What do you count on to give you a sense of “personal credibility” (validity, acceptance, good standing)?
As God thinks of you right now, what is the look on his face?
Your answers to those two questions will typically reveal something besides Jesus in which you are finding your righteousness. When we are not firmly rooted in the gospel, we rely on false sources of righteousness to build our reputation and give us a sense of worth and value—to make us feel ok.
Rather than face the sinfulness of our sin and the holiness of God we pretend, we act. We act like we are better than we really are. We're dishonest (“I’m not that bad). We compare ("I’m not bad as those people"). We make excuses ("I’m not really that way"). We create a false righteousness ("Here are all the good things I’ve done").
Here are 11 examples of false sources of righteousness:
- Job Righteousness: I’m a hard worker, so God will reward me.
- Family Righteousness: Because I “do things right” as a parent, I’m more godly than parents who can’t control their kids.
- Theological Righteousness: I have good theology. God prefers me over those who have bad theology.
- Intellectual Righteousness: I am better read, more articulate, and more culturally savvy than others, which obviously makes me superior.
- Schedule Righteousness: I am self-disciplined and rigorous in my time management, which makes me more mature than others.
- Flexibility Righteousness: In a world that’s busy, I’m flexible and relaxed. I always make time for others. Shame on those who don’t!
- Mercy Righteousness: I care about the poor and disadvantaged the way everyone else should.
- Legalistic Righteousness: I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or date people who do. Too many Christians just aren’t concerned about holiness these days.
- Financial Righteousness: I manage money wisely and stay out of debt. I’m not like those materialistic Christians who can’t control their spending.
- Political Righteousness: If you really love God, you’ll vote for my candidate.
- Tolerance Righteousness: I am open-minded and charitable toward those who don’t agree with me. In fact, I’m a lot like Jesus that way!*
2 Corinthians 5:21 is the death of pretending and performing, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The sinless Jesus was made to be sin. Our sin. It was imputed to him—credited to him. Jesus, in essence, assumed the sinner’s identity; he became the Christian’s sin substitute.
And then Jesus’ righteousness was imputed to us—credited to us. In the eyes of the Father those who are in Christ are seen as holy, blameless, and above reproach.
When you believe your right standing before God is based on your performance, preach the gospel to yourself that Jesus has taken your filthy rags (your righteousness) and given you his righteousness. Jesus is your Gift-Righteousness.
*The Gospel Centered Life by Bob Thune & Will Walker