Even our good deeds are like filthy rags, like showing off at church!

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” – Isaiah 64:6

All of the world’s major religions teach that a person may merit Heaven/Paradise/Nirvana/Jannah by becoming increasingly good and moral. The exception is Biblical Christianity, which declares that everyone is a sinner and no one can merit salvation. Only by repenting (turning from rebellion against God) and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone can a person be saved.

The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 that even our “good deeds” are tainted by sin and are as “filthy rags” in God’s sight. But how can that be?, people ask. I do A LOT of good things!, people object. However, even the “good” that we think we do is routinely motivated by sin. I can think of one humorous example.

My wife and I began attending a Gospel-preaching church right after we were saved back in the early-1980s. Things were done differently at church back then. Everyone brought their Bibles to church and we also used hymnals. These days, Scripture passages and CCM song lyrics are shown on the auditorium overhead, so many attendees leave their Bible at home (if they even have a hardbound Bible). But back then, everyone brought their Bible to church. If you showed up to church without a Bible, boy oh boy, you were judged to be spiritually lax or immature. Whoops, I’m already pointing out how our “goodnesses” are tainted and I haven’t even gotten to my example yet. Okay, let’s proceed.

Throughout the course of his thrice-weekly sermons, the pastor had us constantly picking through our Bibles. “Turn in your Bibles to…” was a regular instruction. When you’re a new believer, it’s very difficult to navigate through the Bible with its 66 books and odd sounding book names. Most new Christians had to resort to…argh…the index. But over time, the new believer became better acquainted with where all of the different books of the Bible were in conjunction with each other and could join in the race. The race? Every time the pastor called out the passage that we were to turn to, everybody in the congregation began flipping determinedly to the desired spot. Some cheaters had Bible tabs and automatically disqualified themselves. Those who got to the passage first gloated with pride. “Do I know my Bible or what,” they silently and self-satisfyingly beamed as others still noisily and frantically flipped through the pages of their Bibles. Nobody wanted to be last in the race, a sure sign to everyone around them that they did not know their Bible. Yup, I pridefully tried to win that race many times myself.

So even going to church and reading Scripture along with the pastor and the congregation involved a bit of prideful sin.

30 thoughts on “Even our good deeds are like filthy rags, like showing off at church!

  1. I not so fondly remember those days, I remember thinking as a teenager that I would not be a part of church services but would still have a relationship with God. Simple huh? However, navigating and intense study on all the commandments on the “one another’s” in the bible has kept me involved but is not the basis for my personal relationship and intimacy with God. Those church people are part of my ministry to them and they to me (sometimes in my boat fishing, and they or I can’t yet walk on water to get away)…Sin can be quite subtle can’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the good comments, Gary! I’m also reminded of church Sunday School lessons for children in which Christianity and church is regularly presented as a competition in order to hold the kids’ attention. As a Sunday School teacher for five years, I was a part of that.

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      1. Our church did that as well but I had an old and wise man of God for a teacher who used the competitive part but then would stop and tell us “you can win it all, memorize every verse in the bible and do church and sunday school well…but if you don’t know and follow Jesus you are nothing in God’s eyes” I related to that and also wanted to know God like him.

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  2. Disqualified for having tabs, ha! There’s a time I would have said that is being organized (cause I needed the tabs!). I appreciate your point! I do not want to show myself prideful or arrogant but rather show myself as a humbled and approved worker. I would rather dwell on God’s grace than on my sin; however, I need God to search me and reveal to me my hidden sins (Ps 19:12).

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    1. Thanks, Mandy! Yes, may the Lord help our motives to worship and serve to be pure. BTW, Corinne has tabs in her Bible and I use them all the time when we do our daily devotionals. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We actually use Charles Stanley’s monthly devotional booklet in the mornings and then listen to 30 minutes of a sermon from various pastors in the evening. Our “lineup” includes the two Arknasas pastors whose sermons I post on Tuesdays, Lloyd-Jones, J. Vernon McGee, Alistair Begg, and C. Stanley. Do you and Nathan use a devotional or just read from Scripture?

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      2. I appreciate the devotional. Corinne and I both look forward to the Scripture and daily “lesson.” I believe CS is the only guy on TBN I would recommend.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. So strange, I had that problem emailing you at first. Technology is great when it works! As per Stanley, I hear what you’re saying. I started sharing his stuff via intouch.org because I don’t want anyone to tune into CBN, TBN, Daystar etc. I had a friend the other day who I implored told stay off “Christian” tv because of false teaching.

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      4. RE: email
        I trimmed back some of the history on my third attempt.

        It’s a little mystifying why CS remains on TBN because everyone else on there preaches another gospel. He appeared with TBN owners Matt and Lori Crouch recently on a special show after he announced his retirement, a bit disappointing.
        RE: Daystar
        I have a post coming up about a recent fiasco on that station that I caught while channel surfing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. All so true, Tom. I am competitive by nature, and when it came time to find the Bible passage, I always wanted to win, win, win! The problem is that though I had the “goods” to win every time, I would lose because while I was frantically turning to a passage, I would also sneak a few peeks around to see if anyone else was there yet, hence losing my concentration, and the race!!!

    I guess it’s like a front-runner in the 100-meter dash losing because he looked back to see where his closest competitor was.

    Anyway, suffice it to say that when I was focused I won enough Bible-passage races to EARN a very good place in Heaven!! 😁 😄 😜 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, David! I was resentful of those “show offs” who routinely got to the Bible reference first and then looked around with chin in the air as if to say, “What’s the matter with you faithless amateurs?” But the few times I “won,” I did the same thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow so much you covered in this post about our self righteousness, church changes over the decades, biblical literacy, other religions and the Gospel. The more I study of other religion and ims the more the Gospel is precious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of prideful sinfulness and competition, even in a church setting. Yup, praise God for His Gospel and grace. We can’t even be good in church!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The memory that stands out for me from of the early days as a baby Christian (90’s) relates to the pastor always saying “clean Bible, dirty sinner”. He would always point out your Bible is it didn’t look used . So I throughly demolished a perfectly good had cover Bible to make it look used. During our Bible studies he would always mentioned me, as a diligent student of the Bible. I became so self righteous that I am grateful God didn’t turn me into a pillar of salt.
    Thank you Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that example, Crissy! We are weak vessels who can take a positive encouragement and easily turn it into prideful exercise. Coming from the opposite end, I remember some people used to show up with Bibles that were completely marked up with multi-color highlighters and scribbled notes and I used to judge them as “show offs.”

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