Thursday, February 07, 2008

Big Difference 3 - Self righteousness vs. God's righteousness

(Or man's righteousness vs. God's righteousness)
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Rom 10:3-4 NKJV (emphasis mine)

How is it that man seeks to establish his own righteousness (self-righteousness)? By the Law. By his own works. By his own self effort. In seeking to establish his own righteousness by the things he does, he lives a life that is ignorant of God's righteousness! In seeking to establish his own righteousness, he has not submitted to God's righteousness. Is there not a big difference between man's righteousness and God's righteousness?

We cannot live up to God's righteousness by what we do. It's impossible. As James said (and as I pointed out in Big Difference 2), if you keep the whole blessed thing and stumble in just one point, you wind up being guilty of the whole thing because you are a transgressor and transgressors to not inherit the kingdom of heaven. You have fallen short of Jesus' words to "be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt 5:48). You can even do all the things that Jesus commanded... and if you stumble in just one point, you have fallen short and you are guilty.

The good news is "the gospel!" In Romans 1:17, Paul is speaking of the gospel (see vs. 16) and he says, "For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed..."

The gospel reveals God's righteousness, as opposed to man's righteousness that he tries to establish by what he does. The gospel replaces man's attempts at righteousness with the gift of righteousness.

*For an explanation of this Big Difference series, see the original post.*


  1. Hi Joel--

    Whenever we seek to establish or maintain our own righteousness or 'rightness' with God, it ceases to be about Christ, and it's all about us. Of course, most people would admit they can't live up to God's perfect law, so we just establish our own 'lower' law. In groups, or churches, or families where this happens, you will find two extremes of people: those who are puffed up with pride in their ability to keep the law, and those who are devastated by their shame at not being able to keep the law. Either way, the focus is on self, denies Christ's finished work, and paints a poor picture of 'abundant life' to a lost world.

    Well, maybe there's a third group of people: those who become so sick of trying to keep an unkeepable law, they give up, and in giving up, find the peace, rest, and gift of righteousness God has offered all along. I guess I'm now in that third group. I feel like I need to do more 'unlearning' than learning these days. I wish my head were an "Etch-a-Sketch" so I could erase all those grace + law messages. But I know that God will give me faith to renew my mind, as I trust Him and only Him, for my righteousness and life.

    Kathy J

  2. Hey Joel...

    I completely agree with Kathy on this one! She is right when there are two extreme roads to righteousness. I find though, that their are three extreme roads people travel on in hopes to reach righteousness in God's eyes. It's so clear to me because I know people on each road. I have a few 'so called friends' who profess to be messianic Christians (aka jews) who follow the Torah and proclaim that they are the only righteous people! Very demeaning! Then there are others who are in the middle, who profess to be Christians and attend a congregation and everything that is involved in that even if their hearts aren't in it. Then there is people like me, who, in fact, doesn’t look to other people for approval or permission, who doesn’t tithe, or has any obligation to follow, and lives freely in relationship with Jesus Christ, the father. It’s very clear, when you see the extremes; I am in a completely different place than some of my friends who live for religious obligation to gain more righteousness for themselves compared to living freely relationally with Father.

    In Freedom, Nicole!

  3. Kathy and Nicole,

    Amen to all of that. I fully relate to the 'unlearning' of the things we were once taught. So much of it seemed so right at the time, or at least it didn't seem like there was any reason to question it, and so now we have to go through a process of unlearning those things, and replacing the lies with the truth. It can be a tangled mess at times! But yet I believe that Father will get us through the maze and that He'll get us firmly established in His grace as we rest in Him and allow Him to teach us the truth.

    Once we start growing in the truth, there's just no going back to the old ways! Well, as we're growing I think we sometimes find ourselves thinking and doing in the old ways, but in the long run we become more and more established in grace and it become impossible for us to ever go back.

    We end up giving up on seeking approval from others, which is a good thing! It does, however, cause some people to think we're just being rebellious for the sake of being rebellious, but really what we're doing is enjoying our freedom in Christ and looking to Him for our acceptance!

    It's not about following God's law and it's not about man-made rules (I like how you worded it, Kathy: "our own 'lower' law"). It's about knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ who lives in us and through us and as us. When we begin to walk in freedom and drop the chains of legalism, we worry less and less about whether or not we're approved of by people.