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What, Me Righteous?

Is it fair to say that “righteous” is not the way we would describe ourselves?
“How are you today, Paul?”
“Pretty darned righteous, thanks. And you?”
No, “righteous” is not how we feel about ourselves and certainly not the way we describe ourselves to others. For we know our hearts, and what we show of ourselves outwardly can belie what we know of ourselves inwardly. In my book, Christ in Me, we defined New Testament righteousness in relatable terms: “Inside, we want to be as we ought to be; we want to be acceptable before God; we want to be guiltless before Him who knows everything about us. Which is to say we want to be righteous, but we are not, not on our own, anyway.”1 And you know what? That’s a great place for us to start.

Earning God’s approval through our own moralistic achievements is a common temptation to which we easily succumb. As a legalistic Pharisee, Paul strained to gain God’s acceptance through religious rigor, yet ultimately found himself “not having a righteousness of my own.”2 Likewise, he observed that the nation of Israel itself “did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own.”3 We can relate, can’t we? For we know the shortcomings of our soul and the wrongdoings that arise from them, and we are inclined to compensate through our own attempts at goodness. But true righteousness, like salvation, is not seized through our merit; it is received as God’s grace. “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,”4 wrote Paul, continuing, “God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus . . .5 And how He did so is an amazing display of wisdom and power.

Of the Messiah, Jeremiah foretold, “And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord Our Righteousness’”6 The Messiah, said the prophet, would be righteousness for us, and indeed He is, for Paul wrote, “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”7 Jesus didn’t merely deem us to be right in His sight from afar, He made us one with Himself; His righteousness is ours. Live and thrive in the truth of this grace—you are blameless and welcome in the presence of God. Jesus makes it so.

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. —1 Peter 3:18.

Father, how amazing it is that, in Christ, we are made pure and acceptable in Your sight. Remind us of this grace and lead us in it, that we would bring this truth to a world that longs for You. In the name of Christ, our righteousness, we pray. Amen.

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