If our righteousness is as filthy rags, then why should we try to be good?

The prophet Isaiah declared, “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (ch. 64:6). Man’s best efforts can’t produce righteousness. Only the righteousness that Christ has provided will prepare people to stand in the presence of Creator at the Day of  Judgement (Gal. 2:16).

The Jews were wrong in thinking that salvation could be gained by one’s own efforts, through keeping the demands of the law. But the Bible teaches that only faith in Jesus Christ would justify the sinner (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 4:3; 5:1). Instant justification comes as a free gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Thus, works have no part in this transaction (Ephesians 2:9).

But true submissive faith in God’s grace would always produce obedience to His law. The Bible says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble” (James 2:19). Even the devil has faith in the saving power of Jesus. But he will not be saved because he is not obedient to God. What does faith really mean without commitment? The Lord answers, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Therefore, faith in God must produce the fruits of an obedient life in Christ (Romans 1:5).

Some think that because we have “grace,” our sins are covered even if we live disobedient lives. But does it really make sense to continue in sin because we have God’s grace?  The answer is no. God wants not just to forgive our sins but to give us complete victory over our sins (Galatians 1:4). Jesus came to save us from sin not in sin. He came to restore our minds, heal our hearts, and give us the power to resist temptation—not give us a free license to live in sin.

The apostle John says: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that continues in sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God does not continue in sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:7–9).

The Lord promised, if we cling to Him through daily study of the Scriptures and prayer, we will have complete victory over the flesh (John 15:4-6). This is a long life process and is called sanctification (2 Thess. 2:13).  God will give us all the grace necessary to overcome “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 also Philippians 4:13). And then we can say with full confidence, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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