Most of us rightly see self-righteousness as a negative, especially in other people; we will
say things like “she is so self-righteous, who does she think she is?” A self-righteous person demands certain things because they believe they are entitled to it because of what they have done; in their mind they should be treated in a certain way because they are happy with their performance. The problem is that the rest of us may not be so impressed.
It may be that you don’t consider that you struggle with self-righteousness, in fact you might say “Mark, I have the opposite problem; I am so unhappy with my performance that I know it is affecting my walk with God.” Whilst that might sound pious it is, believe it or not, a self-righteous statement and this attitude of supposed humility is encouraged from pulpits around the world. What the preachers don’t know is that they are binding the hearers in chains of self-righteousness that stop God’s people flowing in the life that Jesus came to give us.
We are accepted by God in Christ Jesus because of what He did; the Bible tells us that our works are as filthy rags and can in no way put us right with God. My very best efforts at righteousness will never have any impact on making me right with God because I cannot change my nature. I may be able to control some of my behavior, but then I will be a self controlled sinner instead of an out of control sinner, but guess what? I am still a sinner and therefore am disqualified from the Kingdom of Heaven. If I think that my performance in any way purchases me a right standing with God I am (quite ironically in my mind) instantly guilty of the sin of self-righteousness.
Here is the crafty bit, a religious trap that caught my feet over and over again before I learned what I am sharing with you now. If my performance cannot in any way make me right with God… Are you ready for the good news? Then it stands to reason that my performance cannot put me out of favour (grace) with God either – Now that is really good news. For some of you reading this it may go against the grain, but think about it. I was brought into right standing with God because of Jesus and not me. I didn’t have the power to gain the right standing and I don’t have the power to break it. If I think my good behaviour will give me favour with God then I am self-righteous. And guess what, if I think my behaviour can put me out of favour with God then I am equally self-righteous; believing that God won’t hear me because of my sin is the other end of the same stick.
Should I sin?
No! But you will on occasion, the good news is we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. Sin does not cause grace to abound, but abundant grace stops sin from separating us from our heavenly Father. To my mind the New Testament gives examples of God disciplining His children because of sin, but never abandoning them and never casting them away.
Here is a real key to freedom, how have we educated our consciences? Do our consciences condemn us and convince us that God is not listening because we did something wrong (self-righteous programming) or do they encourage us to run to God with our wrong doing because we know that He will give grace to help in our time of need.
The bottom line
If New Testament saints sin God still hears them, does not turn away or exclude them from His presence. He may discipline, but He will never reject and will always lead those who ask Him into the freedom that is only available by grace.
Now that is good news! 🙂