Filthy Deeds

Daily Reform, Day 192

Galatians 2:21 & Isaiah 64:4-7

From the Reformer

Who would not detest his own vows, his cowls, his shaven crown, his bearded traditions, yes, the very Law of Moses, when he hears that for such things he rejected the grace of God and the death of Christ. It seems that such a horrible wickedness could not enter a man’s heart, that he should reject the grace of God, and despise the death of Christ. And yet this atrocity is all too common. Let us be warned. Everyone who seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits, satisfactions, actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God, and despises the death of Christ.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

We try to “do good,” as we say. And there is the whole problem in a nutshell. We cannot. In an inspired and honest moment, Isaiah calls all of our righteous deeds “filthy rags.” (Isa 64:6) We do not tend to think this way. We think our good works are good indeed. But if you ever need clarification on whether a deed is truly righteous or not, consider your response when someone claims your good deed is not good. You get upset. Not good. Imagine with Isaiah your good deeds as a dirty rag. Dip your rag in some water and ring it out. Then try to clean up things with that dripping, dirty rag. All you are doing is spreading the dirt turned muddy. If you really want things cleaned up, you need help. You need someone with a clean rag. You need Jesus.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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