I'm Righteous. Now What?!
Subject: A closer look at our identity.
Subject: What being Righteous reveals about God, and what it requires of us?
One of the most incredible aspects of our new God-given identity is that of being righteous. This is a true treasure. Being made righteous before God is a gem in the heart of the Believer. But what exactly does this mean?
We have heard about this aspect of our new identity. We have heard it declared. We have heard it confessed. We have heard it offered as a positive affirmation meant to reinforce who we are! The way our righteous identity is most regularly taught is not wrong. It is, however, more than a vocal profession. It simply leaves us with a desire for something with a more profound affect in our lives. It is a revelation of something deeper. As it is with most Biblical identity statements, a closer look at our identity of righteous will reveal something about God. It will, also, reveal something about what is expected of those made righteous.
What does it mean to be righteous?
In other words, righteousness is tied to the act of justification. This action occurs when a good judge – a judge who desires fair justice – makes a declaration of one's innocence. The declaration of one's innocence is the act of Justification. Upon receiving a just declaration of innocence, the individual on trial is reckoned righteous (right/just) in the eyes of the court of law. The declaration of an innocent verdict leaves the accused in right-standing with the judge and governing body. s begun in them by declaring them righteous" (Peter Toon).
This is why understanding ourselves as righteous is one of the most treasured, life-giving realities. This is a gift to the undeserving that is centered in the heart of God's mercy, grace, and love. Our fallen and sinful nature is inherently guilty before a good, fair, and just God. And so while we naturally deserve to receive a damning verdict, God graciously frees us from shame and guilt if we were to place our faith in Jesus Christ. What an incredible God – not requiring of us the impossible task of trying to earn our own salvation and right-standing. Instead, He gifts righteousness and freedom to mankind because of the substitutionary death of Messiah. God knew that "what was impossible with man is possible with God" so He made our identity as righteous attainable through believing in Jesus.
Gal. 2:16 states, "yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (ESV).
As mentioned in our introduction and as you can tell from this teaching, any discussion or study on the Believer's identity requires us, first, to ask the question, "what does this say about God?" And this is especially true of our identity as righteous.
What does it tell us about God?
It should be evident from the legal description above, God is a good and justice-loving Judge. This is both a refreshing and terrifying reality. God is the ultimate Judge over all of creation. As stated in Philippians, there will be a day when "every knee will bow... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ" is the righteous standard by which everyone will be judged (Phil. 2:10-11).
Furthermore, God's generosity is set clearly upon display, here. The mercy and love of the generous Judge are seen in that the righteous standard of Christ is imputed to man through faith in Jesus. What an incredible revelation of our Lord! We have the legal and spiritual requirements for an innocent verdict gifted (or imparted) to us, if we personally place our faith in Jesus. On that great and glorious day, when we stand before the Holy Judge, all of those who received the innocence of Christ will be ushered into the eternal state to enjoy the blessings of infinite joy and painless perfection. Whoah! How generous and merciful is that!? We do not deserve it. We could not earn it. Rather, God generously allows the righteous standard found in Messiah to be gifted to all who would believe.
"First, Yahweh-Elohim, the Lord God, is righteous in that he speaks and Acts in accordance with the purity of his own holy nature; further, what he says and does for Israel is in accordance with his establishment of the covenant with this people (see Psalm 22:31 ; 40:10; 51:14; 71:15-24; Amos 5:21-24). Micah declared the righteousness of God as his faithfulness to keep and act within the covenant and thus to save Israel from her enemies, as well as to vindicate the penitent" (Peter Toon).
What does this mean? This means exactly what we have been talking discussing. The gift of a righteous identity illustrates something about the actions of God. It should be evident, now, that we cannot look at our new identity in Christ without seeing how God interacts with mankind – specifically the goodness of God! What Peter Toon is trying highlight is the concept of righteousness is connected to God's covenant faithfulness. God is faithful and acts faithfully to keep and apply His covenant promises to His people. Simply put, Romans 1:17 shows us that God's righteousness is seen in that He is the faithful giver of this incredible gift. From the faith of our ancestors to the faith of our contemporaries, God is faithful to act in accordance with His character. It is profoundly refreshing to know that our righteousness in Christ gives us a very personal and intimate glimpse into the faithful actions of a Covenant Keeping God!
