Righteous? Who, Me?


Righteous?  Yeah, right.

What goes through your mind when you hear the word “righteous”? 

Do you think of someone ‘better than the rest of us’, like Mother Theresa or Billy Graham?  Do you think of a standard that is unattainable in this life?

Do you think of yourself?

I’m guessing that last one’s not on your list.  You may be thinking, “Well, Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written:  There is no one righteous, not even one.”  Right?”

Yes…and no.  Romans 3:10 does indeed say that.  But an old pastor of mine used to say, “A verse taken out of context is a pretext.”  If you read the verses before and after, you’ll discover that Romans 3:10 is referring to those under the law– in other words, unbelievers.  Later on verse 20 explains, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” 

So a person who is not a Christian can never be righteous.  No amount of trying hard and good works will fix that.

Before we continue, let’s define that word “righteous.”  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means:

  1. acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin
  2. morally right or justifiable, a righteous decision
  3. arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality

Righteousness is defined by our Creator.  God is the Lawgiver, and it is by His standards that justice and morality are determined.  The above definition says to be righteous is to be “free from guilt or sin.”  That doesn’t describe an unbeliever.

But it does describe a Christian.

What Do You And Job Have In Common?

Further on,  in Romans 3:22 we read, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”  When we by faith receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are given His righteousness.  Read that last sentence again!

If you are a Christian, you are righteous.  “Are”– that’s present tense, not “someday by and by in the sky.”  Right now, as God looks upon you, He sees the righteousness of Jesus.

If you’re like me, you find that hard to believe.  “Righteous?  Who, me?”

Yes, you.

This is part of our identity in Christ.  The problem is, so often we don’t see ourselves as God sees us.  The accuser of the brethren says to us, “Who do you think you’re kidding?  You’re not perfect!”  And we agree with him.

But what does God say about you?

Take a look at the life of Job.   When we first meet him in Job chapter 1, he is described as “the greatest man among all the people of the East.”  He had a large family and immense wealth.  The first verse tells us, “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

But Job wasn’t perfect.  We are told in chapter one that his seven sons would always hold a feast on their birthdays, and his three daughters would also participate.  But verse 5 tells us something a bit strange:  “When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified.  Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.”  This was Job’s regular custom.”

So at least seven times a year, Job would insist that his adult children go through purification rites.  And he would offer ten burnt offerings, one for each child, when these birthday celebrations ended.

Job was a believer.  He obeyed and honored God.  But he was also consumed by a paralyzing fear that his children were not following God.  So year after year he offered sacrifices in an attempt to secure God’s mercy for his children.  This fear was not of God.  It was a stronghold that Satan had in Job’s life.

What Does God See When He Looks At You?

Later on in chapter 1, we have a conversation between God and Satan.  God Himself brings up Job.  Notice how He describes him:  “Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).

Does God mention Job’s fear and obsession?  No.  Does He mention any of Job’s faults?  No.  Instead, God brags about how awesome Job is!  Job was a believer, and God saw him as righteous!

So often we think God is focused on our faults, our flaws, our failures.  But God sees all the good things He’s put in you.  He made you in His image.  He’s clothed you in the righteousness of His Son.  When God looks at you, He sees a masterpiece!

Satan is the accuser of the brethren.  Each of us knows what the devil says about us.  We’ve heard his lying, deceiving voice many times.

But think about this.  When Satan speaks to God about you, what does God say about you?  If you’re a Christian, He brags on you just as He did on Job!  God is pleased with what He sees when He looks at you, because He sees His beloved Son and His righteousness.

We can’t make ourselves righteous; only Christ can do that.  At the same time, we need to acknowledge that what we think, say, and do is important.  Someone once said, “Good conduct doesn’t produce righteousness; righteousness produces good conduct.”

Dr. Philip Wijaya, writing for christianity.com, says,”Righteousness is the quality of being right in the eyes of God, including character (nature), conscience (attitude), conduct (action), and command (word).”  I like that.  The more we follow Jesus, the more we will become like Him in every aspect of our lives.

Do Christians still sin?  Sadly, sometimes we do.  But Romans 6:18 tells us, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”  We may still fall sometimes, but we are no longer slaves to sin.  And God has already provided for when we do fail:  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Who’s A Saint?

If you need further proof that you are righteous, consider the fact that the Bible never refers to Christians as “sinners.”  Instead, the New Testament repeatedly calls us “saints.”

Some of you may be thinking, “Who, me?  A saint?  I ain’t!”

Yes, you are.

I come from a Catholic background, and attended Mass every week for 18 years.  In childhood I was taught that saints were special people who weren’t like the rest of us.  They lived holy lives, and after they died they continued to perform miracles.  Only the Pope could declare someone a saint, and only after a lengthy and exhaustive investigation by the Vatican.

After I was born again, I didn’t think much about saints.  They weren’t mentioned in the new church I was attending.  I was reading my Bible now, and occasionally I’d come across the word “saint,” but I didn’t stop to think what that really meant.

If you had asked me then if I was a saint, I would have said, “No, I’m just a Jesus freak.”  And if you had asked if I was righteous, my response would be, “Well, sometimes.  I mean I try to be, but I don’t always succeed.”

So when I discovered, many years after getting saved, that when the Bible uses the word “saint” it meant me, I was stunned!  It was quite a revelation.  But that was the start of learning who I really was in Christ.  And slowly, I began to see myself as God saw me.  Over a period of time this released me from many issues related to self image and self esteem that I had struggled with all my life.

Now I know that it is crucial that every Christian understands their identity in Christ.  Sadly, many don’t, and continue to live lives of bondage and defeat. 

I don’t know where you’re at today.  I hope you are secure in your identity in Christ.  If you aren’t, I want to encourage you that change– and victory– is possible.  If you’re a Christian, you are righteous.  You’re a saint!

One thing that helped me was the list “Who I Am In Christ,” developed by Dr. Neil Anderson.  you can find it here.

For years I recited this list as part of my daily devotions.  Initially I found it hard to say these statements every day with conviction, but I determined to keep reciting them until I truly believed them.  If you are struggling to fully grasp and accept your identity in Christ, I strongly encourage you to follow this process.  You’ll see, as I did, that change is possible.  You can live the transformed life!


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