Bible is the word of God.
God’s word has different styles:
harsh, gentle, intense, subtle…
Some of those words, timelessly meaningful like beautiful poems:
simple vocabulary, but profoundly significant;
they are ever refreshing when we savour them.
It is not the fanciful vocabulary, but simple words, stirring the hearts of men.
“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.”
We have all become like, it’s not “you”, not “you all”, but “we all”.
When we talk about “sin”,
we do not use the attitude of “I the saint” to look upon “you filthy sinners”,
but that “you and I alike, we all are sinners”.
When we say “you are all sinners”, we may have fallen into the trap of self-righteousness; however, when we say “we are all sinners”, the attitude of deeply acknowledging ourselves of not being saints, rather being all sinners as much as others, will allow us to persevere in the pure faith.
“We”, “all our righteous deeds” are like “polluted garment”.
It is not “all your” righteous deeds being like polluted garment, as if only your righteous acts are rubbish, but it is “all our” righteous deeds being like polluted garment, all my own good works are like dirty clothes, having nothing to boast about.
Whenever we think that our own good works are great, holy and highly valued,
we are looking too highly of ourselves, moving away from God.
Conversely, whenever we see that our own good works are so worthless and having no rights to boast in front of God, having no significance in holiness, and being no more noble than others,
we will become God’s vessels instead, and God will give values to our righteous deeds.
Moreover, it is “all” — all our righteous deeds!
Every single good work of ours, every single one, no exception, is like a polluted garment.
In front of God, they are all trash, having nothing to boast.
They are rubbish.
No matter how much good deeds, they are all rubbish in the eyes of God.
Only with the basis of knowing our own worthlessness,
then we may be able to look at the sins of others, with a humble heart, and without forgetting who we are:
we are no more than sinners saved by grace, as much sinners as others.
“We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
A green leaf, slowly dries up, turns yellow, becomes ugly, funky,
and then when the wind blows, it falls apart, and it is gone.
All our righteous deeds, are just rubbish!
The vast amount of sins we have make us worthless and having nothing to boast, like the fallen leaves, or like the dusts,
fall apart when the wind blows, having no meaning and value in the eyes of God.
The view of “I am precious” is dangerous.
The concept of “I am one who get greatly used by God” is deadly.
The thinking about self-respect, self-believing and self-loving is from secular psychology, not from God’s teachings.
The concept of I being an honourable messenger appointed by God is from the secular world, not from God’s teachings.
If we do not get to know ourselves, know God, and do good deeds on the basis of self-humbling and self-denial,
we will deviate farther and farther from God in our continuous self-affirmation, ultimately going hell.
Hell is a suitable habitat for the so-called “righteous people” — those who regard themselves as good men. Heaven is the destination for the so-called “sinners” — those who regard themselves as bad men.
Those so-called “righteous people” would not think themselves as bad men, they do not feel how greatly they have sinned. That is why they feel no need for the salvation from Jesus Christ. They would not realize that they have nothing to boast being merely sinners who are saved by grace. Therefore, they have proven themselves not desiring for heaven, because that is the place where the sinners who they disdain would go.
Conversely, for those so-called “sinners” who are going to heaven, exactly because they know how unforgivable, how worthless and how unclean they are even comparing to other sinners, they know to cling on to the salvation of Jesus Christ, and only that salvation can forgive their sins. And exactly knowing that they are merely sinners, they dare not boast their righteousness, and only admit that they are as much sinners as everyone else.
The faith of Christianity is a strange faith, especially filled of paradoxes. Those who regard themselves righteous would not get the righteousness they think they are worth of, but those who feel sinful would get rewarded with the righteousness that they think they are unmerited for.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.
Interestingly, the one who expressed these poetic words “we have all become like …”, is not a poet who would write psalms or songs of songs,
but on the contrary, a very serious person: Isaiah.
This prophet was also one who admitted having heavily sinned:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;”
Not that you sinners are doomed, but I the felon is doomed! Not that you people of unclean lips and me a man of clean lips, but “we all” of unclean lips.
It was this man who admitted sinned greatly, this man who saw himself deserved to be doomed, on this basis, God started to use him as a prophet.
So who can be God’s prophet? Who can be a servant which God would use?
“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not… like this tax collector.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'”
Who is one who is saved?
Is he a Pharisee who says “I am not like those sinners”?
Or is he a tax collector who says “Be merciful to me, a sinner”?
Is he one like the Pharisee who think himself holy and distinct from other disdained sinners?
Or is he one like the tax collector who admits undeserving God’s grace, not even lifting up his eyes to heaven?
Dear brothers and sisters,
we know more than others, and see things sharper than the rest,
but often we forget quickly, we ourselves are sinners and no more holier than others.
“Self-righteousness” is a great temptation, a nature of our humanity.
That is why even when we have been saved, we still easily fell to sin under our sinful nature, and forget who we are.
However, we ask for God’s mercy on us that we are mere worms and dusts,
may Holy Spirit always remind us: we are merely sinners who are saved by grace, we have nothing to boast, no rights to be self-righteous.
On the basis of always knowing ourselves as sinners, let us run the heavenward journey together in the pursuit of sanctification.
May God help us all.