I was recently perusing blogs on the Gospel Coalition website. Among their contributors is Tullian Tchividjian (better known as Billy Graham's grandson and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church where he took over for Dr. D. James Kennedy after he passed away recently).
This blog is about justification, imputed righteousness, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. If that is not up your alley, then you either do not know what those terms mean or you are not a Christian.
The topic de jure for "Are You Righteous?" is the penetrating piercing of Jesus' "sermon on the mount." We are not as good as we think we are and the Law is patient in preaching this to us if we have been given ears to hear.
Behavior is all society and religion care about. You do not have to do the right thing for the right reason as long as you don't do the wrong thing for any reason.
An excerpt from the blog says it this way,
"The law enforcement institutions of society are concerned with right behavior. They do not care why people obey the law, so long as they obey it. The person who breaks no laws is righteous in their sight regardless of the motivation that produces law abiding behavior."
Tullian expands on this idea when he says,
"The truth is that God isn’t concerned with any kind of obedience; he’s concerned with a certain kind of obedience. What motivates our obedience determines whether or not it is a sacrifice of praise. Doing the right thing with the wrong heart reveals deep unrighteousness, not devout righteousness. T.S. Eliot said it best, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.” (emphases added)
I adore Tullian because he is so on point when it comes to the Gospel of God in Jesus. As such, I am basically quoting his entire post, but here is another fantastic synopsis of the dilemma we all face.
"External righteousness is something we can all achieve on our own with a little self-discipline and a lot of self-righteousness. But Jesus wants us to see that regardless of how well we think we’re doing or how righteous we think we’re becoming, when “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” becomes the standard and not “how much I’ve improved over the years”, we realize that we’re a lot worse than we fancy ourselves to be-that unrighteousness is inescapable, that 'even the best things we do have something in them to be pardoned.'"
Lastly, Tullian notes that Jesus died to kill this nagging feeling that we owe Him something in return for what He did for us and the constant struggle with our religious hearts to conjure up morale to do something for Him. Not that we should not work out what God has worked in, but that we should recognize the balance of eternity does not rest on our ability to complete what Christ could not finish on His own or our ability to now pay off the debt of gratitude owed to Jesus for the debt He assumed on the Cross. Jesus is not in the industry of purchasing other's debts to make a profit.
He is not a grace lender. He is a grace Giver.
Tullian summarizes this by quoting someone else (another thing I love about finding faithful pastors is that they lead you to other faithful pastors from whom they glean their inspirations)
"In the cross, “God has stormed the last bastion of the self, the last presumption that you really were going to do something for him…He has died in your place! He has done it. He made it. It is all over, finished, between you and God! He died in your place that death which you must die; he has done it in such a way as to save you. He has borne the whole thing! The fact that there is nothing left for you to do is the death of self and the birth of the new creature” (Forde).
I know I have given you a lot of it, but all of it is soooo good. Check it out. I may have hit on some highlights, but the overall message is strung together beautifully as he weaves Biblical passages with quotes of famous dead people and real life experiences.