Our supposed righteousness comes crashing down is this issue.


Becoming Righteous

This is the fourth article in our current series. This post elaborates on one of the most misunderstood parts of the “Not I but Christ” message-righteousness. Most of us have two issues with the word. We’re not completely sure what it means and we misunderstand how we get it. The dictionary definition is “conforming to a standard of right and justice, virtuous and morally right.” Perfect righteousness is seen only in God. His righteousness embodies these things and more, covered in His holiness. That’s the easy part. We can grasp the concept if not the magnitude of perfect righteousness.

Our Wrong Conclusion

Now for the tough part-how do we get it? Most people seem to think we’re born with some measure of righteousness that can be improved by living according to some righteous standard. In reality, I doubt if many people ever actually take the time to consider their own righteousness, or lack thereof. We just assume that we’re a good person who does good things most of the time, and that God is pleased when we do. Even though salvation isn’t based on works, we assume that righteousness is. The better our performance, the more righteousness we display. Check out your answers to questions 1 and 7 in the quiz in the first article to see if you have bought into this deadly lie.

If you have, it is because you, like the vast majority of Christians, have refused to believe that you are as wretched and useless as God says you are. You are convinced that verses like Romans 3:10-18 describe the truly wicked of this world, but certainly not you:

God’s Assessment of our Supposed Righteousness

There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,
The poison of asps is under their lips;
 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;

Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.

What We Do

You rationalize your conclusion, claiming that passages like this can’t describe a saved person, can they? Well, yes they can and indeed they do. These verses describe you, not Christ in you, and if you’re like most Christians, you’ve lived most of your life apart from Christ despite your claims to the contrary. 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. When God does something great through us, we’re quick to steal God’s glory by taking credit for what He just did and basking in the adulations and affirmations we receive. If we give Him credit through our humble-sounding words, it’s only because that’s what good Christians are supposed to do. Been there, done that.

Too often, beneath our innocent-sounding comments lies a desire to prove someone wrong and us right. When we see ourselves as crusaders for truth, God sees a tongue spewing lies and deceit coming from an open grave engulfed in the stench of death and decay. When we give colorful and detailed accounts of how we were unjustly treated, God sees an ungrateful recipient of His unending mercy boiling over with bitterness and vile cursing. We attribute evil motives to people because we know what we would do under similar circumstances. (Check out Titus 1:15.)

The Solution

We could easily avoid all this simply by living according to what we call the Golden Rule-treating others the way we would like them to treat us (Mt. 7:12), but we can’t even get that right. We’re too busy defending our so-called rights and setting the record straight when we think we’ve been wronged. Yet, we offer ourselves to God, certain that He has something special for us to do, something only we can do.

We ask God to use us, while we should be
asking Him to make us usable.


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 love and think that because we bear the title, “Christian,” we deserve to be exempted from judgment.

In our flesh, we dream up things we would enjoy doing for God and then ask Him to bless them. We fail to understand that God has no intention of blessing our best efforts. He wants us to see where He is already working and join Him so He can work through us. Even Jesus never did anything on His own initiative. He only did what He saw the Father doing. Check out John 5:19.

We struggle to discern God’s will while He is speaking to us all the time through His Word, through prayer, through other believers, and through our circumstances. Our problem is that we’re not listening. We ask Him to remove our difficult and painful circumstances while He has orchestrated them to reveal something about Himself and/or to mold our character. He may be preparing us for what is coming, but we just want the pain and discomfort to go away. I hope you’re seeing a pattern here.

Next week we’ll look at what true righteousness is and how we get it.



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