Righteousness is defined as conformity to God's Law, both in our hearts and in our deeds, inside and outside. Righteousness comes only by faith in Christ. Righteousness is His character. We are not to be passive; we are to be active in faith. The righteousness of God is His character that vindicates His people. We, as His people, are to show our faithfulness back to Him. Christ's righteousness is given to us (imputed, propitiation) by our faith, which we did not earn; hence grace is the ultimate free gift (Psalm 4:3; Isa. 28:17; 32:17; Matt. 5:6; 24:45; Rom. 3:22; 12:1; 1 Cor. 1:30; Gal. 3:6-7; Eph. 1:3-4; 3:17; 4:20-24; Phil. 3:9; Col. 2:7; 1 Thess. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22-24; Heb. 10:10; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:9; 4:1-2; 1 John 2:6).
Impiety, Seeking Sin, Wickedness, and Irreverence are the opposites. When we do not seek Righteousness, we are arguing with God or seeking loopholes to escape our responsibility (Luke 10:29; James 4:1). These bad characters will allow us to seek ourselves and sin, and not Christ. These rotten fruits will prevent us from putting on faith and Christ, thus our lives will be in stress and dysfunction.
We are called to be good! However, no one can attain Righteousness apart from perfect adherence to the Law. Christ is the only one in all of human history to do it. No one can attain it without Divine intervention; righteousness to please God must come from God Himself. We all are corrupted by sin, and unable to live according to God's perfect standards. Even though some people are better than others (your neighbor versus Stalin), both are guilty in God's perspective (Rom. 1: 10; 17). Our only hope is in the Person and Work of our Lord. Our ability to be good and holy is only because of the "effect" of redemption (what Christ did for us on the cross, which we did not deserve) not the "cause," (the cause is how we are, as we receive grace and forgiveness then are counted as righteous). Never confuse the two or you will have pride and arrogance because you will think you deserved it. Thus, Righteousness must be a gift from God that we use (Isaiah 61:10; John 17:25)!
Righteousness in the Covenant of the Old Testament Law was a requirement. We are not obligated to it under grace, no need to follow those 619+ laws, but we should still desire to honor and glorify Christ and follow His precepts. If Christ has a hold of us, we can and should respond with a lifestyle and attitude of Righteousness! Our behaviors show our heart and our heart shows who is in it, Christ or the desire of sin. If you are grounded in love, you will exhibit love; if you are steeped in sin, you will show sin. Yes, God's mercy endures forever. However, our only hope is in the Person and Work of our Lord (Phil. 3:9).
The Jews in Jesus' time could not see what real righteousness was. They were indulging in self-righteousness as some Christians do today (1 Pet. 2:8). They were trying to earn their way to Heaven. We are to trust in Christ, and what He can do in us and in others instead of trusting in what we can do. The problem was not what the Jews (like some misguided, legalistic Christians today) were pursuing, but how they were going about it. Thus, their unbelief was rooted on their faulty thinking and how they saw righteousness. The Jews saw it through works only, their own efforts. However, their very own Torah said it only pointed to their depravity. And, the point even then was to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and trust in Him, not what you could do. The Old Testament Law was to be only a glimpse in a window of the Savior to come, our depravity, what we are saved from, and a governing principle of what faith is. Legalistic Christians see righteousness as coming from following a set of rules made from pride instead of following Christ. Pride is one of the biggest barriers for us to hurdle (Phil. 3:1-11). The Jews had faith in their traditions and legalistic Christians in their regulations; neither had faith in the Lord. The question is, where does your faith lie (Rom. 2:5-16; 3:22; 5:10; 9:30)?
Faith is the instrument for Righteousness but not the cause. Christ is the cause. Righteousness comes only by faith in Christ. Sola Fide, ("by faith alone") is the Reformational slogan that challenged and solidified what the Bible and the Christian faith was all about. This act is divinely initiated. It is grounded in the obedience of Christ who fulfilled the requirements for us. It is based on the faithfulness of our Lord, and not of our goodness. Our goodness comes from God's working in us so we produce Fruit. Remember that all have fallen short of God's standards; sin has affected all of our being and all that of the world's. Even if we had not actually committed any evil, it is still our nature to do so. We have all sinned, some more than others, but the smallest sin falls way short of God's requirements. This is what "total depravity" and "original sin" are all about (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 15:42-49; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:24; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:10). Growing in faith, education, and commitment will prevent the practice of sin even though sin will still be present.
The goal of the Christian life is to pursue righteousness, character, and maturity, all of which we get from the workings of the Spirit in us (Matt. 7:16-18; John 15:4-8; Gal. 2:22-23). If you feel stale and dry from lack of love and sympathy in your life, especially with God, you may have a big problem! Drop to your knees in surrendered prayer and seek His face! (Keep in mind that emotional levels differ with each personality; God does not care about our emotional level, only our faith, trust, and response for what He has done.) Seek what is blocking you from pursuing Righteousness and the understanding others and having sympathy. A true test of how Righteousness is working in us is the amount of love and sympathy we have for one another and the lost. This is what leads us to pray for even those we do not like. When we have faith in God, then we must have faith in His Word and be against everything that stands against it!
Is the Character of Righteousness working in you?
Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character and fruit of Righteousness from God's most precious Word by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:
- How do I exhibit Righteousness in my daily life?
- What can I do to develop a better willingness to pursue Righteousness?
- What blocks Righteousness from working and being exhibited in me?
- How can I make Righteousness function better, stronger, and faster even in times of uncertainly and stress?
· Here are positive examples from Scripture: Duet. 7:6; Job 1:1-3; Ezek. 18:5-9; Luke 2:25-28; Rom. 14:8-10; 2 Cor. 4:1-7; Col. 2:20-23
· Here are negative examples from Scripture: Jos. 10:1-5; Isa. 61:10; 65:1-7; Matt. 22:11-12; 23; Mark 2:16; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Pet. 2:9-10
1.How would you define Righteousness? What are you devoted too?
2.How would the desire to seek Righteousness improve your relationships? What part does Righteousness play in your relationships with church members, friends, co-workers and family?
3.How does Irreverence to God and His call impact the attitude of Righteousness? What is the cost to others (God, family, friends, neighbors, church family, co-workers, etc.) when you are a person who is focused on sin?
4.What happens to your relationship with God, with others, and with the opportunities God gives you when we do not pursue our growth in the faith?
5.When have you been filled with Righteousness the most?
6.In what situation did you fail to have an attitude of Righteousness when you should have?
7.What issue is in your life that would improve with more Righteousness?
8.Think through the steps you need to take to put Righteousness into action in a specific instance, such as, where is Righteousness not functioning properly in my Christian walk and what can I do about it? What can I do to develop a better initiative to my responsibility to practice Righteousness?
© 2005, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org