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 Does doing "right" make you Righteous?

Does doing "right" make you Righteous?

NO! Absolutely not!

Many Christians think that the aim of "Christian living" is to do right things and avoid wrong things. Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember, it's about knowing Christ. All the "doing" will flow from that. When we reverse the two, we end up with nothing more than dead religious works, regardless of how admirable they may look to everybody around us.

The truth is you don't need to police your daily lifestyle. You don't need to evaluate yourself to see whether or not you are doing the things you think you need to be doing. It's always about "I should be doing this or I should be doing that." Or, that "I must be avoiding this or that." Many Christian's entire focus is doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things.

Remember the Pharisees? They looked right and did many right things, but they had a big problem, they were spiritually dead.

Matt 5:20, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

God says, "You have been bought with a price. And I am the One who bought you. What I paid for you is Jesus." It is accurate to say that to God, you are of equal value to Him as Jesus is to Him. Now that seems almost blasphemous, doesn't it? But I want to assure you that your heavenly Father treasures you the same way that He treasures His own Son because Christ is your life. You are now one with Him. You are 100% righteous because He is 100% righteous. God the Father loves you just as much as He loves Jesus.

In fact, you will be no more righteous in heaven than you are right now. I'm not talking about your behavior. I'm talking about your nature. I'm talking about who you are. Righteousness by progression is a legalistic lie that implies you make your own way toward greater righteousness by doing the right things.

So many Christians are trying to live by religious rules and a list of rights and wrongs. Many spend all of their energy and efforts on changing outward behavior and sin management. Our lifestyle is not to be built on rules! Life is not about finding and keeping the right set of rules. Our life exists in our union with Jesus Christ. Out of that, everything is to flow.

With all the legalistic preaching that is going on it is easy to come to the conclusion that the most important subject among believers is sin. Sin management often seems to be the reason for public ministry and to be the most important goal many who follow Jesus have embraced for their lives.

Overcoming sinful actions in life consumes the thoughts and energy of many sincere Christians. They are completely dedicated to stopping the wrong things they do and replacing those actions with actions that glorify God. While their motives are certainly pure, their goal and focus is completely misguided.

We are not called upon in Scripture to direct our attention toward our sins and exert our energy on eliminating them. In fact, to take this approach not only won't reduce sinful actions; it will increase wrong behavior in our lifestyles. The truth of the matter is that the Bible teaches we aren't to focus on sins at all, but to focus our undivided attention on Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul dealt with the subject of our focus by warning the churches he established in grace not to make sins their focus, but instead to look to Christ.

To try to overcome sin by focusing on it has the exact opposite effect that we want in our lives. If we are fixated on what we do wrong and trying to figure out how to conquer the bad behavior, we will always come to some sort of plan that involves our own willpower and determination. When that happens, it doesn't matter how sincere we might be, we are setting ourselves up to fail. Taking an approach that contradicts what the Bible says about our sins won't work despite the fact that we are sincere and even ask for God's help. He will not help us with our method, but will instead let us fail until we come to the place where we are willing to learn and accept His answer concerning our sinful actions.

Any approach we take in overcoming our own sins through self-discipline is legalistic because it stirs up within us the false hope that there is something we can do to defeat it. The reality is that we don't have to conquer our sins because Jesus Christ already has defeated sin. When we try to do what He has already accomplished we are then denying the sufficiency of His grace in the matter and are attempting to utilize a legalistic method to do it ourselves. Legalistic methods doom us to failure. Paul wrote that, "sinful passions are aroused by the law" (Romans 7:5). He warned the Corinthians who were trapped in sinful behavior that, "the strength of sin is the Law" (1 Corinthians 15:56, emphasis added).

Legalistic attempts to overcome sins by self imposed rules and self-determination are to sins what gasoline is to a flame. It won't stop it but will make matters worse. The only way to enjoy victory over sin is to rest in the victory that is already ours because of Christ's finished work. He defeated sin once and for all. Transformation comes to our lifestyle when we simply believe that reality and stop trying to do something that He has already done. We simply rest in His victory and direct our attention to Him. When we do that, the sins that have wielded power over us fall aside into impotency.

