THE question: “What makes a person right with God” confronts us all, whether we realize it or not. It is a question with consequences that we dare not ignore. The key to understanding what makes a person right with God is dependent upon a proper understanding of true righteousness – that is, “righteousness” from God’s perspective. Our prayer is that as you read the following you will either come to know Jesus Christ as your savior, or if you already know Him, that your love and devotion will be deepened through a greater knowledge of Him.
God’s Standard – Righteousness
To find out what makes a person right before God we must begin with God. God existed before man. God created man and God is the determiner of all right and wrong. God is the standard of what is holy, righteous and perfect. When God created the world, everything in it, including man, was perfect and right before Him (Gen 1:31). The original creation sets the standard for what God desires and expects – perfection. God intends to dwell only with those who are right by His standard
ØEzra 9:15 O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous!
ØIsaiah 5:16 … The holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness.
ØMatthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God judges according to His perfect standard. His judgment is based on perfect righteousness. Every group in society has certain standards that people must live up to in order to belong. God is no different, except that He never bends the rules. God has set the bar high, and if a person does not meet His standard then God will not accept him.
ØPsalm 9:8 He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.
ØPsalm 94:15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.
ØIsaiah 28: 17 I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.
Herein lies the problem: NO ONE meets God’s righteous standard. Shortly after God created man, man disobeyed God (sinned). On that day, the true nature of man, which up to that point had been righteous, became inherently unrighteous. And since that day, every human being has stood guilty before God for not meeting His standard of righteousness.
ØEcclesiastes 7:20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
ØRomans 3:10-12 There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
It is futile to think that we can make ourselves right before God by making up our own rules and doing “good” by our own standards. God tells us that we cannot obtain the righteousness that we so desperately need by good works because our corrupt nature actually corrupts the good we try to do. Thus, it is our nature that needs to be changed. No person, no matter how sincere and determined, can change his own sinful thoughts and life. Only God can work that miracle in the heart.
ØIsaiah 57:12 I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you.
ØIsaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
ØRomans 3:20 … No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law …Penalty for Unrighteousness
Penalty for Unrighteousness
Because of our sinful nature, we are alienated from God and under His wrath. God will accept nothing that we try to do in and of ourselves to rectify the problem. In fact, because He is holy, God has instituted a penalty for sin. His holiness demands that He separate Himself from sin and punish sin. Therefore, God must separate Himself from sinners and punish sinners. There are only two ways for our sin to be punished: either we take the punishment for our sin, which is eternal death, or Christ takes the punishment for our sin, which is eternal life.
ØIsaiah 59:2 … Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
ØRomans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness. (NAS)
Ø2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 He (Jesus) will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.
The Good News – The Source of Righteousness
Even though God must punish sin, there is good news! God, in His mercy and grace, provided the righteousness and forgiveness that we need to be accepted by Him. It is God’s own perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ. What God demands, God supplies! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the only righteous person that ever lived, and through His perfect life and sacrificial death, He alone is the only one who is sufficient to give us what we desperately need. God will change our nature from one of corruption to one which is righteous when we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We don’t need a few “good” check marks before our name; we need a complete over haul from the inside out. Only God can do that.
ØIsaiah 61:10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.
ØRomans 8:10 … If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
Ø2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
ØPhilippians 3:7-9 … Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 is through faith in Christ …
Ø1 Peter 3:18 … Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
How to be Declared Righteous
But how does one become righteous? Through believing! When you believe that you are truly corrupt and unrighteous and you ask Jesus Christ for his righteousness, a beautiful exchange takes place: your unrighteousness is credited to Jesus Christ and punished at the cross, and Christ’s righteousness is credited to you and you are declared right before God! His death on the cross pays the penalty for your sin and satisfies the punishment required by God. Believe now and be made right!
ØJohn 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
ØJohn 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
ØJohn 5:24 whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
ØRomans 3:22 … Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
ØRomans 10:4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
The good news is that in spite of the fact that our unrighteousness is infinitely offensive to a Holy God and deserves punishment, God freely grants His righteousness by grace to those who believe and put their trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone. God is a gracious God indeed to provide the righteousness we need through His Son and to provide a substitute to take our punishment, His own Son.
Righteousness brings lasting Joy
Those who choose Jesus, receive not only righteousness, but joy! Think about this… Everyone makes choices to bring them some level of happiness and joy. Even when someone chooses pain or discomfort, they do so because they believe it will bring them the most satisfaction over any alternative. Consider your own choices and see if the pursuit of joy is not the driving force in every case.
God knows our inner drive for joy. He created us that way. But His design is to have our fullest joy complete in Him, not in other things that will not last. The Psalmist writes “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” and “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 16:11 & 126:3). This is not the selfish delight promised by radical religions whose followers are willing to martyr themselves and take the lives of others for the sake of promised eternal pleasures. The Christian’s joy is found in the Person of God and His work on their behalf. Jesus Christ came to die and rise again that we might be right with God through faith and finally set free from sin to find our fullest joy in Him.
Our desire is that you choose Jesus Christ for your greatest treasure and right standing before God. The Apostle Peter wrote that for those who believe, Jesus is “precious” (1 Peter 2:7). That thought is filled with the joy one has when a great treasure is acquired. Many other people and things will promise you joy and gladness, but only Jesus Christ can make you right with God and give you joy now and forever.
What then should you do?
Admit your unrighteousness to God.
Trust Jesus Christ to forgive your sins -to make you right with God and restore true joy.
Call upon the Lord with thanksgiving for all that He is for you in Jesus Christ.
Turn from sin’s deceitful and empty promises to faith in God’s promises. (To start, review the Scripture passages given here.)
Begin reading the Bible, God’s Word. (A great place to start is with one of the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John – or with the “book of beginnings” – Genesis.)
Find a Bible-believing church to worship God with others who delight in Him; begin to grow together with them in Christ.
Our prayer is that you will turn to God and glorify Him as you trust wholly in Jesus Christ, and God will grant you the eternal, infinite righteousness and joy for which you were created.
I am the Lead Pastor of Marin Bible Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca., and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 30 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and seven grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: (1) Intimacy with God, (2) marriage, (3) family, (4) friendship, (5) vocationally/ministry , (6) emotional and physical health, (7) stewardship of resources, (8) discipleship, and (9) mentoring.
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