What is “righteousness”? I hear far too often that it means "doing the right thing." But I don’t do the right thing. The Bible is clear – “There is no one righteous, not even one.” “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Only Jesus lived up to the ideal of Christian character. No man is good enough to be a Christian, let alone a leader of Christians.
So we have heard all of this before. But consider how easy it is for us to hold others to a standard that we never really hold ourselves to. We expect people who are not yet Christians to demonstrate repentance, but do we sometimes hold them to a standard that we ourselves don’t even hold to (consistently)? We judge leaders—they aren’t living up to the standards that we see in the Bible, so we criticize. But we don’t live up to them either. We see a brother sin and we confront the sin with “righteous indignation” rather than compassion, acting as if we have never committed so heinous a sin. Then we fall—and we are so shocked at our own sin, that it sends us into a tailspin.
Why do we listen to the voice that says, “You’re done. This time it was too much. Give up. There’s no recovery. You might as well just throw in the towel. What’s the point of denying yourself of any worldly pleasures now? Jump in with both feet and enjoy it while you can.” Satan lays it on us heavy; he pummels us with the temptation to quit while we are down, acting as if our sin is too bad to recover from. He’s hoping we’ll quit, hoping we’ll misunderstand righteousness. Is there something wrong with our definition of “righteous”?
Righteousness is not:
· Our goodness
· Doing right things instead of wrong
· A sinless life
Noah was called “blameless” but he was not sinless. He probably had regrets—think of how long it took to build that ark. Even as a “preacher of righteousness” he probably wished he would have saved more than his eight family members.
· Our adoption as sons
· A “right” relationship
· Based on God’s forgiveness, not our right actions
· A choice—a relationship takes 2 parties. We can’t be right with someone if we won’t accept his or her love and forgiveness.
· A responsibility—Don’t squander God’s righteousness by missing it or basing your response on your ability to do the right thing. It is our responsibility to accept God’s righteousness in our relationship with Him