How many times have you heard another brother or sister in Christ, or maybe one who thought he or she was in Him, declare to you that, because your behavior was not measuring up to the commands of God, you needed to “get right with Him?" Something you had done, were doing, were thinking about the possibility of doing, or had not done now placed you in a state of being “not right with the Lord. "
Panic and fear begin to race through your mind as you consider the horrid consequences of your failing to measure up once again to the righteousness God requires. But as you made another re-commitment to read your Bible more, go to church more, witness more, ask God to forgive you more, tithe more (along with working more to stop doing what you were doing to make yourself “not right with God"), did it ever dawn on you that all your doing or not doing would never be enough?
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10)
Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified (Gal. 2:16)
It was a sobering, sorrowful, and yet thrilling day when the Spirit of God convinced me that every one of my attempts to earn right standing before him through my deeds amounted to one long trail of cow chips. Sobering because I had been intoxicated with how wonderful my flesh could perform but God was now telling me that the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). Sorrowful because I saw that I had been placing some confidence in my own works for righteousness and acceptance in addition to my Savior’s. And thrilling because I had now given up on any hope in my flesh being able to gain or maintain right standing before my Lord. There I found freedom, rest, peace, and joy in the Lord!
What is “righteousness" anyway? It means rightness or being right. Its’ source is God himself. He is righteousness, rightness, and right. All righteousness begins and ends in Him. And since He has the market cornered on it and we could never achieve it, we must receive it…as a gift. Through Christ, through the cross, He has made us right. He has made us acceptable. He has done all that was required to make you right. He is our only hope of righteousness.
For some of us, it is a startling truth of Scripture that our righteousness before God is not dependent upon our performance but Christ’s, not our obedience, but His!
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19)
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
He has performed for you. He has acted on your behalf. His obedience unto to death has provided righteousness for all who will take him up on the offer void of any works.
Could it be that the reason we see so many saints struggling with the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19) is that they continue to rely upon the flesh as a means to attaining righteousness and acceptance with God? Why do they do so? Because they are not believing and trusting implicitly in the unalterable, eternal righteousness they already have in Him as a gift. They are believing a lie that says a man’s adherence to codes, rules, regulations, or commandments determines whether or not he is right with God. Has anything changed throughout history? Has not man stubbornly, desperately sought to make himself right either in the eyes of men or in the eyes of God …or both! Can a man truly be saved trusting both in Christ’s work and some degree of his own?
Why do you think Paul proclaimed that those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24)? Could it be because the flesh wants to be right? It wants to have a righteousness of its own. It has a passion, a desire, a lusting to have some role in attaining righteousness in lieu of, or in addition to, the work of the Spirit (Gal. 3:1-7; 5:16-17). And to fall into that trap of relying upon the flesh for any contribution toward our righteousness is unbelief, foolishness, and at worst, evidence that maybe we have never given up on ourselves, never come to die that we might have life.
Righteousness is a gift for which you do not work, not a wage that you earn.
Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness (Romans 4:4-5).
If anyone ever tells you again that you need to get right with God, stand on the truth that you already are right with Him through His Son’s obedience, not yours! I have a dear friend in Christ who reminded me several months ago that in matters pertaining to the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, we cannot separate the person of Christ from His work. In other words, are you trusting in the risen, glorified Savior who justifies the ungodly through simple faith in His already completed work, or are you trusting in the Jesus who taught under the law, demanded that men be perfect, and had not yet fulfilled the work of redemption through the cross? Are you placing your faith in the baby in a manger or the One who was the final sacrifice for sins, the Redeemer, the Reconciler, the Sanctifier, the Giver of Life Eternal?!
In his most recent book, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, author and lecturer Dave Hunt says that “to ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 16:31) includes who He is and what He has done. " The Jesus who saves the wicked is the Jesus who has already paid our sin debt in full, has crucified the old vile sinner-man we used to be, has buried you and your sins never to see them or the old you again, has made you a new creation, holy and blameless in His sight, and has seated you securely in heaven in Him! His righteousness is obtained through faith in His works, not yours. And once you have been made right, you cannot do anything to gain or maintain that righteousness. It is a gift, it is His grace, it is His perfect love toward you demonstrated in the cross of Christ.
In fact, any man who seeks to work for righteousness will not reach his goal because it can only be acquired through faith in Jesus Christ. Folks, God’s offer of perfect righteousness could not be any simpler yet we have made it so complex. He is telling us not to work for righteousness if you want His! Stop working, stop striving to earn something that, if you are in Christ, you have had since the day He saved you…the gift of righteousness. If, tragically, you choose to work for it, you will never gain it!
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED" (Romans 9:30-33)
Those who have trusted in and are solely dependent upon the finished work of Jesus Christ via the cross on their behalf plus nothing are eternally right with God! Perfect performance and perfect obedience will never gain, maintain, or improve your right standing with God. Neither will imperfect performance and imperfect obedience cause you to lose, forfeit, or lessen your right standing before God. It is His performance, His obedience on Calvary’s cross almost 2,000 years ago plus nothing that has provided the gift of righteousness to all who would receive it by faith!
So how do those who have trusted in the completed work of Christ for salvation “get right" with God? They don’t do anything to get right with Him. Why? Because they already are through faith in the working of God (Col. 2:12, NASB), not themselves! It is the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, (whose) faith is reckoned as righteousness (Rom. 4:5).
So what about you? Have you stumbled over the stumbling stone? Have you been trying to add to His perfect righteousness with a dash or two of your own? Have you been working and doing in order to “get right with God?" If so, get up and come to the cross. It’s time to die, that you might have new life. It’s time to be done with trusting in anything you can do to become right with God, and once-and-for-all rely completely on what He has done… once-and-for-all.
Grace and peace to you always!
Gospel For Today Ministries’ president, John Moneypenny, is an ordained minister with a Master of Divinity degree who has traveled across the country teaching and preaching the liberating message of God's redemption of all mankind through the cross of Jesus Christ. John is the author of numerous teaching articles and the moderator of one of the most popular Christian Discussion Forums (Alexa Ranking: 52,000) on the internet.
Visit Gospel For Today's main website at http://www.gospelfortoday.org/ and the Christian Discussion forum at http://www.gospelfortoday.org/gftforum/