Righteousness in the church is like the elusive unicorn–always talked about, searched out, rarely glimpsed, and anyone who says they’ve caught it are looked at with disdain.
No one will argue that Jesus is righteous. Scripture is clear, “Righteousness smiles down from Heaven” (Psalm 85:11) and “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (Psalm 97:2).
However, there are many who would argue, vehemently even, that people on earth are far from being righteous.
Who You Are
Psalm 7:8 tells us “The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me” (ESV).
At first reading, if God is an angry, pissed off pap acting as the Sin Police, this scripture is terrifying. We know, because we live with ourselves, that there is no righteousness inside us. There is nothing I can do on my own to conjure up even a little good. Even the good works I can push through myself are not good enough. My righteousness is like a filthy, blood soaked rag!
But thank God that we don’t need to look at ourselves for righteousness.
Jesus is our Righteousness
1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us plainly, “And because of him (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (ESV).
Where Psalm 7:8 tells us that we will be judged according to our righteousness, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that it is Jesus who has become our righteousness!
It’s trick scripture!
God is crafty in this story he’s telling. Like the author who writes plot twist after plot twist, God has designed a story so compelling and complex that our minds have difficulty grasping how wide and deep and high his love goes.
God in his wisdom knew that we, as humans, could never conjure up enough righteousness to please him, so he planted Christ in us to be righteousness for us!
We see this also in Romans 6 where Paul warns the church, “How can we who have died to sin, go on living in it?” (Lovett’s Lights: Romans). Lovett teaches that Jesus died two deaths. One FOR sin and one TO sin. “The atonement was made BEFORE He died physically,” writes Lovett. This was his separation from God, his spiritual death FOR sin. Once he died physically and was free from sin completely, his death TO sin, Jesus was able to allow us to participate in that death by faith.
“We are declared legally dead, because we’re in Christ” (Lovett 126). This is a process called imputation, and it involves actions that are criminal. It’s saying, “He did it, I did not!”
I did not sin. Jesus did!
By the act of imputation, we legally get to say that we did not do the sin that caused death. We legally get to point our spindly little fingers at Jesus and say, “He did it!” And he did! Jesus died AS SIN for us! He then, upon death, became righteous on our behalf. We are in Christ; therefore, we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness (Romans 6:11).
This is why the gospel is GOOD NEWS!
This is why we worship.
This is why we celebrate.
This is why we revel and contemplate our lover.
This is why we waste our lives gazing upon his beauty night and day.