He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:26 HCSB
Decisions are horribly hard for me. The bigger and more life-impacting they are, the more I wrangle with myself about them. I weigh both options endlessly, exhausting myself. Why? Because I want to do the right thing. When the right decision is obvious, I don’t struggle. But so many times, it’s not obvious. Should I seek a job? Or not? Should I pursue this job … or that one? Get involved in that ministry, or focus on the other one? Move here or there? What is right?
I faced such a decision last week. And as I sat in my brown leather arm chair, worrying if I was doing the right thing, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart: You are already righteous. I made you righteous.
It stunned me a little. Here I was, weighing several options about how to move forward, tying myself in knots over them, letting guilt jerk the knot tighter, trying to figure out what was right – and the answer was before me the whole time. I could not find righteousness in a particular course of action or in the “right” decision, because I myself could never be “right” on my own. Ever.
Even though I was/am decidedly a mess, Jesus declared me righteous. He gave me His righteousness the moment I chose to believe he’d died for me and rose again. He gave righteousness to me, because I could never achieve it on my own.
And in that moment, sitting my armchair, it was such a relief. It freed me to make a decision without guilt.
How does Jesus’ declaration that you are righteous free you?
I’m a perfectionist on a lot of things. I hate it when I’m wrong. I hate it when I fail to do something correctly. I hate it when my house isn’t clean. Some call me type A. I’m not—not really. I’m type Pharisee. I like to know the rules so that I can present myself as a good girl. For people like me, failure in one aspect of life is failure in all aspects of life, and that is devastating.
I think, at the heart of this, is pride. But also there is a deep desire to be acceptable.
We recently walked through Jesus’s illustrations of new patches on old garments and old wineskins filled with new wine. To be honest, going into it, I didn’t really get His parable. I thought, Jesus, you’re going to have to explain this one to me if you want me to teach it to the kids, ‘cause I’m out wandering in the pasture on this one. You know what? He did. Isn’t that like Him?
Pharisee types like to patch up their own holes, even if it means ignoring the fact that a brand-spankin’ new patch won’t fix and old, torn garment. They like to use what they got and fill it to the brim to make it look like it’s the real thing, even if it means ruining the good stuff to keep up appearances. Pharisees use the patch-up method of good works to gain approval.
But patched-up messes aren’t the same thing as righteous people.
Declared righteous means I don’t have to do the mending anymore. Good thing too, because I can’t patch up my old, broken heart. Underneath all the outward goodness, there’s still a broken heart inside. But God, in His tender mercy, has generously given me something so much better. He has given me a new heart and has declared me righteous because of His son.
So now, instead of being held captive by my Pharisee tendencies, I am free. Because I am declared righteous, I am accepted and approved. My heart beats whole and I am free to offer Him the works of love and sacrifice of praise that I couldn’t give before.