There’s one concern that ought to outweigh all others – and that is this: To be able to answer the question, “How can I be right with God?”
How can a person know that they stand in God’s favor and not under His judgment?
How can they be confident that when this life is over, they’re accepted and not condemned before the Heavenly Judge?
What is righteousness? It simply means to BE in the right; being in the place where God approves us.
Under the Mosaic Covenant, righteousness was conditioned on obedience to the Law. For ancient Israel, being right with God was about what a person did or didn’t do. It was based in their works, how well they performed in light of the commands and statutes of God. The blood of the sacrifice provided a covering to hide their guilt from God. As soon as they sinned, they were no longer right until they brought another sacrifice and once more covered over their guilt.
The only time they could be confident they were okay with God was when the smoke of their sacrifice ascended to heaven. But how long would it be before they sinned once more & another sacrifice would be needed?
While Israel’s righteousness was based on their performance of and obedience to the law, ours is based, not in our performance, but in Christ’s.
The only way a person can be right with God is to obey Him. For Israel, that obedience was to the Law; our obedience is to believe in Christ – who lived a life of perfect righteousness before God.
Being right with God is all about works – the only issue is whose works we stand in – ours or Christ’s! Either we come to God in ourselves, bringing our own merit and effort, or we come to God in Christ, standing in His merit.
The prophet Isaiah tells us what a righteousness based on our works is like. In Isaiah 64:6 we read, “We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”
The Apostle Paul was someone who went through a radical transformation when he realized that being right with God was not about what he did but by believing in what Christ had done.
4bIf anyone thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Paul was a standout among his peers when it came to morality and keeping the rules of his religion as a Jew. When Jesus met him on the Road to Damascus, Paul came to realize that the righteousness he needed wasn’t based in his works, his performance, but came through faith in Christ who had already performed FOR him.
He goes on to say in Philippians 3:8-9 “8Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.“
There it is right there…we can attempt to gain acceptance and righteousness with God through our own works, or we can be right with Him through the One He’s already accepted.
Which do you choose?
Psalm 27:4 “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”
David knew the only way to enjoy fellowship with God was to be right with Him, and the only time he felt truly right with God was at the tabernacle, offering sacrifice to Him.
The same is true for us – our confidence in fellowship with God comes through sacrifice, but not the offering of a goat or bull; our sacrifice is Jesus Christ, and what He offered on the cross was enough for all time.
His is a perfect sacrifice that forever cleanses those who come to Him. Our righteousness, and so our fellowship with God, is not the see-saw experience of the Israelite under the law, it’s a confident expectation that because Jesus is eternally right with God and we are in Him, then we too are right with God & can enjoy the most intimate communion with Him every moment of every day, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
Now we have the answer to that most important of all questions – “How can a person be right with God.” Through faith in Jesus Christ; that what He did in living a sinless and perfect life, then dying for us and rising again from the dead, provides the ground upon which we can stand accepted by God for all eternity.
Christian, God already accepts you completely in Christ! You cannot make God accept or love you more!
Your fellowship with God is not based on your performance, on whether or not you’ve been a good boy or girl. your fellowship with God is based on your new relationship with God through faith in Jesus and what HE’S done.
In other words, the Father looks at you in the same way He looks at the Son, with full and unreserved acceptance and love. YOU now are His son, His daughter, and as such,your standing before God is based on relationship, not performance.
Many of us base our approach to God like a service based on our efforts instead of realizing we are His sons and daughters. We think that it’s all up to us, that we have to perform and that our closeness to God is based on how well we’re doing. We think God’s acceptance and blessing is based on what we do.
What God would have us know today is that because of what Christ HAS DONE, we cannot make ourselves more acceptable to Him! The great secret of intimacy with God is to let go of self-effort in earning our way to His favor, and instead, taking by faith what is already ours.
Some think, “Oh if I only read the Bible more often…or prayed more often…or evangelized more…that God would love me more and His favor would shine upon me more”. No! Christian, because of Christ, God loves you and accepts you just as much now as if you did all those things…those things are good, but those things will not incur more favor with God. Since God has fully accepted Christ, since you are IN Christ, God has fully accepted you! By saying these things to yourself, you are creating your own works based righteousness, not God based. Essentially telling yourself that if you do these things under your own effort, that God would accept you more.
There are those who say that a message like this is dangerous because it sounds like it doesn’t matter what we do – that because God accepts us in Christ, obedience doesn’t matter.
Can the Christian live a morally careless life and still be right with God? Can a believer live IN sin and be righteous In Christ at the same time? Of course not!
The evidence we are truly God’s sons and daughters is a growing family resemblance – we will look ever more like our Father. The fruit of genuine faith is not perfection but growth toward it.
As you stand before God, do you come in yourself, or Christ? If you come in Christ, then know this, God fully accepts and loves you without reserve. God yearns for you to just bask in that love and acceptance and that you would forever be free from fear and worry.
As Christopher quoted a few days ago, 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
If you come in yourself, and think that you can be right before God in your own works, you are tragically mistaken. You see, you’re basing your ideas on what God accepts by comparing yourself to other people instead of God’s standard. God doesn’t measure you against other people, grade on the bell curve – His standard is perfection.
Since no one but Jesus meets the criteria, no one gets in any other way but through Him.