And that’s about it, friends. Be glad in God! I don’t mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don’t mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry — so here goes. Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances — knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it — even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash — along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant — dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ — God’s righteousness.
– Philippians 3:1-9 (MSG)
That’s an important phrase in Christianity. Christ’s righteousness is the gift of righteousness that makes everything in salvation possible. Receiving the righteousness of Christ is the heart of the Gospel.
That’s another important part of the Christian message. God requires righteousness, and he commands it many different ways. He describes his people as righteous and he describes many characters in the Bible as righteous.
We know that our righteousness is not perfect. In fact, in comparison to God’s righteous nature and requirement, our righteousness is trash.
When Christ’s righteousness is credited to us, we are righteous in the Father’s sight. Everything about us may be less than perfectly righteous, but Christ’s righteousness is always acceptable and sufficient.
The gift of Christ’s righteousness, credited to me in the Gospel, is the lifeblood of the Christian life. I depend on it every moment of my existence. When I am at my best and when I have failed at my worst. From first breath to last gasp.
If the righteousness of Christ is so important, why are Christians always finding ways to create their own righteousness?
Yes, I said that Christians are constantly finding ways to create their own righteousness rather than accepting the righteousness of Christ.
Think about it.
The righteousness of knowledge. Bible knowledge included.
The righteousness of better theology, right theology, awesome theology, kick ___ theology and truly reformed theology.
The righteousness of emerging, cool, culturally hip theology.
The righteousness of my theology.
The righteousness of no theology — I’m just into Jesus.
The righteousness of fundamentalism and being way beyond fundamentalism.
The righteousness of morality, doing the right thing, being prudent, walking between the lines and never having a wrong thought.
The righteousness of feeling superior because of your humility.
The righteousness of political action.
The righteousness of spiritual experience. The righteousness of hands in the air, heads bowed, swaying, twirling, dancing, not twirling, not swirling, not dancing, never thinking of raising my hands.
The righteousness of a bigger gathering, a better preacher, a growing church.
The righteousness of a better denomination, more right answers, more new churches, more creative ideas.
The righteousness of anger at sin, and the righteousness of saying you love sinners.
The righteousness of conservatism and liberalism.
The righteousness of worshiping intensity, praying a longtime, getting loud in the Spirit.
The righteousness of liturgy, prayer books, choirs and stained glass.
The righteousness of doing more than anyone else for the Kingdom.
The righteousness of big stadium events and small house churches.
The righteousness of dreams and visions.
The righteousness of exegesis and citations of scholars.
The righteousness of abstaining and moderately using.
The righteousness of legalism and not being a legalist.
The righteousness of my music, our music, worship music, anointed music.
The righteousness of silence, of talking, of singing, of preaching.
Where these kinds of righteousness are useful, or important or matter, let me have them.
But when compared to the righteousness of Christ, throw them all in the dumpster.
Give me the righteousness of Christ. Let me hunger and thirst after Christ’s righteousness.
Let me treat others as if they are clothed in Christ. Let me worship as if the righteousness of Christ is offered freely to all who believe, no matter what else they have done or not done.
Let me come to live out of, love out of, depend upon and die securely in the righteousness of Christ alone.
* * *