Isaiah 64:6,7 “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. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.”

     If ever there was a description of what being destitute was all about these two verses in Isaiah would be it!  Can you be destitute and not know it?  Scripture tells us that this can happen;God inspires Isaiah to warn Israel that all their ‘righteousnesses are like filthy rags,’ since their sinful attitudes pollute their deeds. The impurity of their motives taint all their prayers, sacrifices, offerings, and praises, thus God deeply detests and abhors them. Like the Laodiceans, they cannot see their true condition (Revelation 3:17).” (Forerunner Commentary)

     Attitudes and motives determine whether a persons ‘good’ deeds are righteous acts or self-serving.  We can fool ourselves into thinking that because people can’t see into our heart and mind, God can’t.  Further we can fool ourselves into believing in ourselves; that our good deeds are motivated by the purest intentions.  Paradoxically, this self-delusion is predicated upon ‘not thinking’.  If we get into a habit of not being introspective about ourselves then we loose sight of our inner landscape – the swamp in particular.  This path leads downhill as the saying goes, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’.

   For people like me who struggle with performance orientation, so much of the good we do is to please people not God.  Pleasing God rarely enters into our motivations.  Resentments arise when people don’t respond with the appropriate amount of thankfulness or esteem towards me.  This is a hallmark of a good deed done for me rather than a good deed done for God.  How often have I thought; “I did this nice thing and no one cares (about me)”.  Or;  “Why aren’t you thanking me enough because I went out of my way for you!”  Those are the filthy rags we beggars live in!  We crave love but can never do enough to buy it in the quantity we want.

     We have come to believe another lie.  We believe that we have to earn love.  If we can’t earn the love we will be rejected.  We loose ourselves in trying to earn what can’t be bought in the first place fearing rejection.  “The truth is that we were created to be loved, accepted, and appreciated. Rejection is an anti-Christ spirit because it opposes the very nature that God created in us. Rejection starves a person from love and acceptance that they were designed to receive. The problem is that when we turn to others or even ourselves for that love and acceptance, we are setting ourselves up for failure and the damage of rejection. Only God can be trusted as the source of our identity.” (GreatBibleStudy.com)

     We wither up like a leaf, all of the joy of life taken by the desiccating poison of resentment and bitterness.  We live a false life of looking good and judging others for not looking like us.  We gather up the tattered rags of our empty vestments and preen in front of the mirror of self delusion and flattery.  True community becomes impossible in a world where love is a commodity bought and sold with good deeds.  Dissension, judgement and strife abound; “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17,18)  The horror is that in serving ourselves we can never ever be satisfied and find peace because our selfish appetite for approval is too great!

     The frantic pace of a self serving performance oriented life creates such a strong contrary wind that we must always push against it.  Rarely does anything go perfectly no matter how hard we try or work at it.  Resentments abound and bitterness grows, the wind becomes a hurricane sweeping away any chance at relationships or real love.  We hold on to anger and rage rather than letting go.  God’s face is hidden from us.  We are at the mercy of our own inclinations and they torment us.  We are given over to our sins because we have given over to our selves. We call for more – more stuff, more activity, more work, more good deeds – and our gods mock us.  We don’t call on the one true God!  Exhaustion becomes our ally.  The very thing we abhor – the inability to work for love – forces us to be still.

     Is there no way out?  We can call out for deliverance!  “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalms 18:6)  Many long for revival in our land.  But how many long for deliverance from their own sins?  We see our neighbours in desperate need of repentance without giving a second thought to our own filthy rags that we parade around as righteousness.   Revival cannot come because it must start within and it cannot start within the self-satisfied.

     Like King David we must cry out;  “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:1,2,3)

     Praise the Lord!

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