‘Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.’
Romans 5 vs 19
Isn’t it odd that we focus more on the first part of this verse as against the second?! Our minds are mostly fixed on the fact that we’re sinners and must do everything we possibly can to gain our righteousness. For some it is the length of their prayers. Others measure the time they spend reading the bible, and many more assess the level of their obedience – all to attain the righteousness they believe God demands.
But the bible clearly tells us in this most crucial of verses that not only are we born sinners because of one man’s (Adam) disobedience, but we are made righteous because of one man’s (Jesus) obedience.
Contrary to what I believed for many years, spiritual warfare is not so much a constant battle of prayers against the devil but actually a very simple decision we make in our heads.
Are we or are we not righteous?
Do you believe Christ’s obedience is enough for you or do you believe you have to play your own part as well?
What Romans 5 vs 19 tells us is that Jesus has already fulfilled all the obedience required for your righteousness. Because of his obedience (not yours) you are made righteous. Pay attention to the word ‘made’. In other words, He makes you righteous, not you or anybody else.
It is a rather challenging truth to accept. For our natural inclination is to believe there is something we must do to maintain the legality of this righteousness that Jesus has already attained for us. Indeed, during a conversation I had with two of my older siblings a few weeks ago, I pointed out that I often find myself asking the question, “isn’t there something I need to do?”. I know the answer, but the question regularly surfaces none-the-less.
There is a very simple reason we struggle to fully accept and receive God’s undeserved / unmerited love and favour.
Our pride demands that we earn our way – not so much for God’s sake, but so that we can feel good about ourselves, and lord our ‘righteousness’ over those we deem to be lesser Christians.
I recall being a member of the senior pastor’s prayer group at a church I used to attend in Lagos. Before proceeding I must point out that the senior pastor of this particular church is not only a loving, kind and wonderful man, but someone I have the utmost appreciation and respect for.
Anyway, we met at his house at 6.30am once a week. I thoroughly enjoyed those prayer meetings. But after some time, pride and arrogance set in. I started to see myself as one of the church’s inner circle. As far as I was concerned I and my fellow brothers in prayer had far more of a right to God’s love and blessings than anyone else. And furthermore, I began to measure my righteousness by works, ranging from the length of time I spent in prayer, to the frequency of my middle of the night prayer sessions, to the depth and thoroughness of my fasts. Before long I started to view other Christians as lesser mortals.
I kid you not!
In time I began to expect great things to happen to me not because of God’s unconditional love but because of what I had done to earn them.
Why such foolishness?
Because man has a natural tendency to want to earn his or her way, so as to have the opportunity to be bigger, better, and greater than others.
This is why it is so important to always remind ourselves that it is Jesus that did all the work. There’s absolutely nothing you or I can do to earn our righteousness. And our ability to fully obey is non-existent. If we insist on earning our righteousness through ‘works’, then the thoughts that run through our minds on a daily basis are enough to consign us to a lifetime of fire and brimstone!
Unfortunately, many of the phrases we hear on a daily bases and in various churches on Sundays do not help our cause.
Below are a couple of such phrases.
1. ‘make sure you’re not doing something wrong or caught unawares when Jesus returns.’
The subtle but very dangerous inference of this sentence suggests we are only as righteous as our last act or word. What irks me about such phrases is that they put the minds of innocent and good people into a state of perennial fear and anxiety.
First of all, righteousness is a gift. If you give someone you love a gift, and they do something to upset you a few days later, do you demand they return the gift, or take it back?
How much more a gift we’ve received from a God who is perfect in love, slow to anger, and who’s mercies are renewed every morning!?
Righteousness is a gift you received from God through our saviour Jesus Christ. It cannot and will never ever be taken from you.
2. ‘my hope and prayer is that you make heaven’.
Again, this phrase places the onus on you to ‘make’ heaven. It is rather like saying ‘my hope and prayer is for you to pass your exam’. In other words, yes, Jesus is on your side, but not only have you got to do all the work, but you’re on your own when the time comes. Ask most Christians what their biggest fear is, and they’ll tell you it is that God is angry or disappointed in them for some reason or other.
Because we know we are flawed. Indeed, what exactly do we think we can do to earn and keep our righteousness??
There is no comfort, encouragement or confidence to be gained from such statements; rather, they sow fear into hearts and minds as against joy and peace.
Finally, I want you to dwell on what the bible says about who you are.
“As Jesus Christ is, so are we in this world”.
1st John 4 vs 17
I’m not talking about power, riches, and greatness here, but your identity, and how God sees you.
As Christ is blessed, precious, and dearly loved by His father, so are you.
As Christ is perfect in righteousness, so are you.
And because you are in Christ, as he (Christ) is seated at the right hand of God, so too are you.