In most dictionaries, righteousness means right conduct. It describes behavior that is characterized by accepted standards of virtue and morality. In the Bible, righteousness is the condition of being in right relationship or right standing with the Lord. The thing 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, conduct, and behavior determine God’s judgment of our righteousness. That is simply not true. We are not made right in God’s eyes by what we do, but by accepting what Jesus did on the cross, and acknowledging who we are in Him. Righteousness is not about what we do, it’s about who we are. We are new creatures. WE ARE SONS!
The righteousness of God is what gains us access to God’s presence. Not the righteousness of the law which is by works, but the free gift of righteousness which comes by faith. To approach God requires a righteousness equal to His own. Any vestige of sin would not be able to stand in His presence. The greatest benefit we have from the righteousness of God is our ability to stand in His presence and have intimate relationship with Him.
Righteousness is a gift. We can’t earn it, and we certainly don’t deserve it on the merit of our performance. It has to be received by faith. Righteousness is obtained by what we believe, not by what we do. If we embrace the gift of righteousness and believe that it truly has made us right in God’s sight, it begins to change our behavior. Our conduct begins to line up with the truth and it produces the fruit of holiness in our lives without straining and striving to “do better” to produce our own righteousness and holiness.
Failing to understand this truth is at the root of all guilt and condemnation. Satan’s only entrance into our lives is through sin. If we understand our right standing with God on the basis of what Jesus did for us, and not by our performance, then Satan’s power to condemn is gone. Those who live with feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness are not believing in God’s gift of righteousness, but are looking to their own works to obtain right standing with God. This will never work. It will only bear the fruit of frustration and produce more guilt, shame, and condemnation.
Righteousness can’t be produced by works, it can only be obtained by submitting to it, by believing in it.
Romans 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
To submit to righteousness means that we must believe that what God said about us is true. We must believe that He looks at us as if we have never sinned. That belief is established by how we act. Unfortunately, we have a problem acting like we have never sinned because we know we have. We see our ability to sin and fail and it makes us believe that we are sinners and failures. We look at our actions and consider our past and we walk by sight and not by faith in what God has done for us.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (AMP) For we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises]
God wants us to live with no consciousness of sin. He wants us to live as though sin never existed. He made us equal to His righteousness because He loves us and wants relationship with us. He gave us the ability to approach Him unveiled, unashamed, righteous, and holy IN HIS SIGHT! For righteousness to become a reality, we must become righteous, holy, and blameless IN OUR SIGHT. This can only be accomplished through faith, no amount of striving to “be right, or do good” will produce it.
We are born with a sin nature because of Adam. A sin nature has a strong voice. It is always saying, “You are a sinner, you are going to fail, you are not worthy, you are not righteous, and there is no way you can be.” When we listen to that voice we become alive to it, and then we become a slave to it. We have no power over something we are a slave to. We must learn to die to this sin nature so that we may live unto righteousness.
Romans 6:8-11 (NIV) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
The key to understanding this free gift of righteousness is having the proper perspective, the perspective of FAITH! We must see ourselves as God now sees us, righteous, holy, and blameless in His sight. If we still see ourselves as sinners after we have been born again, that just reveals our unbelief in what He accomplished on the cross. His sacrifice was enough! We need to start acting like it! As verse 11 above states, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” To count, imagine, reckon, believe yourself dead to the old and alive to the new.