I am perplexed as to why many Christians work so hard to be what they already are: the righteous. A strong emphasis on discreet living is too often undermined by pretense and hypocrisy; it is easily identified in churches and some Christian brands. This happens when preserving a godly image outweighs living as frail individuals liberated in the grace of God.
Our righteousness in Christ is a fact; we are unblemished in God’s sight.
But there are reasons we live as though this isn’t true. We feel that we have to prove our righteousness—to ourselves, to others, and to God—and become entrapped in works religion, forcing ourselves to earn God’s favor. Then, at the heart of it for many people is a conscience that remains guilt-ridden and desperate for penance, needing a deep understanding of grace.
Conversion is a lifestyle of sanctification, which is inherently progressive in nature and governed by God’s abundant mercy. I can master one area of my life and bring God glory there while another area may present me a lifelong chore; and though I may stumble, God’s power remains available to help me overcome that vice. But sanctification is an act spoiled if we retain too strongly a judicial view of God. That is the reason why we feverishly sweep around our doors and morally dot our “I’s” and cross our “T’s”—because God must be appeased and there is no stumbling or he’ll be mad at us.
How paradoxical it is that those who sing “Amazing Grace” have not grasped it! We let the dust cloud of guilt, personal failings, and dim outlook make us overlook Jesus before us saying “I accept you.” He doesn’t accept us because we have it together, but rather because we need him, the Savior.
A Present Reality
This radical kindness is what makes our only duty—emulating Christ by producing the fruit of righteousness (Gal. 5:22-23)—paramount. This one way is how we prove not our uprightness, but our love for God and appreciation for his kindness to us. It is perhaps the greatest assurance of our salvation. Christ died and gave us his life (zoe); we kill sinful tendencies and grow in righteousness—but in full knowledge that we are broken and still accepted.
So we need not resort to works religion, sin management, or undue behavior modifications. Instead, we are now righteous. We are now saints of God. We are now entered into the kingdom to come.