What demands does this place on us?
While the term “demand” may make us a bit uneasy, it does need to be understood that being made righteous places certain expectations upon us (reference work from Douglas Buckwalter). We can know that being made righteous was not without cause. We were made righteous for a purpose. It needs to be understood that the purpose of this gift is more than just vociferous affirmations and confession. Here, we will look at the purpose of this reality and attempt to offer the expectations placed upon us by way of that purpose." (3:16; NIV). This means the expectation of us is to let the Joy of our right standing before God move the heart to works of righteousness. After having been reckoned right before God, our lives should intersect that reality.
If you have heard any teachings on your new righteous identity, it is clear that it offers a value proposition for who we are. First, it shows us that we are fully and completely absolved of guilt before God. The technical terminology is "positional righteousness." Before God, we are wholly vindicated and made right. We are positionally viewed by God as being perfectly innocent in His presence. This does not, of course, mean that we cannot sin or cannot make mistakes. Rather, this shows us that according to heaven's judicial system we are innocent before God! What a treasured reality.
Also, it proves to the soul that we have entered into a covenant relationship with God. (1 Peter 3:12, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer..."). While being absolved of guilt, and spiritually and positionally viewed as justified, it declares our right-standing before the Lord. In short, this means we can enjoy a shameless and condemnationless relationship with God. Our right-standing with God allows us to experience the full joys of a relationship with our Savior! What a treasured reality.
This is true and wonderful, but we must ask still one more question. "what demands does this place on us?" There are two primary demands that being made righteous places upon the believer.
First, it is clear that being made righteous – being given the gift of righteousness before God – means that we are to live righteously. This point becomes clear in one of my favorite Scriptures. In Philippians 3, God inspired Paul to write about one is made righteous before God. In summation, it is by placing your faith in Jesus Christ that justifies you before God and makes you righteous. But in one of the most profound, practical applications to our new identity, the Bible states, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained" (3:16; NIV). This means the expectation of us is to let the Joy of our right-standing before God move the heart to works of righteousness. After having been reckoned right before God, our lives should intersect that reality.
"Only let us live up to what we have already attained" (3:16; NIV).
Look at what Peter Toon says about righteousness as it pertains to the life of the Believers:
"... the covenant people of God are called to live righteously, that is, in conformity to the demands of the covenant and according to God's will (see Psalm 1:4-6; 11:7; 72:1; Isa 1:16-17). Having within the covenantal relation with God the gift of salvation, they are to behave as the people of the holy Lord."
Scripture also attests to this. We know that faith is pleasing to God, but we also know that we are called (upon being saved) to live righteous and holy lives. Psalm 11:7 declares, "For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face." And again, Ephesians 2:8-10 highlights, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." This means that our new righteous identity demands that our lives be lived ever in conformity to the righteous standard of Jesus Christ. We are to "live up to what we have already attained."
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10)
Lastly, it demands the refreshing and regular engagement of our relationship with God. Like briefly mentioned above, the gift of right-standing before the Lord allows us to enter into a relationship with God – one that is devoid of shame, condemnation, and guilt. We have been made right with God, and now we can freely enter into that relationship through prayer, fasting, reading the Scripture, fellowship, etc.
The other purpose for having been made righteous before God to freely, regularly, and consistently enjoy our relationship. We can engage and press into a relationship with God. One that is not limited by guilt or shame. We can be bold and confident. We can seek the Lord and know that He is near. We no longer need to consider ourselves separated from Him. We have been made right with the purpose of relationship. May we, now, go and seek our Savior in ways that are unrestrained by condemnation and fear.
"And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Eph. 2:17-18).
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Married with two boys, Dusty is dedicated to his family, the Church were he pastors, and the life-long pursuit of knowing God more fully. There is nothing Dusty loves more than serving God by helping others understand the treasures of Scripture.