Stand up straight!
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, (22) throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. (23) Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (24) Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT
“Faith is agreeing with God and saying what He says about you.”― John Osteen,
In a recent news broadcast, I heard an urgent health advisory. The government was advising “the elderly” to avoid travel and stay away from public gatherings due to a risk of infection. I immediately made a mental list of those I knew who would be affected. Then the announcer continued, “this includes all persons over 60 years of age.” I was shocked. I’m over sixty, but I certainly don’t think of myself as elderly. You see, we react to the world around us largely based on how we see ourselves. Without a more specific definition of “elderly,” I wouldn’t have known this warning included me!
Allowing the Holy Spirit to change your thinking regarding your true identity, to renew your thoughts and attitudes, is vital to living in the blessing of health. Paul says you are “created to be like God.” What a concept! He says that this means you are truly righteous and holy. To cooperate with this process, to live like a new man, you have to find out what it means to be truly righteous.
In the Bible there are three basic kinds of righteousness:
- Moral righteousness. We might call it right behavior. It means living in a way that conforms to an accepted external standard. Under the Old Covenant, they would have understood it to mean someone who kept the commandments. The Bible tells us that by this standard, no one is righteous.
- Legal righteousness. This kind of righteousness describes a courtroom encounter. Evidence is presented, the judge weighs the facts and determines if the defendant is guilty or not. If you are legally righteous it means you have been judicially declared “not guilty.” This is also called “forensic righteousness.”
- Existential righteousness. We might call it right character or a righteous nature. It describes the actual nature of a person. A dog barks because he’s a dog, it’s in his nature. This person behaves righteously because it’s who he is. He is righteous by nature and feels uncomfortable when behaving contrary to who he is. This is also called “ontological righteousness,” a righteousness of the being or essence of man.
When God gave us His Law, all the Old Testament commandments, He knew we could never keep it. In fact, the Law was never intended to be a means of attaining righteousness (being “not guilty”). The purpose of the commandment was to show man his inadequacy. It is God’s means of showing us that we are incapable of perfect behavioral righteousness: “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. (Romans 3:20 NLT)”
Jesus took all the legal punishment for your wrongdoing on the cross. His sacrifice paid your penalty. This means that when you believe in that sacrifice, all your sins are forgiven. You are declared “not guilty,” because your crime has already been punished. Paul says that it was Jesus who, “who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:14 NLT)” That’s a big deal. When Jesus ascended into Heaven on the day of His resurrection, He entered the throne room of the Father and showed Him the blood that was shed. He offered it as proof that the price had been paid. The Judge of all the universe looked at this evidence and banged the gavel, declaring you and me to be “not guilty.” (Hebrews 9:12)
Thank God for the shedding of blood that paid off our debt. That left us with one huge problem: we were still sinners by nature. One of the biggest problems in the prison system is called “recidivism.” That means that many people who do a crime go to jail and serve their sentence. Their debt to society is paid, but when they get out they commit another crime. The penalty is paid, but they are still the same old person they were before. Prison didn’t change who they are. Similarly, our penalty for sin was paid by Jesus, and we were declared “not guilty.” Unfortunately, if we’re still the same old sinners we were before, we soon fall back into our old ways. But God has a great rehabilitation plan.
When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, it changed the very nature of man. You weren’t just guilty of wrong actions, you were wrong by nature. Just like Adam hiding and sewing fig leaves, you felt shame in the presence of God – a desire to cover yourself, to hide. (Genesis 3:7-8) Paul described it this way, “By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (Ephesians 2:3 NLT)” Shame prevents you from enjoying the Presence of your Father. God deals with this by transforming who you are: “Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 NLT)” You are righteous by nature. You were made that way. Adam’s sin made you a sinner. Jesus’s righteousness made you righteous. It’s who you are. This is true whether you know it or not, whether you act like it or not, and whether you believe it or not. To enjoy it, you need to know it.
As a righteous New Creation, you have been restored to face-to-face fellowship with God Almighty, just like Adam before he sinned. You can walk into the throne room with confidence. (Hebrews 4:16) Shame is gone! He hears you when you pray. All the blessings of the righteous person belong to you. Now. Today. This minute. Making righteousness a part of your self-image will change the way you pray, the way you look at life, and the way you see yourself and your God. It’s the platform from which faith for healing springs. Any sense of unworthiness that hangs on from your previous life will hinder your faith. The same is true of the guilt or shame for sins committed as a Christian. The idea that your healing somehow depends on your performance will keep you sick.
Our religious training (fig-leaf sewing) and our sin-conscious nature keep us in a cycle of failure and regret. You heard the moral law and realized you were a mess. You appealed to God for forgiveness. He cleansed your sin: “Not guilty!” You made Jesus the Lord of your life, and you were born again. When you fail don’t go back to the beginning and try harder to keep the law. You’re still righteous by nature. Now you simply confess your failure to God and move forward. He cleanses the stain and forgets about it. You should, too. (1 John 1:9) God is your Dad, not your parole officer. Run to Him, don’t hide. (Luke 15:20-24)
Here’s the Point: You are righteous because He made you that way. He made you that way because you believed, not because you performed. You are healed because He made you that way, not because you earned it. These are Bible facts. It doesn’t matter how you feel. Take Bible truth as fact, let feelings follow. The goal is to get your thinking changed to reflect this new reality. It is possible and God will help you do it. Learning to live from the inside out, reflecting who God made you in the New Birth is key to experiencing what’s yours because of Jesus Christ. You are righteous. You do right things because it’s who you are. You receive the blessings of righteousness for the same reason: because of who you are.
NEXT STEPS: Review each of the Scriptures in this article. Take a little time to think about each one and what it means to you. Now for the next three days, start your day by saying this out loud:
“I’m a new creature in Christ Jesus. His blood paid the price for all my sins. I am forgiven. I am “not guilty” before the throne of Almighty God. Because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I have a new nature. I have been created righteous. It’s who I am. All the blessings of the righteous person belong to me. I don’t have to earn them. Jesus earned them for me, and I am in Him. I am the righteousness of God in Christ. Today I will live like who I am.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21; Romans 5:19; 10:9-10; Hebrews 9:12; 10:22; Colossians 1:13-14; 1 John 1:9)
On the fourth day, open your Bible. Begin looking for verses that talk about “the righteous” or “the just.” They are both translations of the same word. When you find something that is promised to a righteous person, put your name in the verse, say it out loud, and ask the Lord to make it real to you as you go through the day. Take one verse each day. Here’s an example: “Lord, Psalm 34:15 says “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.” I am the righteous, therefore you have your eye on me today. Your ears are open to my cry. You hear me! Thank you for watching over me and hearing me.”
Pastor Virgil Stokes