HomeOpinion & AnalysisWhat is righteousness and how do you receive it?

What is righteousness and how do you receive it?

Grace tidings with Dr Doug Mamvura

The word “righteousness” has become a religious cliché that has lost its meaning. Even most Christians are confused about what it means and how one receives it.

Righteousness and the word righteous appear 540 times in 520 verses in the Bible. On the other hand, 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 very 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 (Romans 11:6).
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Most believers don’t know how they become right in the sight of God. They believe that it is through our actions that we become righteous. Some even go to the extent of going on a 40-day fast so they can become righteous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed there is a relationship between our actions and our right standing with God. 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 (Romans 5:17-18). The gift of salvation produces a changed heart that in turn changes our actions. Actions cannot change our hearts.

The Pharisees always clashed with Jesus because they believed that their righteousness was determined by their actions. This is why Jesus said unless your righteousness exceeds that of Pharisees and scribes you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). Jesus taught exactly the opposite of what these Pharisees believed (Matthew 23:25-26). It is through a changed heart that our actions change. The heart is the issue. Actions are only an indication of what is in our hearts.

Modern-day Christianity often puts the emphasis on actions instead 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 is the Gospel that contains the power of God, nothing else. The Gospel changes hearts. Once hearts are changed, actions change.

In Christianity we get what we believe not justice. We sometimes call for justice but that is not what we need. As the Bible say, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

The Lord is very gracious to compare us to dumb sheep that simply lost their way instead of some rebellious animal that willingly rejected all instruction. One characteristic of sheep that is especially applicable here is their herd mentality. They will literally jump off a cliff to their deaths if that is what the rest of the herd is doing. How similar carnal man is to this.

In Romans 3:23, the Bible says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).

The wonderful plan of salvation is that those who put their faith in Jesus and what He did for us get what He deserves. On the other hand, those who don’t put their total faith in Christ will ultimately get what they deserve. Religion has subtly taught people to trust in their own goodness instead of God’s. This will never work. Some of us boast about how many hours we spend in prayer or how we never miss church. While it is important to pray and not to forsake the gathering of saints as the Bible instruct us, it is not through these acts that you become holy or righteous. We have to depend on God’s righteousness which is a gift which we receive from God through faith in order for us to live victorious lives. Our own righteousness falls far short of God’s righteousness and no human being can attain that through their own works. You can fast for 40 days, have a prayer chain of 10 million people, have all the pastors, bishops and prophets and half their wives pray for your righteousness, you will never become righteous.

Isaiah 64:6 refers to our righteousness as filthy rags. This refers to our self righteousness. All that we do on our own to obtain right standing with the Lord is grossly inadequate. But when we come to Jesus and receive His salvation, we are given His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus became our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).

The new birth (John 3:3) or salvation, doesn’t produce a changed life but an exchanged life.

That is to say, the Lord doesn’t make our flesh wise, righteous, sanctified, or redeemed. Instead, He becomes our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
The Christian life is not just difficult to live, it is impossible to live through our own ability. It is only when we cease to operate in our carnal selves and let Jesus live through us that we can obtain victory.

For instance, those who depend on their own intellect to figure out the direction for their lives will always make mistakes. The proper way for Christians to act is to humble themselves and ask God for direction. Then the wisdom of Christ within them will come out and He will direct their paths (Proverbs 3:6).

Instead of depending on our acts of righteousness to earn the blessings of God, we should accept the fact that Jesus has given us His righteousness. In Christ (or through Christ) is the only way that we will ever be righteous enough to approach God.

Our bodies and souls are not yet redeemed (Romans 8:23), but our spirits are. Jesus lives in the spirits of believers, and all His wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption are available to us if we depend on Him instead of on our own abilities.

No one can compete with God’s righteousness.” God’s righteousness is the standard by which everyone must be measured. How can anyone be saved? The answer is that no one can be saved, if they are trusting in their own righteousness. We all must have a righteousness that exceeds anything we could ever produce through our own effort. That’s where Jesus enters.

Jesus was in a righteous relationship with God as no one else can be. He is the Son of God. He is God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). He is holy and pure and without sin, yet He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), through no wrongdoing on His part. He took our sins in His own body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).

 Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: drdoug@corporatemomentum.biz or Twitter @dougmamvura

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