “Comparison is the death of joy.” (Mark Twain). If we learned anything from Ecclesiastes it’s that we should enjoy life, because fleeting it is, and comparison robs us of our precious time.

Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. “I will not reason and compare, “said Blake; “my business is to create.” Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.”

Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Though others may posses something you don’t have, you surely posses something that they don’t. No one can be you. You are unique and God loves you just the way you are. And His plan for you is just as important as anyone elses. The reason people become known as “great” isn’t because they had something you don’t have…they became great because they discovered the greatness within, the greatness that already existed inside themselves..you see everyone has the same potential for greatness…it’s a choice, a willingness to sacrifice everything for God that makes us stand out from the rest.

I believe that if you are reading this it’s because God wants to tell you something. Maybe you have been struggling so hard to please Him and He wants to tell you, “I was never angry with you.” Maybe the churches you have gone to have told you that you are not worthy and have to do x, y, and z to enter the kingdom of heaven. Or maybe, your past sins have made you feel shame, and you strive to do good works in the desperate hope that you will be forgiven and your debts paid in full….my friend, you are forgiven and your debts were paid in full before you were ever born. Jesus would have died just for you..if you were the only one on earth he would have suffered the same pain to save your soul. It’s a love that I don’t think I will ever fully understand…”As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) One thing we can be sure of though, “We love because He first loved us.”(1 John 4:19) God is love…He doesn’t just have love, but is the very definition and creator of the term…it was in love that He created us, it was in love that He died for us…and it is in love that He gave us the greatest gift of all, an eternity with Him, our Father and our friend. God bless.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

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