To many the word “righteousness” seems intimidating, something they seek to obtain, but no matter how hard they try it seems righteousness remains elusive. This struggle leads to a feeling of inability, inferiority and hopelessness, and it causes sincere believers to wonder if the Christian life really works. When we discover the New Covenant and the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross, righteousness becomes a very positive word, because we recognize that the only righteousness worth anything is Jesus’ own righteousness, and we receive it as a free gift.
Without an unshakable assurance of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us by faith, we will never have the power to live the Christian life, or the boldness to move in the supernatural power of God. The assurance of Christ’s righteousness in us causes us to grow up from being spiritual babies to mature believers. The Hebrew writer tells us that if we are “unskilled in the word of righteousness” we are spiritual babies (Hebrews 5:13), meaning that true spiritual maturity is found in discovering the word of Christ’s righteousness.
ONLY GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS
Because God is perfectly righteous He cannot accept anything less. This poses a potential problem. On the one side God desires fellowship with us, but that fellowship will be tainted due to the fact that our best attempts at righteousness are but “filthy rags.” Here is the dilemma - God loves people yet He hates unrighteousness. How then can God have fellowship with the creation He loves? By imputing His own righteousness into us. The good news is that Jesus’ righteousness is ours by faith. This is why the Bible calls us “saints”, “just”, “faultless”, “without spot or wrinkle”, and “without reproach.” When we believe what God says about us and apply those descriptions to ourselves, we are not boasting in ourselves, but in Jesus, who lives in us.
Paul writes that we “become the righteousness of God in Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) John states that Jesus, the righteous One, is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. (1 John 2:1) Here we see that righteousness is a person, Jesus Himself. (1 Corinthians 1:30) All these statements about how we are righteous now hinge on Jesus’ death on the cross, where He took our debt of sin and nailed it to the cross. This had a twofold effect: first our slate was clean, and secondly “principalities and powers” were disarmed and “made a public spectacle of.” (Colossians 2:14-15)
How does the devil condemn you? Does he not use unrighteous thoughts and deeds that you may have done to accuse you? Do you see why Jesus’ death on the cross in one swoop removed our sins and disarmed the devil? Once you see your unrighteousness nailed to the cross, the devil has no bullets for his pistol of accusations. When you believe that your sins have been nailed to the cross and Jesus is now your righteousness, the devil is reduced to firing blanks at you.
THE EFFECTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The effects of Jesus’ righteousness imputed to us are immense. We are presented to God “holy and blameless and above reproach in His sight.” (Colossians 1:22) This does not refer to some future time; it is our current standing.
We are free from condemnation, because “It is God who justifies, who then is he who condemns. It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34) The only one who could condemn us and declare us unworthy is Christ, but instead He has made us righteous.
The only one who could condemn us and declare us unworthy is Christ, but instead He has made us righteous.
Since Christ does not condemn, no condemnation is valid; we are without spot and wrinkle, holy and without blemish before God. (Ephesians 5:27) Maybe you will want to confess who God says you are. Say it out loud, “I’m holy, blameless and above approach in the sight of God. Jesus’ death has justified me, and I am free from condemnation.”
BEAT UP ON SIN
What is our foundation? The Gospel! Paul writes about the Gospel, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) God’s anger at sin was revealed at the cross, where God did what He had wanted to do all along: He beat up on sin. God punished sin once and for all, and that punishment, which we deserved, fell on the flesh of Jesus. God imputes His righteousness to our account, on the basis that our sins have been paid, which clears the way for us to be declared righteous.
THE BENEFITS OF CHRIST’S FINISHED WORK
God demonstrated His righteousness, “because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at this present time His righteousness.” (Romans 3:21-26) God doesn’t treat sin lightly; no, He gave sin a most severe punishment. Before the cross God had “forbearance” and “passed over sins.” There are many instances in the Old Testament when various people should have been punished for their sins, but God overlooked it knowing that the final payment for sin would be made through Christ. Now we look back at the full payment that has been made on our behalf, and we enjoy the benefits of Christ’s finished work.
