If you’ve ever worked hard on something only to have it crumble and fall apart, you can remember how disappointed you felt. Depending on others to determine if we’re righteous according to their standards can have the same frustrating results. The world’s ideas of right and wrong change constantly, and it’s risky to let others determine whether or not we’re accepted. By contrast, God’s definition of righteousness always remains firm and unwavering.The world decides whether we’re righteous by what we do. This means we may be popular one day and ostracized the next. However, God defines our righteousness based on what He says about us. When others reject us, God shows His love and favor toward us. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
Most of us have had to justify ourselves before others to earn their acceptance. If we made a mistake, we may have lost their approval and had to earn it back. This is different from how God operates; He justifies us by our trust in Jesus, apart from our actions. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Knowing that our justification can never be taken away gives us peace of mind.
When we get born again and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we’ll never again have to work to please God; He’s already pleased with us. This is in stark contrast to walking the slippery slope of jumping through hoops to receive others’ conditional approval, but only if we do all the right things. Knowing that God will continue to see us as righteous no matter how many mistakes we make is like gaining firm footing on solid rock. “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2). Nothing can move us when we rely on Him.
In the Old Testament, the people’s sins kept them apart from God; their righteousness depended on their own actions. The pressure was on them to earn their blessings through perfect performance and self-effort. What Jesus did on the cross changed all that. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of this, all we need for salvation is faith that Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins has made us permanently righteous.
The righteousness we have in Christ is not flimsy self-righteousness based on what we do, but on what Jesus already did. It comes from God’s decision to make us righteous by our faith in His grace. “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life…” (Titus 3:4, 5, NLT). There’s nothing more solid than the unchanging righteousness we receive from God.
No matter how hard we try, we can’t save ourselves or make ourselves righteous. Thankfully, Jesus has already done the job; we’re now in right-standing with God because we believe this. No matter what others may think of us, we’ve already received God’s stamp of approval. Trusting in Him makes our salvation rock-solid.