“All of us are dirty with sin.
All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth.
All of us are like dead leaves,
and our sins, like the wind, have carried us away. “
Isaiah 64:6, NCV
I have this reoccurring nightmare. I jump out of a plane. I deploy my parachute, and it opens. But it is completely full of holes! Yikes! I wake up before I splat. And then I think in a spiritual sense— what a relief it is to have a holiness that is given, or imputed. If somehow you could turn off the spigot of the holiness he gives, and then run on your own merits; how far would you go?
Among good Christian people, there is an occupational hazard of sorts, and that is to “advance” in our thinking to that place where we are doing fine on our own. We very much appreciated Jesus’ help– but now, at this moment, I must figure it out by myself. This line of thinking, is called “self-righteousness.”
“Many have passed the rocks of gross sins – who have suffered shipwreck upon the sands of self-righteousness.”
—William Secker:’The Consistent Christian,’ 1660
We begin to travel in our sense of ourselves, away from a desperate, clinging to a trust in his mercy that is moving to a place of a confident, strutting awareness of having put ourselves back together again. This is the ‘evil ones’ work– to steer you into self-righteousness. Once you get there, he can just release you and let you ‘stew in your own juices,’ while he rules over your soul.
Becoming self-righteous should scare us to death. It will damn our souls just as quick as adultery, or murder. It is evil, and it sedates us to the place where it can work, unhindered and unchallenged. I’ve read that some predators inject first an anesthetic to soothe their prey. This enables them to take their time, as they slaughter them.
I have had several bouts with self-righteousness. (And I bet I’ll have several more.) It is sin that will give you a wonderful back massage, just before it reaches for the knife that will cut your throat. Somehow, we are lulled into this and my! I’m such a good person (even after such a dark and evil start.)
“Self-righteousness is the largest idol of the human heart – the idol which man loves most and God hates most. Dearly beloved, you will always be going back to this idol. You are always trying to be something in yourself, to gain God’s favour by thinking little of your sin, or by looking to your repentance, tears, prayers ; or by looking to your religious exercises, your frames, etc; or by looking to your graces, the Spirit’s work in your heart.”
–Robert Murray McCheyne
Jesus was, and is, and will be all my “righteousness.”
We must cling to these hand-holds of grace. The waves are substantial, and we most certainly would be swept out to sea. But we grab and hold on to him. And he holds on to us! The fantasy of having enough of my own created righteousness to please God is simply a crock. Jesus was, and is, and will be all my “righteousness.” I have nothing– nothing else.