Romans 4:4-5. Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
What if we could actually earn our way into Heaven? What kind of eternal Hell would that make it? Think about how much time you would spend bragging about all you did to get there? What if it was a points system like in the television show The Good Place (one of my favorites by the way)? It would mean the hell of eternal comparing. The hell of eternal imposter syndrome. The hell of everlasting shame.
But sadly, this is how the majority of the world sees the after-life – be good to get to Heaven. And it is still the way many Christians see life after they are saved – be good to get blessings.
But the gospel of our union with Christ, eliminates any and all earning of righteousness. Righteousness does not, and cannot, come from work or worthiness. In fact, the truth is that it is only the ungodly that can be counted as righteous.
It is not the spiritual person that is counted as righteous.
It is not the moral person that is counted as righteous.
It is not the sorrowful person that is counted as righteous.
It is not the knowledgeable person that is counted as righteous.
It is not the praying person that is counted as righteous.
It is no the repenting person that is counted as righteous.
It is not the church going person that is counted as righteous.
It is not the “godly” person that is counted as righteous.
It is the ungodly person.
It is the one who knows that all of their good deeds, all their crying, confessing, praying, church attending and Bible learning, apart from faith in Christ alone, will never do them a bit of good before a holy God.
This means that all behavior classification systems must be abandoned. These comparisons spit in the face of a holy God. There is no difference between Mother Teresa and Hitler. There is no distinction between the one who prays five times a day and the one who shoots up five times a day. There is no score other than zero in God’s classroom. All have sinned. All are doomed. All are ungodly. If you want a wage based system, then you best prepare to die.
Or at least prepare for the despair that comes from trying to measure up until you die. This is where a graceless religion leaves you. This is precisely what we have created for ourselves. Which is why we’re all so messed up. We are destroyed by our failures and we are destroying others with our successes. We’ve made life a measuring tape. A sliding scale of achievement. And all this does is serve to lessen our view of sin. We’ve turned the atomic bomb of our sin into a cap gun. No big deal. Haha, at least I’m not that guy. Laugh it off.
This is why the righteousness of God has to come from Christ. This is why only faith can be counted as righteousness. Faith in Christ’s grace given life alone. When we try to turn righteousness into a thing that can be earned, it will always, always, always lighten sin and cheapen grace. If I can earn it (and even if I can earn it after I’m saved), then why on earth would I need Jesus?
But “to live is Christ” is the constant realization that I never did earn it, I never will earn it, and I am not currently earning it. My sin is too massive. But praise God, his grace is more massive.
What are the ways in which you are still trying to earn righteousness?
You in Christ
How can knowing that you are righteous in Christ actually keep you from minimizing sin?
Christ in you
Is there a specific sin that you need to apply the power of imputed righteousness to?
Playlist: Christ’s righteousness