Last week — at some time, in certain ways, and in varying degrees — I showed my reverence, trust, love, and obedience for God. As weeks go, I have had worse. How well did I do?
Well, if I were being judged by acquaintances and friends who watched me from a distance, they might have given me score of 95%. Yes, last week, the reverend looked pretty reverent.
If you were to ask my closer friends and family, they might have given me a grade of 70%. They would have seen some of my sins. However, because they are a charitable group who long to encourage, they would have found reason to rejoice in some measure of sanctification worked out by the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, there would be some whom I offended and sinned against. From them, my holiness grade might be in the teens.
However, what would the Always-Present, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, Judge say? What grade would I receive from God based upon my performance. He would remind me of his grading criteria. He would inform me that …
- Righteousness includes all my thoughts, affections, words, and deeds.
- Righteousness involves abstaining from any wrong and doing all that is right.
- Righteousness admits no degrees.
- Righteousness has never been my natural condition; I was born in sin.
- Righteousness can never be my natural condition; I am totally deprave.
- Righteousness has never been any natural man’s condition; no one is good.
Then, based upon my performance, God would justly and honestly give me a grade of 0%. My supposed “righteousness,” though highly impressive to me and somewhat impressive to others, would be considered filthy rags to him.
Friends, this was the conclusion arrived at by Paul. He was one who had spent his life pursuing righteousness. He professed his faith and was baptized. Every day he was found with his nose in God’s Book. He was persistent in his prayers. He avoided evil. Better yet, he avoided the appearance of evil. He was upstanding in his reputation. He was dignified in his presentation. Faithful he was in giving his tithes and offerings. Regularly he was found a church. There, he was made a Sunday school teacher, deacon, and elder. And oh, how he was zealous in evangelizing and propagating truth. He was a “separated one.” He was a Pharisee, but listen to his self-testimony:
Philippians 3:4–8 … If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss … and count them as rubbish ….
Paul learned to view himself through the lens of the Always-Present, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, Judge. The Law was too high for him. It was good but undoable. It was good that he …
- Professed his faith
- Was baptized
- Studied God’s Word
- Practiced prayer
- Avoided evil
- Maintained a good testimony
- Stewarded his finances
- Went to church
- Served at church
- Engaged in evangelistic outreach
Yes, all this was good, but he was not. Based upon his performance, despite his moral religiosity, he was in the same category as the most despicable men in history. It is fair to say he was in the same grade-grouping as Satan and his demons. Paul was unholy in the eyes of God. According to the Judge, based upon his performance, his righteousness mark was a O%.
But Paul found grace. He became acquainted with the Gospel.
Philippians 3:1–9 … My brothers, rejoice in the Lord … We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh … whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things [including my moral religiosity] and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith ….
So friends, thus far, I have only told you half my story.
Absolutely, based upon my performance, I only and always deserve a flunking grade of 0%. My supposed “righteousness,” though highly impressive to me and somewhat impressive to others, is only and always odious to God.
However, my grade, based upon Christ’s performance, based upon a “righteousness that is not my own,” cannot be any higher. It is a perfect mark. Christ is my Savior. He is my sacrifice and substitute. He took my curse and gave me his blessing. He is my righteousness, and I enjoy such by faith alone — not by faith plus faithfulness, or faith plus works, or faith plus obedience, or faith plus anything. He took my 0% He gave me his 100% And for the rest of my life, and my afterlife, I will never be treated as one who is in the slightest bit unrighteous. For all eternity, I will be treated as one making the grade — one keeping the Law — one perfectly holy and righteous.
Yes my friend, this seems to good to be true. It feels like cheating, but it’s not. It’s the Gospel, and it’s available for any sinner who bows the knee and talks to the Savior. It’s even available for you who are known for:
- Professing your faith
- Being baptized
- Mastering God’s Word and corresponding doctrine
- Being persistent in prayer
- Avoiding evil and the appearance of evil
- Go to church
- Serve at church
- Give at church
- Receive the title of leader, teacher, deacon, elder, or minister
Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but even you can be gifted a righteousness that is not your own. Even you can receive a grade you cannot earn or deserve — one which you can never diminish or lose.
Therefore, in light of the Gospel, let us practice being happy, humble, and holy.
Happy — Let’s repent and enjoy the Gospel rest granted us by Jesus. We don’t have to perform. We don’t have to do our part. Friend, have a holiday with your Savior. He has done all the work. It has been accepted by the Father. Relax and enjoy Jesus more.
Humble — Let’s repent and cease thinking to highly of self and lowly of others. There are only two groups of people in God’s eyes. Some are still disgusting as they are robed in their own righteous performance. Others are delightful as they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Christian friends, let’s get over our judgmental selves. Anything good in us, it is Christ. We are not any better than those in the world; we are just judged better because of our righteous surrogate.
Holy — Let’s repent and practice what we have received. Let’s get better at it through God’s Holy Spirit. Friends, God’s laws and ways are always best. They teach us how to worship well and love our neighbors. Let’s not despise the ways and wisdom of our Loving Lord. It is right to think like Jesus. It is right to have his affections. It is best to pursue godliness. It is what we want to do with the new hearts we have received. So why settle for less? O saint, seek to love, obey, and worship. Seek to do so more and more. Seek to do so more consistently and thoroughly. It is fantastic to practice the alien righteousness we have freely and fully received from Jesus Christ.