Exchanging our “Filthy Rags” Righteousness for Christ’s Righteousness
Embracing the Righteousness of God
Part 1: The Real Us
There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10);
Today’s message is difficult to read, but it is essential if you truly desire to enter into the resurrection life of Christ. The following passage is God’s assessment of the entire human race (apart from His influence).
There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.
The poison of vipers is on their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.
There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18).
We all have lowered the bar so low that we accept as normal what God calls detestable and putrid. In our minds, we justify our critical and hurtful comments by mentally asserting that we’re merely telling it like it is. God, however, likens us to a viper sinking its fangs into someone’s neck and injecting deadly venom. We speak humble sounding words, but deep down, we’re ready to steal God’s glory by taking credit for something God just did. Beneath our innocent sounding questions lies a desire to prove someone wrong and us right. We see ourselves as being on a crusade for truth. God sees a tongue spewing lies and deceit coming from an open grave engulfed in the stench of death and decay. We give a colorful and detailed account of how we were so unjustly treated. God sees an ungrateful recipient of His unending mercy boiling over with bitterness and vile cursing.
Despite what we think about ourselves, the truth is that apart from God we are absolutely worthless, good for nothing reprobates who have absolutely no fear of God. We spurn His commandments, steal His glory, and think that because we bear the title, “Christian,” we deserve to be exempted from the coming judgment. Our problem is that we all refuse to believe the truth about ourselves.
Let the sad truth sink in. It explains why so many things you have asked God to remove are still there, including your pride. Who wants to admit they’re really a scumbag? We all want people to think highly of us, and we’ll go to the ends of the earth to keep our image intact. People must never see the real us, even if it’s just like them. We’ve worked our whole life to be a successful, accomplished, intelligent, creative and upstanding person who should be respected. Even if we’re not, no one must see the real us.
Part 2: Still Not Convinced?
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone (Luke 18:18-19).
I can’t imagine anyone joyfully accepting yesterday’s meditation. We think we can’t possibly be worthless. People have told us we’ve got a lot to offer. We’re bright and sometimes downright brilliant. We see things others don’t see. We have spiritual insight…don’t we? The more we think about it, the more it seems like God has it all wrong. We secretly believe that we have so much to offer that God is lucky to have us on His team.
What then are we to do with today’s verse? Jesus declares that we don’t even make the grade of “good.” Deep down, we’ve all convinced ourselves that, somehow, we’re the exception. Jesus couldn’t possibly be talking about me. He just couldn’t. It’s time to accept the truth and let it set us free. The truth is that all good things come from God. Everything we see as good in us has been given to us by God. Out talents and spiritual gifts came from Him. If we’re good-natured, that came from God. Take away all the good things in us and what’s left is vile and worthless.
This understanding explains a lot about our pride. It comes from a stubborn unwillingness to admit the truth about ourselves. Every time our pride surfaces, it is because we are making sure that no one sees the real us. We must maintain our image. We must appear competent, and most of all, we must prove to everyone that we’re right and God was wrong about us.
Do you have trouble forgiving yourself for things you have done? By refusing to believe the truth about yourself you have set an unattainable standard for yourself. Deep down you thought you were too good to have done something so bad. As long as you hang onto that lie, you’ll continue to beat yourself up. Once you realize that what you did resulted from who you are, the self-torture will stop.
Part 3: Now for the Good Part
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous
You’ll never be willing to put your “old man,” your old self, to death until you are convinced that every part of it is worthy of death. Then and only then will you be ready to experience the resurrection life of Jesus. Once you accept the truth about yourself, you can begin to appreciate the magnitude and the wonder of God’s matchless grace He continues to lavish on you, day after day, moment after moment. Once you stop imagining that you deserved even the slightest degree of His grace because of your goodness, you can’t help but fall at your Lord’s feet, silent and prostrate.
What can you say? How could a holy God be so merciful to a wretch like you? While you were turning your back on Him, He was seeking you out. While you were stealing His glory, He was giving Himself to you. Not just a little of Himself, but everything He is and has. To you, a venomous viper. O, the matchless love of God who saved a wretch like you (and me).
Now, because of that great exchange on the cross, you have exchanged your sinful self for the righteousness of God Himself-Christ in you, the hope of glory. When you were born again, you were transferred out of the line (linage) of Adam and placed into the eternal life of Christ. Therefore, when He died, you died. When He was buried, so were you, and when He was raised to newness of life, so were you. This is now what God sees when He looks at you-Christ in all His glory. The old person you used to be is gone. You are a new creation. Praise be to God! As you walk in the Spirit, you allow all that you now are to be expressed in what you think, say and do. Everything about you will have, indeed, been made new. Through Christ in you, the righteousness of God has become yours.
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