We were created to glorify God and to enjoy fellowship with Him. God's purpose in saving us is to bring us into a right relationship with Him and to make us suitable to Himself so that He can enjoy us and we can enjoy Him.
God is the great Ruler of the universe. He is all light and glory. He is perfect in purity and holiness, and He cannot be approached by sinful creatures.
The prophet Isaiah once had a vision in which he saw the great and holy God upon His throne. Immediately Isaiah fell on his face and cried out, "Woe is me! for I am undone" (Isaiah 6:5).
What caused Isaiah to cry out, "Woe is me"? It was his sense of sinfulness. Isaiah knew that he was sinful. He knew that he did not have the righteousness that he needed to be in the presence of such a glorious and holy God.
To enjoy fellowship with God, I must not only be forgiven of all my sins, but I must have a righteousness that is acceptable to Him. Forgiveness is like taking a bath to get rid of dirt; righteousness is like putting on suitable clothes that I may be properly dressed.
If I were going to appear before a great king, I would want to wear suitable clothes.
When I think about coming into the presence of the holy God to enjoy fellowship with Him, I recognize that I must be "clothed" in a special way. I must be clothed with a righteousness that is acceptable to God.
What kind of righteousness does God accept? The only kind of righteousness which God accepts is a perfect righteousness. I cannot make myself perfectly righteous. God must provide this perfect righteousness for me.
How does God make me perfectly righteous in His sight?
God has done three wonderful things to make me perfectly righteous in His sight: (1) He has ended my old life, (2) He has given me a new life in Christ, and (3) He has given Christ to me as my righteousness.
To put it simply, God gets rid of all that I am and gives me Christ as my righteousness. Let us see how God does this.
God has ended my old life.
There are two great facts which are true of every believer: Christ died for me, and I "died" with Christ.
How do I know that Christ died for me? I know because God's Word says so. The Bible says, "…Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
How do I know that I "died" with Christ? I know because God's Word says so. My old sinful self, which was the source of all my sins, was crucified with Christ. The Bible says, "Knowing this, that our old man [our sinful self] was crucified with Him [Christ]…" (Romans 6:6).
God has given me a new life.
I "died" with Christ. I was buried with Him. In God's sight that was the end of my old life. Now God says to me, "I have created you as a new person in Christ." The Bible says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
God has given Christ to me as my righteousness.
In myself I am not righteous, but God has made me perfectly righteous in His sight. How did God do this? He put me in Christ. I am made "the righteousness of God in Him."
The Bible says, "For He [God] has made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This verse says that I am "made the righteousness of God in Him," that is, in Christ. Just as God looks at Christ and sees Him perfectly righteous, so He looks at me and sees me perfectly righteous in Christ.
If Gabriel, the mighty angel who stands in the very presence of God, were to appear before me in all his beauty and purity, my thought would likely be, "He is righteous and holy, but I am not." But this would be entirely wrong! God has given Christ to me as my righteousness. I am made "the righteousness of God in Him."
The prodigal son was made suitable to his father.
When the prodigal son returned to his father, he had no idea how well he would be received by his father. The father ran to meet him and "covered him with his kisses." At that moment the son knew how his father felt toward him. He knew that he was loved and accepted.
But even though he knew that he was forgiven and accepted by his father, we may be sure that the prodigal was not completely happy. He was not happy because of his condition. He was still in his dirt and rags.
The prodigal might have said to his father, "It is wonderful that you love me so much and that you can receive me as you do, but I do not enjoy it because I am not fit for you."
What did the father do? He told his servants, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him." We may be sure that this new robe was not put over the prodigal son's dirt and rags. He was given a bath, and his old clothes were taken away.
Then the servants put "the best robe" on him. It is called "the best robe" because there could be no better.
What is the son's situation now? He has been washed from his dirt; he has clean clothes; and he is wearing the best robe. He knows that he is now fit to be in his father's presence. He can now enjoy being with his father because his father has made him suitable to himself.
The son did not say, "I just don't feel that I can accept this robe because I am so unworthy." He honored his father by joyfully receiving what his father provided for him. The "best robe" not only made the son suitable to his father, but it made him conscious of his suitability.
"The best robe" is Christ.
