Righteousness Comes Easy.

I read a blog post recently by a leader of the MST project, a men’s outreach program, where the writer says:

“Holiness and righteousness are not characteristics that come easily to us as mere mortals.”

Disagree. Holiness and righteousness do come easily to us because God has given them to us as a free gift.

This is the gospel. This is the good news!

No matter what we do, how we fall, if we are in Christ we are absolutely covered by the blood. God doesn’t count our sin against us anymore. The moment we sin we are forgiven and our sins forgotten.

Why do men seem intent on remembering our sin when God forgets?

It seems this writer believes that ‘being good’ makes us more holy, more righteous, and that if we fall, in some way, we become less righteous.

i.e “If I don’t look at porn, I’m holy and righteous, but if I do, I’m not.”

This is not  the message of Grace. This is a works gospel.

The message of Grace is that God has given us His righteousness as a free gift.

Our right standing before God has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do – but all about what Christ has done for us.

We are absolutely holy,  righteous and perfect in God’s eyes regardless of what we do or don’t do.

Nothing we do has any bearing on our right standing with God.

If anyone thinks he can earn righteousness by himself he is, by very definition,  ‘self-righteous.’

The only one who makes us righteous is Christ in us.

And because Christ is in us, to God we are perfect.

“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.”

(Hebrews 10:14)

Perfect forever!

Because of Him, not because of us.

The moment we start pointing to our selves and our own achievements instead of to Christ we reject God’s grace and put our self back under the law: if I don’t look at porn for a week I am holier than if I don’t.

This is not the gospel! The gospel is ‘I am righteous and holy because of what Christ has done, not because of what I do.’

“Not of yourselves,” says Paul. “It is the gift of God.”

We could never achieve perfection ourselves, so God gave it to us a free gift, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This is why we’ll be forever grateful. Why should we be grateful for something we could achieve ourselves?

Imagine if you needed heart surgery and someone gave you some aspirin, well, you could buy that yourself. But if someone died voluntarily and gave you their heart to save your life how grateful would you be?

That’s what Christ did. He died to save our eternal lives. He is our spiritual heart surgeon and our donor all in one.

This is the good news: righteousness is ours as a free gift – so is eternal life.

Not a gift I’d want to take back and change for something else.

But when we try to earn it, when we try to be righteous by striving to be ‘good’ it is like taking the gift back, saying:

“”Um…great gift Lord, really appreciate the thought y’know, the cross ‘n’ all that, but I really want to earn my righteousness on my own.”

Or saying to the heart surgeon / donor:

“Thanks for the offer, but I really want to do my heart operation by my self.”

God knows we can’t give ourselves a new heart, so He says:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you.”

(Ezekiel 36:26)

The new Spirit is Christ!

In the same way as we can’t give ourselves a new heart, we can never achieve righteousness by ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

If we think we can this is pride – the sin of Lucifer.

Remember his words:

“I will make myself like the Most High.”

(Isaiah 14:14)

Satan was already ‘perfect in beauty’ Ezekiel 28 tells us. But that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be God.

And if we think we can make ourselves righteous, we are saying we can be our own Savior, we are putting ourselves in the place of God.

But we can not save ourselves. We can’t achieve perfection ourselves by ‘being good’.

If we think we can we’re like the Jews of Jesus’ day who believed they could attain perfection by obeying the law.

But the bible teaches:

“Whoever breaks one law breaks them all.”

(James 2:10)

Obeying the law was impossible. Only one person kept the whole law – Jesus. Thank God then, for Grace. As Joseph Prince says:

“Law condemns the best of us, but grace saves the worst of us.”

Thanks to Jesus we are blameless before God – not because of what we do, but because of what He did for us. We are righteous because of Christ in us. We have His righteousness. This is the good news! This is the gospel! As Paul says:

“In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith.”

(Romans 1:17)

and:

“Not a righteousness of my own – a righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

(Philippians 3:9)

No wonder Paul kept banging on about this – he couldn’t believe it! No more struggling to obey the law! He was righteous simply by believing! We can never achieve righteousness by our selves. That’s why God had to send Jesus. And thank God he did because now we are:

“Justified by faith.”

(Romans 5:1)

The writer in Present Truth magazine says:

“Paul says no one can become just in God’s sight by his own performance, and he uses the future tense: no one will ever be considered justified on the basis of his own life. The reason is clear:

“All have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace.”

(Romans 3:23)

Freely by grace!

We’ll always fall short of God’s standard, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we strive to be righteous or holy. Our only hope is receiving it as a gift, by grace.

Justified.

Even if we sin, our sin cannot condemn us.  Because, Paul says:

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

(Romans 8:1)

The devil may accuse you, men may accuse you, but Paul says this:

“If it’s God who justifies you, who can throw a charge against you?”

