In preparation for my sermon tomorrow on “Christ is Our Righteousness” (“our” meaning those who trust Jesus alone for salvation) I read the follow quote from George Whitefield, (1714-1770) from his sermon “The Lord our Righteousness.”

Whoever is acquainted with the nature of mankind in general, or the propensity of his own heart in particular, must acknowledge, that self- righteousness is the last idol that is rooted out of the heart: being once born under a covenant of works, it is natural for us all to have recourse to a covenant of works, for our everlasting salvation. And we have contracted such devilish pride, by our fall from God, that we would, if not wholly, yet in part at least, glory in being the cause of our own salvation.

To do this though, to hold onto this last idol is utter foolishness.  As the apostle Paul proclaims:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.  For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing, (Romans 7:14-19, ESV).

Even if we were to achieve some form of external righteousness – Jesus knocks that down in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  There is no way we are good enough to earn righteousness on our own merit.  How many of us are truly pure at heart, (Matthew 5:6)?  Jesus’ blood cleanses our heart, our works can’t accomplish that.  How many of us have had contempt for another, (Matthew 5:22)?  How many of us have lusted, (Matthew 5:28)?  How many of us have lied, (Matthew 5:33-37)?  How many of us have sought revenge, (Matthew 5:38) or hated an enemy, (Matthew 5:44)?  That’s just going though some of Matthew 5.

We can not be righteous on merit.  So let go of the idol of self-righteousness, and instead trust in the Christ who will impart His righteousness to us.  In what Martin Luther called “the great exchange” Jesus takes our sin and gives us His righteousness, (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Claiming that righteousness depends on faith, (Philippians 3:9) on Christ’s work on the cross that accomplishes it for us.

We can either be ignorant of His righteousness or believe.

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes, (Romans 10:3-4, ESV).

Amen and Amen.

Update: Linked at The Tree of Mamre – Thanks!

  1. Amen to this Shane:

    “Jesus’ blood cleanses our heart, our works can’t accomplish that.”

    Sad that many going around saying that their heart is desperately wicked.. small wonder they seek an external righteousness.. if they only knew how righteous they are on the inside.

  2. Absolutely.. Christ has regenerated the believers heart.. we are absolutely righteous on the inside.. not that everyone believes that.

  3. Well said, Shane! It's funny how even when we come to Christ in faith, there is this tendency of human nature to perpetually alienate ourselves from God to the point that our relationship to God itself becomes a grotesque parody. But I suppose, ultimately, the miracle is that God forgives us even of our hypocrisy.

Comments are closed.

Get CT In Your Inbox!

Don't miss a single update.

You May Also Like

What Child Is This?

One of my favorite Christmas Carols is “What Child Is This?” was…

How Precious Is Your Steadfast Love (Psalm 36)

36:1 Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is…

The Goodness of God

Not only is God good, but He is the standard for good. …

Caffeinated Thought of the Day: God’s Election and Fairness

Shane Vander Hart: The doctrine of election is something that is hard to understand, and even harder to reconcile with our cultural idea of “fairness.”