Jesus didn't come to help us keep religious rules. He came to deliver us from that system altogether. The old man who was married to law was put to death with Him at the cross so that we have no relationship to it anymore. The law is alive, but the "old you" who was married to it is not. "You also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God" (Romans 7:4). Because of our co-crucifixion with Jesus Christ, we have absolutely no relationship to the law at all. We are dead to the law. (See Romans 3:28; 6:14; 7:6; 8:3-4; 10:4; Galatians 3:21; 3:13,21; 5:18; 1 Timothy 1:9). Our commitment is to Christ alone.

The primary project for most Christians in the modern church is to reduce the number or frequency of sins in their lives. It's a sin management program that they devote themselves to with great zeal and sincere commitment. It all sounds so good on the surface. That's the subtlety with legalism. It sounds right to the religious ear despite the fact that it contradicts and ignores what the Bible teaches. It sounds so right to some that to become Godly requires that we work hard to change our bad behaviors and replace them with good ones. To them it's all about diminishing the number of sins that we commit and increasing the number of good things that we do. But Godliness doesn't come from that. Godliness is not the absence of sin.

The truth is this, the reason you're godly is because the Spirit of God lives in you. The Holy Spirit came into you. Jesus said, "it's necessary for me to go away, so that the Holy Spirit can come." And when the Holy Spirit came into you, He said: "I'll never leave you, or forsake you." Since the Holy Spirit came into your spirit, and your spirit is the core of your identity (and it is), then you are holy, you are Godly, because God's Spirit is inside you. It doesn't have to do with resisting sin, or giving into sin. The truth is that you are just as Godly whether you sin, or don't sin. Your identity isn't established by what you do. It is established by what He has done!

Do you believe the Bible? The Bible makes clear that it isn't necessary to pray for God to give the Christian holiness. The person you were in Adam was unholy, but we learned in chapter four that man is dead. We have been given a new life in Christ and with it came the blessing of holiness. "For if by the transgression of the one (Adam), death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17). Righteousness is a gift! You can know you are holy right now because the Bible says so (See 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 4:24; Romans 5:19).

There are multitudes of people who appear godly at a casual glance. They go to a church building every week. They carry their Bibles and even read them at home. They give their money. Nobody can deny that they certainly possess a form of godliness. But upon closer examination, it can be seen that the focus of their message, their ministry and their mindset isn't at all on the cross of Jesus Christ. Their obsession is on themselves. On their behavior. On whether or not it's right or wrong to do this or that. On where Christians can go, what we can say, how we should worship, what we can eat or drink or watch or participate in. The list of preoccupations with anything - with everything - other than the finished work of Jesus Christ is endless within this group.

Ask them what it means to be "a good Christian" and they won't say a word about the righteousness (goodness) they received as a result of the finished work of Christ. They'll talk about the things a good Christian does or maybe even things he doesn't do. It's all about them and their actions. If you were to point this fact out to them, they'd deny it and say it isn't so. But listen to their words and what they talk about when it comes to Christianity. Watch their actions and see if they're not more focused on morals than anything else in life. See by how they talk and act what is most important to them. It's about practicing the right performance. That's a fact.

I don't make this observation with a sense of scorn or judgment in mind. I lived that way for the first three decades of my life in Christ. I understand these folks because I was one of them. They're sincere but they're wrong -- dead wrong.

The first temptation that ever came to mankind wasn't a temptation to do wrong, but to do right. Adam and Eve lived in union with God. It doesn't get any better than that. Then comes the serpent and tells Eve that she can be like God if she does this one thing -- eat the fruit. Eve didn't eat that fruit because she decided she wanted to reject God. To the contrary, she ate the fruit because she thought it was a good idea for her to know good and evil, to set up her own system for behavior (rules of right and wrong) instead of living out of the one (trust and union) that God had given her from the moment of her creation. She thought there was something she could do to become more godly and totally lost sight of the fact that God Himself had already made her like Himself.

So the first sin was an attempt to do something right; to do something to become more like God. We all know where that path led. Consequently, today we see the same prevalent sin. Religious people who have a form of godliness and who try to do the right things, but they've missed the whole point. The point is that God never calls on you to focus on doing right and avoiding wrong. Godly behavior exists in a totally different dimension than good behavior and most of mankind has stayed in trouble since the fall because he is blinded to the difference.

