The story is told of when computer driven language translators were first being developed researchers fed into one prototype the phrase, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41b). They asked it to translate the statement first into Russian and then back into English. What they got was “The wine is good, but the meat is rotten.” Evidently, something was rotten as well in the programming!
But the “flesh” indeed is rotten – through and through rotten. Good for nothing!
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” wrote Jeremiah (Jer. 17:9). And it is from such hearts that flow our deeds: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matt. 15:19). “Above all else, guard your heart,” warned Solomon, “for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23).
Some of us may think themself rather righteous, but even gray looks white against a backdrop of blackness. Jesus pointed out “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23b).
The truth is uttered by Isaiah, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Paul had learned that he dare not trust even his own sense of clear conscience; He confessed “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Cor. 4:4). Though he may have looked pretty good stacked up beside his peers, Paul knew the folly of those who made that kind of comparison. “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Cor. 10:12). God’s standard is holiness; He measures our goodness against His own! Clearly, against the brilliance of that backdrop our gray deeds must look like sunspots!
What are we to do about this dilemma! Surely we are doomed if measured against that which is Holy… has always been Holy… and ever will be Holy… surely we are as Isaiah cried, “undone!”
“Then said I, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’” (Isa. 6:5).
But as was the case with Isaiah, there is hope! “…thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” (v.7) said the seraphim. The secret is in one’s confession that they are sinful… one’s looking God-wards for intervention — and that solution is Christ.
Christ puts a new nature within the believer making choice between sin and true righteousness possible. This is the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel. Christ within us.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
His righteousness becoming ours; our filthiness laid upon Him — and atoned… erased. Our job now is to “feed the right dog” – to yield to His Spirit, ‘til “Christ is formed” in us (Gal. 4:19). This is every Christian’s daily challenge!