No one can ever charge us with a sin because Christ has paid our penalty, once for all, past, present and future. Yet even if we sin God doesn’t count it against us.

“He reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

(2 Cor 5:19)

All of our sin was crucified with Christ on the cross:

“He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

(Hebrews 9:26)

Do away with. Wipe out. Eradicate. Once for all. If we are in Christ, Paul says:

“We died with Christ, and anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

(Romans 6:7)

Freed from sin!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” yells Paul.

(Galatians 5:1)

And Jesus:

“The Spirit of the Lord has sent me to set free the prisoners of sin.”

(Luke 4:18)

Joseph Prince calls it the ‘Divine Exchange‘:

“He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that through Him we could become the righteousness of God.”

(2 Cor 5:21)

He became sin. We became righteous. Denying this once for all sacrifice, to claim we are not righteous when God says we are, again, is rejecting Gods gift!

“I’m sorry God, but Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t good enough. I’m still filthy in my sin. I sin every day! I’m not righteous at all. I am weak.”

To which Jesus replies:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

(2 Cor 12:9)

His power is made perfect through our weakness! Paul says:

“Therefore I am glad to boast of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may work through me!”

Let’s not give God’s wonderful gift of grace back. Let’s not say Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough to cleanse us of all our sin. If Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough the writer of Hebrews couldn’t say:

“He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

(Hebrews 9:26)

When Jesus cried from The Cross ‘It is finished,’ He meant sin was finished. Dealt with. Done away with. Destroyed. The Divine Exchange had taken place. He became sin. We became righteous.

“Not of yourselves,’ says Paul, ‘It is the gift of God.”

(Ephesians 2:8)

We have to get it out of our heads – we can’t earn God’s righteousness. It’s a gift. All we can do is receive and believe.  So let’s hold our hearts out and say:

“Thanks Lord. I know I can’t be righteousness by myself. Thanks for suffering for me on the cross and that I’m righteous because of you. Your cross was good enough. I am free.”

No more striving. No more trying. No more stress about sin. Instead of focusing on ourselves, let’s focus on Jesus. Let’s be ‘Christ conscious, and not sin conscious,’ as Joseph Prince puts it. Paul says:

“You are not led by the sinful nature if the Spirit of God lives in you.”

(Romans 8:9)

If the Spirit of God lives in us, our minds are set on what the Spirit desires. Yet even if we do sin The Spirit turns our devotion back to Christ.

This is the true meaning of ‘repent’ – turning our focus from our ‘self’ and our sin back towards God. Turning from a belief in our own achievements towards a belief in God’s achievement – on The Cross.

But we don’t do it. We are incapable.

The Spirit does it for us.

Paul says:

“And we all who reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

(2 Cor 3:18)

When we focus on Him instead of ourselves His Spirit reflects on us and we change into His image, becoming more and more like Him, with ever-increasing glory. Paul says the ‘mystery’ of the gospel is:

“Christ in you – the hope of glory.”

(Col 1:27)

‘Glory’ in the bible means ‘a beauty and majesty distinctive to God’. And ‘hope’ means ‘a joyful confidence.’ So Paul is saying because Christ is in us we have God’s beauty and majesty.

Now, if I were to stand and proclaim ‘I have the beauty and majesty of God’ I’d sound proud and pretentious. But Paul says we can say this with joyful confidence because of Christ in us.

We are adorned with His beauty and majesty.

Again, it isn’t something we can give ourselves. We can’t adorn ourselves with the beauty and majesty of God! Only God can. In the same way we can’t earn our own righteousness. This is why Isaiah gets so excited when he says:

“I’m overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He’s clothed me in garments of salvation and draped me in a robe of His righteousness!”

(Isaiah 61:10)

Isaiah’s overflowing with joy! He understood God’s grace. God had adorned him with His beauty and majesty and with His righteousness. And notice how Isaiah doesn’t say he clothed himself, but God clothed him.

His ‘righteousness’ was not his own doing, but God’s.

No wonder Isaiah says he’s ‘overwhelmed with joy’ – he was draped in the beauty and majesty of God!

And so are if we are in Christ .

“Look at the flowers of the field. Not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned as beautifully as these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, how much more will he clothe you?”

(Matthew 6:30)

In garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness, and in the beauty and majesty of God!

Grasping Love.

Once we grasp how great His love for us is our desire to sin melts away like ice in the sun because we don’t want to hurt Him.

We know how much He loves us because we know how much the gift cost Him – His son’s blood poured out on The Cross. The gift of righteousness comes free to us, but it cost God everything. We were bought at a price.

“God demonstrated His love for us by sending his one and only Son into the world.”

