Isaiah spoke of a righteousness that was high above the heavens and prophesied that it would be poured down upon the earth: ‘You heavens above, rain down my righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it; I, the Lord, have created it’ – Isaiah 45:8. Although he told of a virgin being with child and of a suffering servant-leader, just how we could be declared righteous was unclear. Over 700 years later, revelation comes with the person of Christ Jesus as to how we can be righteous, now.
Do you see personal righteousness as a lofty ideal beyond the bright blue skies or as a ‘now reality’?
Righteousness simply means ‘right standing before God’, a wrong relationship put right, leading to right thinking and right living that brings joy to God. You might have thought that there would be a huge demand for this but instead a huge misunderstanding in our proud hearts meant people thought they had to earn it by their own efforts and by being righteous through keeping the Law as a good person – self-justifying. Just when we assumed everyone likes a free gift, it seems we don’t like to feel in debt or even to acknowledge a need.
Take a breath and read what others have said about righteousness as you reflect on your own views:
- ‘What important is man should live in righteousness, in natural love for mankind’ – Bob Marley
- ‘Eternal truth, eternal righteousness, eternal love; these only can triumph, for these only can endure’ – Joseph Barber Lightfoot
- ’True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness’ - Albert Einsteen
- ‘Every person who confesses that Christ Jesus is Lord, repents of their sin and gives their heart to God is a child of God and belongs to Him. And in Christ, we are made right with God, we are His righteousness, and we have the power of Christ in us to live right. Once I realized that right thinking is vital to victorious living, I got more serious about thinking about what I was thinking about, and choosing my thoughts carefully’ – Joyce Meyer
- ‘You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It's just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can't throw enough darkness on light to put it out’ – Thomas Kinkade
- ‘Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important, but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship - and not as ends in themselves’ – Francis Schaeffer
In 1384, John Wycliffe was born in Lutterworth, England. We might call him brave John for he took on the established thinking and power base of his time to translate the Bible into the common tongue so all could understand how we can be righteous: ‘Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on His sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by His righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation. There must be atonement made for sin according to the righteousness of God. The person to make this atonement must be God and man’
Today, this language is a bit prosaic, so here it is straight from the Bible, with no middle man, to show it is not in our strength:
- ‘It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ – 1 Corinthians 1:30
- ‘For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”’ – Romans 1:17
- ‘This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe’ – Romans 3:22
- ‘I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’ – Galatians 2:21
- ‘However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness’ – Romans 4:5
Truly from above then! Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth, becoming one of us except that he was sinless and righteous. Here we have the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, righteousness coming down that salvation might spring up that we might flourish. The mighty work of Christ, The Righteous One, on the cross was to die for our short-comings and sin that we might be declared righteous in the sight of God, fully justified, as if we’d never sinned – freely credited to us who believe. None of it our work, ALL his.
What does this mean for life now then? Let’s go ‘Word first’ again:
- ‘Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you’ – Hosea 10:12
- ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’ – Matthew 5:6
- ‘Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice’ – Proverbs 16:8
- ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ - Romans 14:17
- ‘… put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness’ – Ephesians 4:24
- ‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place’ – Ephesians 6:14
- ‘I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High’ – Psalm 7:17
- ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’ – Hebrews 12:11
- ‘In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness’ – Psalm 31:1
- ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ – Matthew 6:33
Right standing with God means standing firm in this new position as a child of God and it means right thinking and right living in the strength he gives. It also means there is a right way to look ahead:
- ‘For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope’ – Galatians 5:5
- ‘Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other’ – Psalm 85:10
- ‘Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard’ – Isaiah 58:8
- ‘But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ – Amos 5:24
- ‘And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God’ – Philippians 1:9-11
- ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing’ – 2 Timothy 4:7-8
- ‘But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him’ – 2 Peter 3:13-14
Are you looking ahead in this righteous way? Righteous now before God and righteousness being your inheritance? It has come from above so that you could flourish and be eternally sure of right standing with God through the work of Christ and have your future wardrobe all sorted.
‘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 his righteousness’ – Isaiah 61:10
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