God’s Standard of Righteousness

The Bible has a lot to say about righteousness. But the single most important thing to remember is that our righteousness falls short of God’s righteousness.

Jesus teaches this over and over in the Gospels. His teaching on adultery and murder must have been especially shocking to the religious Jews of that time. He taught them that God’s standard is not just about what you physically do or don’t do. It’s also about your thoughts and attitudes. You can impress everyone with your actions, but God looks on the heart.

Romans 10:3-4 talks specifically about the nation of Israel. But it applies to all who trust their own righteousness rather than God’s. "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. [NKJV]

To be ignorant of God’s righteousness is to be ignorant of God’s standard. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." [KJV]

God is the standard. Anything short of Him is sin. People reading Matthew 5:48 see it as impossible and so they work hard to make it mean something less. Some point out that the Greek word used for "perfect" can also mean "complete" or "mature." They say the Lord was simply telling us to be mature. But how mature? How complete? How perfect? As mature, complete, and perfect as you Father in Heaven. Can you do that on your own? No. Neither can I. We are sinners and need a Savior.

Those who are ignorant of God’s standard sometimes seek to establish their own righteousness. Do you remember the Lord’s parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector? The Pharisee prayed, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." [Luke 18:11-12 NKJV]

Jesus then talked about the tax collector standing at a distance, not even lifting his eyes toward heaven. He "beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’" [Luke 18:13 NKJV] Of the tax collector, Jesus said, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified." [Luke 18:14 NKJV]

Now go back to the beginning. Luke 18:9 reveals exactly why Jesus told the story. "He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous."

Don’t trust in your righteousness. It’s not good enough. Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned…." But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say, "…and come short of the glory of God." Think about how far we fall short of God’s glory.

Most people judge their own righteousness by how their lives stack up against other people. But the real measure is not people. It is God Himself. Naturally, no mere human can measure up to Him. In fact, only God measures up to God. That’s why God the Son became a man and lived a perfect human life. Now He offers His righteousness to us as a gift. We didn’t live the perfect life that Jesus lived, but through His grace we gain the benefit of it. 
2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it like this. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Hal Lindsey

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