God created men and women to be His children and to be tied into a life-shaping relationship with Him. Because we are created this way, we have a deep need in our hearts to be acceptable to Him, to be in “right standing” with the Father. That’s what righteousness really means – to be “right” with God.
“Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18
Here’s the bombshell of amazing grace: Christ did everything to make us acceptable to God, and nothing more can be done. What we need to do is to trust Him, that He’s made us fully righteous. Then we shed the image of God with a stern frown, tapping his feet and arms crossed in disappointment at us, and we see the delighted Father who embraces us as precious children. Living with an ever-growing awareness of Christ’s righteousness inside us is the heartbeat of the true Christian life. Its the way to experience more of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, to soaring worship, to increased faith and to greater impact on the world around us.
Someone who’s not on the “inside” of Christianity might be forgiven for thinking that righteousness means “to do good” and to live by a system of rules and disciplines. And probably many Christians would similarly define righteousness as “living a good life”. But at the core of it, righteousness is about how we stand with God – are we acceptable to Him?
Every human heart expresses this need, beginning in childhood when little ones clamour for the acceptance and love of their parents who are early surrogates for God Himself. And then as life progresses, there’s a hidden, often unconscious energy in every soul that presses men and women to find acceptance and love. Many don’t realize that this is the cry of the heart for connection with the Father of Creation, and so they try to fulfil the need in human relationships, achievements, money or vice. Of course these are all just distractions that don’t hit the spot, and so there’s a dull nagging siren that keeps droning on inside.
Augustine, after years of trying to “scratch the itch” in his heart as a young man, described things as follows, “You have created us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
But if we know that our need is God, how can we run into His arms and receive His loving embrace? Isn’t He angry and disappointed with us? Haven’t we fallen short? If justice is the foundation of His throne, then surely He can’t just overlook our sins? So are we not just setting ourselves up for disappointment if we try to come to God, for an impossible task of trying to please Him?
Here’s the glory of God’s plan: Christ dealt with the problem “once and for all”. We were unrighteous, absolutely unacceptable to God. But Christ was absolutely acceptable, the firstborn of Creation, the spotless Son of God. And so He exchanged His life for ours, and “brought us to God” with His righteousness.
In His righteousness, our weary hearts find rest in the love of the Father. There’s nothing left to do. We are much-loved children, and ahead of us lies the joy of discovering God and a lifetime of adventure!