This story has a deep, heavenly meaning. The Lord Jesus told us this story because He wants us to know what the Father has done to make us suitable to Himself.
God has not only cleansed me from all my sins, but He has made me a new person in Christ. And He has provided a perfect righteousness for me by giving me His "best robe."
What is God's "best robe"? God's "best robe" is Christ! In fact, God has no other robe to make us suitable to Himself. No one can come to God except by Christ.
God has given Christ to me as my righteousness. Because Christ is my righteousness, I have a perfect righteousness before God. God has made me suitable to Himself, and He wants me to be conscious of my suitability.
It is the glorious, risen Christ Himself who is my righteousness before God. One of the names for the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament is "The Lord our righteousness." The Bible says of Christ, "And this is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6b).
I am "accepted in the Beloved."
Through my death and resurrection with Christ, I am on "new ground" with God. I am no longer in Adam: I am now in Christ. I am accepted by God because I am in Christ. The Bible says, "To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved [Christ]" (Ephesians 1:6).
The righteousness and acceptance which I have in Christ is perfect and complete. I did not earn it. God gave it to me the moment I took Christ as my Savior. I cannot improve my acceptance with God, and I cannot lose my acceptance with God. I am always "accepted in the Beloved."
Does this mean that we will not sin any more if we are Christians? No, it does not. In Paul's letter to the believers in Corinth , we find some things that seem hard to understand. Paul calls these believers "saints [holy ones]."
Yet, in the same letter, Paul speaks of some terrible sins in their lives. Some were proud, some fought among themselves, and some were guilty of immoral acts.
What is the explanation of this? How could Paul say that they were "saints" while, at the same time, they were not living as believers should? To answer these questions, we must understand the difference between our "position" and our "walk.
What is my "position"?
My "position" is the way God sees me in Christ. Is my position perfect? Yes, it is. Is my position always perfect? Yes, it is. Why? Because it is the way God sees me in Christ. Christ Himself is perfect, and God always sees me perfect in Christ.
What is my "walk"?
My "walk" is my conduct—the way I live, day by day. Is my walk perfect? No, it is not. Is it ever perfect? No, it is not. Why? Because it depends on me—what I say and do, and I am not perfect.
It will help us if we remember that our position is the way God sees us in Christ, and our walk is the way we live here on the earth.
God accepts me
according to my position.
God always accepts me according to my position in Christ, and not according to my walk—the way I live here on this earth. The Bible says, "To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved [Christ]" (Ephesians 1:6).
My righteousness before God is Christ Himself. He is my "best robe," and God never takes back His "best robe." My failures do not affect Christ's perfection. Nothing can be added to His perfection, nor can anything be taken from it. Regardless of how many times I may fail, Christ is always my righteousness before God, and He is always perfect.
Can I lose my "position"?
My "position" is the way God sees me in Christ. It is not based on what I am, but on what Christ is.
Can I lose my position in Christ? No, I can never lose my position. But I can lose the enjoyment of my position. If I continue to do things which are displeasing to God, I will lose my joy.
Losing my joy is like the warning light that comes on in a car. It means that there is a serious problem which needs to be corrected immediately. How do we correct our problem with God? We correct it by confessing our sin to Him and forsaking it.
God is a holy God. He wants His people to be holy in their everyday living. The Bible says, "But as He which has called you is holy, you also be holy in all manner of conversation [daily living]" (1 Peter 1:15).
How to Please God
In His Word God has told me how I can live a life that is pleasing to Him. I please God when I "walk by faith." Paul said, "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).
"Walking by faith" means that I am living by God's truth, counting on what I am in Christ. "Walking by sight" means that I am living by my feelings and circumstances.
The battle for a Christian each day is, "Am I going to live by my feelings and my circumstances or by God's truth?"
God wants me to live by His truth, knowing that I am in Christ and that Christ is my righteousness. Say to yourself over and over, "I am in Christ. Christ is my righteousness! I am accepted in Him."
No truth in the Bible is more important for us as Christians than knowing that we are in Christ and that He is our righteousness. This is something God did for you when you took Christ as your Savior. If you are not sure of this, read this lesson over and over. Ask God to show you that you are indeed in Christ and that Christ Himself is your righteousness before God.