The Bible teaches that we are righteous people but many of us struggle with that reality. There are also many common misunderstandings about this concept. Those who fail to understand that righteousness is received entirely as a gift (see Romans 5:17) often wrongly think that it can be achieved through various things we do.
If you think that you can become righteous by your own efforts, I remind you that self-effort produces only one kind of righteousness — self-righteousness. The righteousness which is of God comes by faith and it is a gift to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Self righteousness will prevent us from ever experiencing the grace walk.
The biggest misunderstanding about our righteousness is that it's a progressive growth into righteousness Some people believe that we become more and more righteous as we walk with the Lord. But, it’s not by what we do that we become righteous. The Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that Jesus is your righteousness. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'" So, how righteous are you? Look at it this way: on a scale of 1 to 100, how righteous is Jesus Christ? One hundred.
Now, using that same scale, what was the level of righteousness possessed by the Apostle Paul? How about you? How righteous would you say you are? The answer is 100%. You are as righteous as Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ is our righteousness. We may not always act righteous, but that fact doesn’t change the reality of who we are. Don’t allow your feelings to dictate what you believe about this matter. Let what God has said have the final say about it. That is our ultimate authority, right?
Let me illustrate the point this way: Imagine if I found a ring at church and brought the ring in and showed it to everybody and asked whose it was, but no one claimed it. Someone might say, “You found the ring. No one has claimed it, so it’s yours to keep.” I look at the ring and it looks like about a one carat diamond. Immediately I think, “I wonder what that’s worth.”
So I take it to a friend and I ask him what he thinks the diamond is worth and he tells me it’s worth about six or seven thousand dollars. Then I take it to another friend and he says, “No, that’s not a real diamond. That is cubic zirconia. I think it is only worth about three hundred dollars.” I then take it to yet another friend who looks at it and says, “That came out of a toy machine. That’s just plastic. Why, that’s not worth more than about three dollars.”
At this point I have opinions that range from three dollars to seven thousand dollars. How do I know the value of the ring? I take the ring to an appraiser and he would set a value on it based on the price that someone was willing to pay for it. So if someone was willing to pay five thousand dollars for the ring, then the value of the ring is five thousand dollars. I could look at the ring and say, “This ring equals five thousand dollars.” The ring and the five thousand dollars have the same value.
When you and I came into the world, we were born with a big question mark over our heads. The question was, “What is my value? What am I worth?” Unless you know your identity in Christ, you are always asking one way or another, “What is my value? What am I worth?” We try to establish in our own minds what our value is based on what other people tell us (We will probably get varying appraisals, depending on whether we ask our mother or our employer).
But there is a way that you can know your value. Bring yourself before the expert. Come to God and say, “Can you tell me my value?” God will answer, “Yes, I can.” He will determine your value the same way the appraiser determines the value of the ring. It hinges on what price is someone willing to pay for you.
God could say, “You have been bought with a price. And I am the One who bought you. What I paid for you is Jesus.” Isn’t that response biblical? Then would it be accurate to say that to God, you are of equal value to Jesus. It almost sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it? But I want to assure you that your heavenly Father treasures you like He treasures His own Son because Christ is your life. You are now one with Him. You are 100% righteous because He is 100% righteous.
In fact, you will be no more righteous in heaven than you are right now. I’m not talking about your behavior. I’m talking about your nature. I’m talking about who you are. Righteousness by progression is a legalistic lie that implies you make your own way toward greater righteousness by doing the right things.