The word “righteousness” has become a religious cliché that has lost its meaning to many people. Even Christians are confused about what righteousness is and how to receive it.
This has left our society without a clear understanding of what it takes to have a relationship with God. This is reflected in our nation’s moral collapse. It’s imperative that we get back to the basics of righteousness.
“Righteousness” and its counterpart, “righteous,” appear 540 times in 520 verses of the Bible. In contrast, “faith,” “faithfulness,” and “faithful” are only used 348 times in 328 verses. This means that there are 1.5 times as many scriptures about righteousness as there are about faith. Righteousness is important.
A layman’s definition of righteousness is simply, “right standing with God.” Righteousness is the condition of being in right relationship with the Lord. This can only happen through TOTAL faith and dependence upon Christ. There is no other way, and there is nothing we can add to our faith to obtain right relationship with the Lord (Rom. 11:6).
One of the things that blinds people to a true understanding of righteousness is confusion about how we become right in the sight of God. It is commonly thought that our actions are the determining factor in God’s judgment of our righteousness. That’s not true. There is a relationship between our actions and our right standing with God, but right relationship with God produces actions, not the other way around. That is to say, we are not made righteous by what we do.
Righteousness is a gift that comes from the Lord to those who accept what Jesus has done for them by faith (Rom. 5:17-18). The gift of salvation produces a changed heart that, in turn, changes our actions. Actions cannot change our hearts. It’s the heart of man that God looks upon (1 Sam. 16:7), and we must be righteous in our hearts to truly worship God (John 4:24).
The mistake of thinking that doing right makes us right is the same error the Pharisees made. Religion has always preached that if we clean up our actions, our hearts will become clean too. Jesus taught just the opposite (Matt. 23:25-26). It’s through a changed heart that our actions change. The heart is the issue. Actions are only an indication of what is in our hearts. Actions are the fruit the heart produces.
Modern-day Christianity often puts the emphasis on actions instead of issues of the heart. This is reflected in Christians’ excessive efforts to legislate change in people’s actions instead of changing their hearts by the preaching of the Gospel. It’s the Gospel that contains the power of God, not political action groups (Rom. 1:16). Laws only affect actions. The Gospel changes hearts. Once hearts are changed, actions change.
Contrary to popular belief, Christianity does not promote receiving justice from the Lord. Praise God for that! The Lord has a much better plan. We get what we believe.
I once developed pictures in a photography studio for a living. People would come into the studio to look at their proofs and say things like, “This picture doesn’t do me justice.” I never had the nerve to say this, but I often thought, Lady, you don’t need justice, you need mercy. Continue Reading