When I was preparing for Facing the Mirror to be released, I mulled over a few titles trying to decide which one best described what the book would be about, while also wanting a title that intrigues people to want to read it.
Without a doubt, the book is about righteousness, so I used this word in the subtitle of one consideration and showed it to some trusted friends. One of them said, “Can I be honest?” And of course, I wanted her to be, so I said a definite yes. She said, “I hate to say this, but I’m afraid if I took the book and left it in the teacher’s lounge at my school, most people would overlook it because they have a religious mindset about the word righteousness. In other words, they would think it’s a stuffy book.”
I understood what she meant, but it made my heart sad. I wasn’t grieved because my friend was honest, but because people have very little concept–or even a wrong concept–of righteousness.
The original language in the New Testament is Greek, and it defines righteousness in a broad sense as MAN AS HE OUGHT TO BE. (I love that!) This definition immediately takes us back to the Garden of Eden and God’s creation of man, while at the same time, helping us to understand God hasn’t changed His mind. In other words, God gifted man with righteousness in the beginning and then made sure Jesus restored righteousness to man through redemption.
When we say, “Man as he ought to be,” we are really describing three major facets. The first is: Man (or humanity) must have a FAITH TO LIVE BY.
Romans 12:3 says, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” or as one translation says“the ability to believe.” Therefore, the question isn’t, CAN you believe? The question is, DO you believe?
The first mention of righteousness is actually found in Genesis when God took Abraham outside, told him to look up at the stars of the sky, and said, “So shall your descendants be.” The Bible then says, “And [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and [the Lord] accounted it to him for RIGHTEOUSNESS [declaring him righteous because of his faith]” (Genesis 15:6).
Righteousness was given to Abraham because he believed. And the same is still true for us today. When we choose to believe God and His Word, we will receive right-standing (or righteousness) from God. So, I’ve adopted a phrase which I write in the front of all my Bibles: The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.
What I didn’t write was: The Bible says it… I understand it all. I don’t understand it all, but I have chosen to believe it all because God has given me a measure of faith (the ability to believe Him). In fact, I desire to be as Paul, who said, “[I want to] be found in Him, not having my own RIGHTEOUSNESS, which is from the law [doctrine], but that which is through faith in Christ, the RIGHTEOUSNESS which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
This understanding is why it saddens me that people have only a religious view of the word righteousness. They are mistakenly assuming righteousness describes pious people. But in fact, it should be describing BELIEVING people–those who have put all their faith in an amazing God who saved and rescued them from eternal death!
But some are never taught that righteousness didn’t start and end with Abraham. Paul said in Romans 4:22-24, “And therefore, [because of his faith in God], it was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us who believe [who have faith] in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” In other words, every person who believes will have the same righteousness as Abraham. And it is received at salvation!
“But the RIGHTEOUSNESS of faith speaks in this way, …‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart…’ For with the heart one believes unto RIGHTEOUSNESS and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:8, 10). The moment our heart believed in Jesus and accepted forgiveness for our sins, making Him our Lord, we received right-standing with God.
So it’s easy to agree you have “faith” if you believe in Jesus. But this is where it applies to righteousness: the strength of the FAITH YOU LIVE BY is determined by how much of God’s Word you believe, understand, and accept for yourself.
This is one facet of righteousness: Man must have a faith to live by–a faith that not only believes all of God’s Word (not just the parts he or she likes) but also believes it in the face of great adversity. Under the New Covenant, righteousness begins and ends with faith (not the law). Therefore, finding a faith to live by includes finding out you’ve been made the righteousness of God in Christ.