It's not about us. It's not about doing the right thing. It's not about figuring out what will please God and dedicating ourselves to whatever we imagine that to be. No, the gospel is the good news that the Father, Son and Spirit have called this great story we call History finished by His own work. Our joy -- our privilege -- our gift is to be able to rest in that finished work.

Don't fall into the snare of religion. Even if you could keep every one of its demands and score an A plus (nobody can), you would still discover that "the letter of the Law kills." Only Jesus can satisfy the thirsty soul. Religion is drinking salt water from the ocean while stranded in a life raft without hope. But the one who learns to drink deeply from the Living Water will never thirst again.

Remember that doing right things does not bring Life. Christianity is not just a series of right choices. True Christianity is having the Life of Christ.

1 John 5:11, "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

 2010/4/9 14:45

 Re: Does doing "right" make you Righteous?

Hi tuc,

My time online is limited but I want to comment on your article above.

Your emphasis on co-crucifixion with Christ is excellent. Correctly, you point out this is how 'sin' was destroyed.

However, your rant against the overcoming of 'sins' in our lives by conscious effort applied to eradicating them, is not consistent with the New Testament, even for the Spirit-filled believer.

The way your doctrine of 'grace' (which may, indeed, be very popular amongst Christians in certain denominations), applies, is to those only, who never understood (or never heard preached), that Jesus Christ destroyed 'sin' through His death, as well as by His death, becoming our substitute under the wrath of God for our 'sins'. If the doctrine of grace of which Paul writes at the end of Ephesians 1 and the beginning of Ephesians 3 is understood within the context which he himself gives it, then the full meaning of the cross of Christ cannot be avoided.

You state the Pharisees did 'right' things, but in fact, Jesus told the people [i]not[/i] to 'do' what they did, because although they were teaching Moses accurately enough, they themselves were not obeying him.

I think,too, it is very important to read very carefully the difference between what Jesus said to those who were listening before He died, and, the inspired teachings of Paul, who was writing after Pentecost with all the discipline, training and Old Testament knowledge of an exemplary and brilliant ex-Pharisee.

So, I do not disagree that we should look at Jesus Christ, particularly in the terms of 2 Cor 3 especially the end of the chapter, and Heb 12:1; but, I do disagree that, simply knowing Christ destroyed sin on the cross, and, if I am co-crucified with Him (respond to temptation as a dead man ie do not respond) I don't have to do anything else, in order to cease from sin, is the whole story.

It is essential to rest in the finished work of Christ as a spiritual, eternal fact - Heb 10:14 - [i]and[/i] to follow after righteousness, practising it conscientiously, as John clearly states: 1 John 3:7. See also Rom 6:13, 18.

Here are more verses to support my comment.

1 Pet 4:1, 1 John 3:3, 1 John 5:21, 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22, John 10:5. Also: 1 Cor 6:18, 1 Cor 10:14, 2 Cor 4:2 (Acts 19:19. Note, they were filled with the Spirit in Acts 19:5, 6.) 2 Cor 10:3, 4, 5.

Col 3:2, 5; Rom 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: [b]but if ye[/b] through the Spirit [b]do mortify the deeds of the body[/b], ye shall live.

Unless we 'do' v 13, we cannot expect to enjoy Rom 8:14, I believe.

Lastly, just to emphasise the angle I'm trying to highlight, as Paul exhorts below, if we are [i]not[/i] to walk as children of darkness, unbelief and disobedience - which all come naturally to the natural man - then we will have to make the effort to stop walking in those ways, and actually to practise the doing of walking in the light (as He is in the light), in faith and in obedience. Isn't this the renewing of the mind, which Paul says we must embrace?

Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 [b]Be not ye therefore partakers with them[/b]. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now [i]are ye[/i] light in the Lord: [b]walk as children of light[/b]: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit [i]is[/i] in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [i]them[/i].

It is true that Paul said law-keeping by the Jews was a sign of their attempts to establish their own righteousness (Rom 10:3), and we are agree, I am sure, that this is not the righteousness of Christ, of which Peter, Paul, James - in his comments about demonstrating faith by works - and John, write.

 2010/4/10 10:12

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