Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.
What is righteousness? Being good? Doing good? Not drinking or drugging? Giving money to the poor? Going to church every Sunday? It’s none of these things. It’s nothing we can ever achieve by doing or being. Plain and simple, righteousness is believing in what God says to the point where you live by it. This belief in action is called faith.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> and assurance about what we do not see.<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1,2) Right from the beginning, righteousness required a deep and abiding belief in God’s Word. For Abraham and Sarah their righteousness was that they believed in an ‘impossible’ promise from God; “ And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age,<sup class="crossreference" value="(V)”> was enabled to bear children<sup class="crossreference" value="(W)”> because she considered him faithful<sup class="crossreference" value="(X)”> who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Y)”> came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:11,12)
In my own life, my righteousness grew out of believing that God would rescue my son from the living death of addiction on the streets of Vancouver. He did. Without faith, without belief we cannot please God; “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”> must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) This was bad news for the Pharisees and it is bad news for us when we look to please God by our good deeds. The desire to look good is bad for our spiritual health; “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)
This is Gospel good news for a guy like me who has a tendency to fall down and look like a fool. My vanity, my temper, and my pride all work to make me look really bad. At my lowest and worst I have the faith to believe that God’s grace is still there for me. I have faith to repent and allow Jesus to pick me up again (and again and again . . .); ” . . . for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16) Lots of people have real problems with jerks like me. I don’t blame them- I have real problems with me. God’s working on me. Jesus is my righteousness and He helps me do what is right; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
Beware, there is wickedness within the church. There is disbelief. Liberal theology epitomised by the likes of Bishop Spong have drawn many away from righteousness. This disbelief and wickedness has done much damage to the church – many have fallen away because of it. Johnson, Hodge and Luidens in their study for the reasons of the decline of mainline churches conclude; “. . . , the single best predictor of church participation turned out to be belief-orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ. Virtually all our baby boomers who believe this are active members of a church.”
Many churches have been brought down by the calamity of the false gospels taught by liberal theology. Be very careful about what you believe about righteousness! “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ” (Romans 1:17)
Wicked people have real problems with my claim to righteousness because it is based on God’s Word about Jesus. I have faith in John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Jack Zavada writes “believers receive righteousness from Christ. This doctrine is called imputation. Christ’s perfect righteousness is applied to imperfect humans. . . . When Jesus entered the world, things changed. His crucifixion and resurrection satisfied God’s justice. Christ’s shed blood covers our sins. No more sacrifices or works are required.” When I die and go to heaven maybe I’ll ask for a bright orange sweatshirt with the words; “Jesus got me in!” stenciled on the back to deal with all the questions. On second thought, I won’t need this shirt – everyone in heaven knows that Jesus can save – even a jerk like me!
Praise the Lord!