(1 John 4:9)

Accept you are completely holy and righteous in Christ.

Accept God’s great gift.

The devil may attack, with emails from people in the church, saying:

“This teaching is wrong. You still have a long way to go. You are full of sin. You should step down from ministry.”

But this is a lie from the devil, the father of lies. This kind of teaching has been keeping the church in prison for centuries.

Reject it. It’s a lie.

We are completely holy, righteous and justified in Christ.

We are adorned with His beauty and majesty.

Don’t accept this teaching, people. Distance yourself from it.

“But I don’t feel beautiful,” you say. “I still sin every day.”

But Paul says:

“We died with Christ, and anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

(Romans 6:7)

We’ve been freed from sin!

Believe it and receive it. Even if we do sin, God doesn’t count it against us.

We are righteous by faith. We are free!

Look at Paul – 15 years after his conversion he wrote to the church at Rome regarding his own battle with sin:

“What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

(Romans 7:15)

Now if Paul, the greatest apostle to ever live, was still battling with sin 15 years after his conversion, what makes us think we should be any different? But the fact is, even if we sin, God doesn’t count it against us.

“Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

(Psalm 32:2)

But did Paul, even when he ‘did what he hated to do,’ condemn himself? Did he wallow in guilt? Declare himself unfit to preach the gospel of grace? Absolutely not! His response was:

“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

(Romans 7:24)

Paul didn’t look to his own strength or ability to defeat sin, he looked to Christ. This may come as a surprise to some, but nothing we do affects our righteousness.

We cannot defeat sin ourselves. If we could Christ died for nothing!

If we think we can conquer sin ourselves we are like the Jews of Jesus’ day, who thought they could achieve righteousness by obeying the law. But, God says, compared to His glory, beauty and majesty:

“All of your good deeds are like filthy rags.”

(Isaiah 64:6)

Shocking huh? Just when we thought our striving to ‘be good’ was getting us somewhere.

Well, rest easy, because we are already where we need to be, if we are resting in Christ.

As long as we’re relying on our own ability to ‘be good’ and pointing to our own achievements we are building our house on sand, not on the rock that is Christ.

As Peter White says in his brilliant essay From Law to Grace:

“We are to proclaim God’s Grace and never our own achievements.”

“So you’re saying we are still righteous, even in the midst of our sin, because our righteousness doesn’t depend on what we do, but on what Christ has done?”

Yes! This is the good news. This is The Gospel.

As Joseph Prince says:

“We are still righteous in Christ, even when we do wrong.”

Because our righteousness doesn’t depend on our own achievements, but on Christ’s achievement on The Cross.

Amazing?   Sure.

Unbelievable?  Yes.

Too good to be true? Absolutely!!!

This is why Grace is so difficult to grasp. It is too good to be true!

As Micah J Murray says in his superb article.

“We are probably just beginning to glimpse what the Gospel really is, and it’s better news than we had ever dreamed.”

The gospel is better than we ever dreamed. And Grace is easy to grasp if we just believe God’s word!

“But if I grasp Grace will it help me stop sinning?”

Is your focus on your ‘sin’ or on Christ? Are you ‘sin conscious,’ or ‘Christ conscious?’ as Joseph Prince puts it.

If we focus on Christ we soak up more and more of His beauty and majesty. But if we focus on our sin we stay chained in the prison of our sin. Yet Jesus says:

“The Spirit of the Lord has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners of sin.”

(Luke 4:18)

Freedom!

“And if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

(John 8:36)

In the hit TV series Prison Break – Tea Bag – a character struggling to break from his life as a law-breaker to live a righteous life, says:

“We are prisoners of our own identities.”

But if our identities are in Christ, we are imprisoned in His identity: holy, righteous and sin-free.

Truly understanding this freedom – that even if we sin we are still righteous before God – is so freeing we suddenly feel as light as a feather because it releases the burden of guilt.

It’s such a heavy load to carry trying to be righteous by ourselves, but Jesus says:

“Come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

(Matthew 11:28)

Rest.

So please, take a deep breath, accept you are righteous and holy by faith, and relax in His Grace.

Then you will feel the desire to sin melt away like ice in the sun – or rather, in The Son!

But beware, the devil will attack you.

Distance yourself from any teaching  that tells you you are less than perfect in Christ, that tells you you still ‘have a long way to go,’ or you must ‘strive for purity, holiness and righteousness’, or because of your own actions you are not ‘holy’ enough to teach and lead.

For –

“We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.”

(Hebrews 10:10)

and

“It’s not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!”

(Ephesians 2:8)

Let’s accept our King’s gift of grace and wear our robes of righteousness with majesty and beauty, like Isaiah, overwhelmed with joy!

In the words of the great apostle, Paul:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Amen.

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