Reaching Farther

Repenting of Our Own Righteousness

I found an old gem of a book several weeks ago that has been a wonderful encouragement to me. The title of the book is “An Alarm to the Unconverted” written by Joseph Alleine, first published in 1671. Many readers have been helped by this work over the past three centuries. Both George Whitfield and Charles Spurgeon describe the way these pages deeply affected their hearts and lives for Christ. Like Pilgrim’s Progress it has been through hundreds of printings.

In the next few blog posts I hope to highlight some sections from “An Alarm to the Unconverted” that have touched, challenged and helped me the most.

Alleine gives a beautiful and succinct description of true conversion when he says,

"The objects from which we turn in conversion are: sin, Satan, the world, and our own righteousness."


I think most of us as 21st century people hear the first three things we turn away from and say, “of course.” After all, who wouldn’t agree that to follow Jesus we must turn away from sin, Satan and the world (1John 2:15-17). But then he mentions ‘our own righteousness’, and suddenly we are jarred - that doesn’t seem to fit into the same category as those other dirty, evil things. But when we think about the gospel and the righteousness that comes from Jesus (Phil. 3:9) it makes sense. In the eyes of a holy God, my own righteousness is dirty like sin, Satan and the world (Isaiah 64:6).

He then moves forward to describe what turning from our own righteousness looks like.

“Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself acceptable with God, by his own duties. He is apt to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his pennies for gold, and not to submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as a man would the verminous tatters of a nasty beggar. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit, complains of and condemns himself; and all his inventory is, 'I am poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked!' (Rev. 3:17). He sees a world of iniquity in his holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would not for a thousand worlds be found in it!

Now he begins to set a high price upon Christ's righteousness. He sees the need of Christ in every duty, to justify his person and sanctify his performances; he cannot live without Him; he cannot pray without Him. Christ must go with him, or else he cannot come into the presence of God; he leans upon Christ, and so bows himself in the house of his God. He sets himself down for a lost undone man without Him; his life is hid in Christ, as the root of a tree spreads in the earth for stability and nourishment. Before, the gospel of Christ was a stale and tasteless thing; but now—how sweet is Christ! Augustine could not relish his once-admired Cicero, because he could not find in his writings the name of Christ. How emphatically he cries, 'O most sweet, most loving, most kind, most dear, most precious, most desired, most lovely, most fair!' all in a breath, when he speaks of and to Christ. In a word, the voice of the convert is, with the martyr, 'None but Christ!'”

Think about this. Have you turned away from the things that pull you away from walking with Jesus… including your own righteousness?


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