Covered by Christ
It is vital to repent of wrong, but that is not the end of the matter. Without God’s help we will go back to inventing our own ideas of what is right and get it wrong yet again. And it is not just our behaviour, but our hearts which need to be right, and our standing before God needs to be righteous if we are to be His holy people. We need to be right and live right. Repentance is the essential first step (Acts 20:21). Receiving God's righteousness is the next. In the same way in which a failing business is taken over by a successful company, so those who believe in Jesus are incorporated into Christ. They become part of His 'company' and have new credentials as they come under new management. After that they learn to work profitably with Him and share in the benefits of His kingdom. All the past debts are gone and all of Christ's righteousness is theirs (2 Corinthians 5:21). Watch www.crosscheck.org.uk.
This righteousness is a legal declaration of our state before God which should lead to a practical outworking of our relationship with Him. Our righteousness is not earned by us, but credited to us (Romans 4:3; Romans 4:22-24). Repentance and trusting that Christ died for our sins puts believers in the right with God. We could never achieve this by our good works, because we could never reach His demand of perfection (Titus 3:5). It is by His grace alone, through faith: our right-standing before God is His gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).
However, if we cling onto the idea that our religious observance is somehow necessary to get right with God, it is like saying that we consider Jesus' sacrifice inadequate. Either we rely on our own righteousness or on Christ's: whichever way, one of them will be treated as garbage. Paul’s message to the church in Philippi was a caution to both Jewish background believers and Gentiles who thought they needed to observe Old Testament rituals in order to be accepted by God. It was also an encouragement to those who were trusting Christ despite their weakness, fears and failings (Philippians 4:4-9).
Of course, it is vital that we should do good, but not to win God's favour (2 Timothy 1:8-9). If we think we can influence God's assessment of us that way, we have already discounted the sufficiency of the cross (Galatians 2:21). It is like the employees of a failing company continuing in the same old work practices and ignoring the new company procedures, even after it has been rescued. Instead, we should show our gratitude for being rescued, by living as released members of the new 'company'. That kind of lifestyle not only validates your faith but also advertises that you have been saved by Jesus. The brave-hopeless around you at work, who are looking for the possibility that life can be different, will find hope that despite your weakness and failings you are confident of being right with God through Jesus Christ, and willing to keep working at your new relationship with Him, with His help.
© Dr Paul Adams