1. Our Prayers Avail
It’s not the fervent prayers that avail much, but the “effective fervent prayer of a righteous person.” (James 5:16) As long as you pray looking at your own righteousness your prayers will be ineffective. Such prayers are counter-productive and position you in a place where God cannot show His kindness to you. On the contrary, when your prayers are based on believing that Jesus has made you righteous, they avail much.
2. We are freed from self-effort
Once we recognize that Jesus is our righteousness any religious acts or spiritual efforts to please God become redundant and ridiculous.
3. We have a new identity
We are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), all things have become new. We are not merely renovated human beings, we have become partakers of divine nature; we are a new kind of person. Every being has a nature after its own kind whether bird, fish, cat or dog. We could pretend that a bird has fish nature and immerse into water, but it would quickly become clear that all of our good intentions would not bear fruit. You could pretend that a dairy cow is a racehorse, saddle it, and do all the proper training exercises, but you will find out that the cow still has a cow’s nature and a cow’s abilities. Similarly we can dress up a sinner in choir robes, put a hymnbook and a Bible in his hands, and make him speak Christian words, but if the nature has never been transformed our effort would be futile. By Jesus imputing righteousness we receive a new nature; we are not merely dressed up sinners, we have become saints of God.
4. We Have Victory Over Sin
Romans chapter 7 gives a graphic description of a person married to his own self-effort, the law, trying to overcome sin by performing good deeds. In spite of good intentions he fails, becomes frustrated, and exclaims “oh wretched man that I am.” In Romans chapter 8 we find a person married to Christ. Both the law and Christ are holy, just and perfect, but the law is powerless, while Christ is full of power.
5. We Are Secure
We are secure in Jesus because “if anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1) Your failures do not alter Jesus’ righteousness. Often people ask, “Well Pastor Peter what if I sin, what if I fail, what then?” Well, if that happens, it’s still none of the devil’s business and the sin is not more powerful than what Jesus did on the cross. Imagine a pair of scales in front of you, on the one side are your sinful deeds and on the other Jesus’ death on the cross. Which one tips the scale? What Jesus did is infinitely more powerful than any failure of ours. No wonder Solomon wrote, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16) Notice that the one who has become righteous may fall. It doesn’t say that you have to fall because we can enjoy victory over sin, but it may happen, and if it happens you will “rise again.” The person with Christ’s righteousness has an inward nature that causes him to rise again. Put an eagle among the barnyard chickens, and the eagle will still mount its wings and soar because that’s the nature of the eagle. A Christian may find himself surrounded by failure and defeat, but the righteousness nature in the believer causes him to rise again. Remember that nothing can shake or alter what Jesus has done for you, as long as you believe it; His righteousness is foolproof and failure proof.
6. We Are Empowered
Some suggest that by teaching about righteousness as a gift, people are encouraged to live a sinful life. Not at all! Actually, this reasoning is both ridiculous and illogical. How would an increased awareness of your new righteous nature make you sin more? In fact, this is the only cure for sin. Religion teaches that you need to clean up your act, crucify your flesh, and deal with sin in your life in order for God’s blessing to flow. The gospel teaches the opposite. Receive the free gift of God’s righteousness and His blessing and “you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) Often the gospel believer and the legalistic person have similar moral convictions. Both groups believe that lying, stealing, adultery, etc. are wrong, but the reasons for pursuing holiness vastly differ. The legalistic person is seeking to be holy in order to please God, while the gospel believer lives holy because he has received the righteousness of God as a free gift.
The legalistic person is seeking to be holy in order to please God, while the gospel believer lives holy because he has received the righteousness of God as a free gift.
The gospel believer lives out who he is on the inside, while the legalist seeks to become something he is not. We live righteous because we have received Christ’s righteousness.
Peter YoungrenGive Your Best Seed HereMy Prayer Request