I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. [ESV]
(Rev 1: 9-18)
These words are of the Apostle John - the disciple whom Jesus loved - near the end of his life after eighty-plus years of faithfully following the Lord. Years of the Holy Spirit's refining work in his life. He probably had as good a handle as anyone on the reality of the sinful nature and also the forgiveness of sins that was his in Christ. And yet when face to face with the glorified Lord, his instinctive reaction, the only thing he could to do, was to fall at Jesus's feet as though dead! He, a saved sinner, had come face to face with Righteousness.
I'm sure it's no coincidence that John in his first letter exhorts believers to regular acknowledgment and confession of sin. Certainly that and more is needed to disabuse us of the tempting delusion that we in our own persons and works are becoming more acceptable to God. Do we think we are acquiring a measure of inward holiness that commends us to God? Indeed, as those effectually called and regenerated [we] are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in [us] (WCF 13.1). And yet the only holiness and righteousness that commends us to God is that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God's judgment.
Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections. (WCF 16.5-6)When coming to God even our best works are stained with sin. If our best was all there was for us to bring then we would be as dead men. But we come to God calling on the Lord Jesus our Mediator and Advocate who continually intercedes for us with his blood and righteousness - washing away our sins, cleansing our stained consciences, and clothing us with his moral perfection. He reaches out his right hand putting it on us and says, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore..."