2018-02-16 My Filthy Rags.

Good Morning!

Yesterday I shared a devotion from Puritan preacher Samuel Ward that encouraged the believer to find joy through pondering the promises of God. Today, we’ll start a tour through some of these promises. Some say there are over 5,000 promises in the bible. We won’t go over all these. No, we’ll only cover a few of the big ones. If you do some research, you’ll find lots of writing on this topic. Many will make categories. I will do the same. I’m not copying anyone’s format, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I come up with some of the same thoughts.

Anyway, the first promise that I want to talk about is one that I have not seen listed with any other writer. I’m not sure why other than most of the lists are intended to be encouragement. Yet, I’m not sure why this one isn’t encouragement – when examined thoroughly. Here it is:

Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

We know the rest of that story. Well, no, we don’t. We know some of it. We know that Adam and Eve did eat of that tree and that they indeed did die on that very day. Some will say that isn’t so because the bible records Adam as living 930 years. We don’t know how old Eve was when she died. Does that invalidate the whole story so that we should categorize it as just one more tale in the library of mythology? Certainly not! Spiritual death is far worse than mere physical death. Doesn’t Jesus himself address this?

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

I think we’re getting the picture, aren’t we? And if that isn’t enough, Paul hits us with this whopper:

Romans 6:23a For the wages of sin is death,

Folks, I don’t know how I can tell you of all the uplifting promises unless we have a reference point. My friend, David Jongeward, once told me something that has stuck with me. It went like this, “Do you know what the problem of man is? It’s that he far underestimates the magnitude of his sin.” Indeed. In fact, the more I study this stuff, the deeper and more massive is my own sin. Never mind the rest of the world. My own sin troubles me more and more. Yes, I am not the man I once was. That’s great, but I thought I was a pretty good guy before this whole idea of sin started to bother me. And now that I’m born again, I sin less yet what remains is incredibly difficult to get rid of. It’s like tar on my skin.

If fact, sin not only is a problem in itself, it messes up everything. It affects every. single. thing. about. us.

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

Some translations say, “filthy rags.” I think that is more descriptive. We become a stench – by our own deeds – so that it’s not even like holding our nose as we throw away a dirty diaper. Nope. It’s far worse than that.

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Proverbs 15:8a The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,

Proverbs 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 5:10a For if while we were enemies….

And here is the big charge as delivered by Paul as he quotes a variety of passages in Scripture:

Romans 3:9b-20 For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Man, it’s hard typing this stuff out because the more I examine myself, the more I see that these passages are an accurate description of me. That’s not what I have been taught by the world. Heck, most churches don’t teach that. Instead, they teach that I am basically a good person who is troubled by sin and that all I need to do is recognize the good inside of me. Self-Actualization, some may call it, is really what I need.

Self-Actualize this: the bible teaches me that my problem with sin is far worse than I ever imagined or am capable of imagining, this side of heaven. Furthermore, my own experience is revealing that the bible is dead-on accurate in describing this human’s condition.

God’s first promise. Death on the day that you eat of it. It happened to Adam. It happened to me.

Thankfully, God has another promise.

Exodus 33:19b And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

God did leave room for hope. In fact, there is great hope in this familiar verse:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

We have no clue how big this promise is unless we have a good reference point to compare. And here is our point of reference – we hopelessly, willfully, intentionally, and continually snub our nose at Jesus. We hate everything about him. Until, that is, one day he changes everything.

Stay tuned.

Father, please let me not forget where I came from. I might forget how wonderful my new life is unless I can remember who I was. Let me also not be comfortable with the sin that still is in my life. Let me be sickened by it. I want no part of it. No, that’s a lie. Sometimes I relish hiding in my filthy rags. I want to want no part of it. Lord, help me in my unbelief. Amen.

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