Man’s quest for righteousness is easy if you know where to look.
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SETTING OUR MINDS ON THINGS ABOVE
How Does Man Become Righteous?
According to the book of Romans, humanity is devolving. Each successive generation becomes more unrighteous as it perfects the art of despising God and His people. The news bears this out. (Aren’t you glad to know there’s a successor to Jesus?) At the current rate, our grandchildren will need to be prepared for things we never imagined. Yet, God always has His people strategically located to carry our His will.
Since the Bible makes it clear that the entire human race is guilty and unrighteous before God (Rom. 3:10-18), how can man become righteous? Without really thinking about it, most people have drawn a similar conclusion-by obeying God’s commands. It seems so logical and straightforward, and it implies that man has the capabilities to do what God commands.
This is what the Jews thought. God gave them His Law, and their efforts to keep it failed miserably. Of course, that was God’s whole point-to show that man, on his own, has no power to keep God’s commands. This is why no flesh is justified (made righteous) by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:20). So, if obeying God’s commands (and doing those things we know we should do) doesn’t make us righteous, what does? Well, fortunately. Scripture provides the answer:
But now apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even (that is) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:21-23).
Most of us know verse 23. We understand that all have sinned, but we’re a little slow at grasping how righteousness fits in. We know that salvation is a gift, but for some reason, we assume that we must work (through obedience) to attain righteousness (just like the Jews). The passage above from Romans makes it clear that both salvation and righteousness are gifts from God to be received. They go together. When we believe and are saved, our sins are removed. The “void” is filled by the resurrected life of Jesus himself, who brings with Him His own righteousness which becomes ours since He is now our life.
He (God) made Him who knew no sin (Christ) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).
In the end, man becoming righteous is man coming into a right relationship with God. This, simply put, is salvation. How are we saved? By God’s grace through faith. So, if we are saved by faith, we become righteous by faith because the two are directly connected. Believing that righteousness is a gift to be received doesn’t happen automatically. We are drawn to legalism because following a list of rules is easier than cultivating a relationship.
To make matters worse, we humans cling to the notion that apart from God, we’re not as bad as God says we are. The flesh convinces us that we’re fine upstanding people who are quite capable of doing anything God asks or commands. Perhaps this is why so many Gentile Christians believe that they are or were under the Law. The Mosaic Law was only for Israel. It never applied to Gentiles. Christians have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit. We fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law simply by walking in the Spirit (Rom. 8:4).
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
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