The hymn writer got it right: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” So relax about trying to be righteous and morally perfect! Jesus did it for you. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it!
Enduring Truth // Romans 10:9-10
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
You cannot be saved by your good works. Period! No matter how hard you try, your “good” is not good enough for the perfectly holy and completely righteous God. Nor can you be saved through an alternative, less stringent means, for only through God is eternal salvation possible.
Moreover, you cannot be saved by your moral perfection—no matter how moral you are or how close to moral you get. As the Old Testament prophet Isaiah pointed out, your righteousness is about as good as a “snot rag”. (Isaiah 64:6). I have actually cleaned that up a bit, because as some Bible scholars has suggested, the Hebrew words for filthy rags, ukabeged ehdim, may very well have meant, “like as rags of menstruation.”
Sorry if that disgusts you, but it’s Scripture—so blame Isaiah. The point is, both our acts of righteousness, and the quality of righteousness that we hope they produce, are disgusting to God. So if you are disgusted by Isaiah’s language, think of how God is repulsed by our efforts to get him to save us.
So what hope is there for our salvation? Well, no hope resides within us. None whatsoever. Ephesians 2:1 says “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” All a dead person can do is lay there and be dead, let alone try to be righteous before God.
No, our righteousness—and let’s be clear, we do have to be righteous to be acceptable to God—comes from Christ alone. You see, God sent his Son to die on the cross—hanging there as our sin—in order to pay the just punishment for sin that we deserved. That is our only hope, that Jesus became sin—our sin—and in so doing, he likewise became our righteousness. II Corinthians 5:21 says it well,
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
How dishonoring to God’s grace and Christ’s atonement when we therefore try to save ourselves by our acts of righteousness and our efforts at moral perfection. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we will discover salvation by grace along through faith, as Paul spoke about in in Philippians 3:8-9,
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them [our best efforts] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
It is only through the power of Christ’s resurrection and our death to self (Philippians 3:10-11) that our heart—the core of who we are, that which represents every fiber of our existence—will get transformed. And it is out of a transformed heart, and only that, that our tongue can confess Jesus is Lord.
Then, and only then, are we saved.
So relax about trying to be righteous and morally perfect! Jesus did it for you. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it!