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So many people believe they can be right with God, they can have peace with God, they can deflect God’s anger from them by being good and doing good. They rightfully understand there’s a debt that they owe. But they don’t understand it’s a debt they could never repay. And to try to repay it does not bring them closer to God but farther because it adds insult to insult.

Suppose I owed more money than I could ever repay. My creditors are soon going to be coming to take my house, my car, my microwave, my Atari, everything. My children would be taken to work in a sweatshop and I would be thrown in a dungeon. But Bill Gates hears my story and is moved to write a check to cover everything I owe. Turns out he’s glad to do it. Then I meet up with Bill Gates and I tell him “Mr Gates, that was very kind of you to cover my debts but I’m going to repay you.” And I dig deep into my pocket and I pull out 37 cents and I hand it to him. There. That ought to do it. Might that be offensive to Mr. Gates? Why? I think, primarily because of my lack of appreciation for what he has done. He pays my enormous debt and I think 37 cents covers it?

This is what we do to God when we try to earn his favor. And we owe infinitely more than money and we have less to offer than 37 cents. All we have to offer is filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6 says all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. They’re disgusting and worthless in our attempt to make things right between God and us.

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