When God's righteousness is mentioned in the gospel, it is God's action of declaring righteous the unrighteous sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ. The righteousness by which a person is justified (declared righteous) is not his own but that of another, Christ. ~Martin Luther
I opened the laundry room door and was assaulted with the pungent blast of strong cleaning agents. No wonder! My rags had been soaking in a mixture of bleach and detergent. A few hours later I was folding clean, white rags -- smiling.
Well, smiling until I got to the two orange-oil stained cloths. The two that won't come clean no matter how long I soak them. As I stared at them, I was reminded of the filthy rags Isaiah talked about: We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
How often do we try to bleach our way into righteousness? We look like a Christian on the outside, but what about our heart? We compare ourselves to the sinful lives of others and declare ourselves righteous.
Our Heavenly Father does not compare us to those around us, but to His own righteousness. It is who He is -- holy and just. Our access to Him would be impossible except that in His great love for us He offered grace.
I kept my oil-stained rags because I saw them as useful, even though in my best plan they would be white. God's best plan was that we would be sinless, righteous. Consequently, in His grace, He made a way for us. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Romans 3:22).
Regardless of how many good works we perform, how we look or what we profess, it is only through Jesus that God sees us as sinless -- righteous through the blood of Jesus and His forgiveness of our sins.