When we first came to faith in Christ, we trusted that our sins were forgiven. We believed we were accepted, that we could lay down all guilt and fear and say, “I am saved by faith alone in what Jesus did for me at the cross.”
Then, as we proceeded in our walk with Jesus, we committed fresh acts of disobedience. We were crushed by our sins and quickly lost our vision of the cross. We tried to work out our own righteousness, to win back God’s favor by trying harder, but life then became a nightmarish merry-go-round of sin and confession, sin and confession.
We sometimes act as if trying harder on our own can save us. We think if we could just reform this flesh of ours, God would be pleased. Soon we are constantly working on our old man, to shape him up for a victorious Christian walk.
Some Christians may say, “I paid a high price for the victory I’ve achieved. I went through a lot of pain and suffering. I fasted, prayed, and successfully put down all my lusts and sinful desires. Is my struggle to obey worth nothing to God? Does He consider all my righteousness, all my hard work, as filthy rags?” Yes! It is all the flesh and none of it will stand before Him. There is only one righteousness and that is the righteousness of Jesus Christ!
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
The only way to get into God’s good grace is to admit the truth: “There is no good thing in my flesh, nothing in my good works to merit my salvation. I cannot become righteous through anything I do in my own strength. My righteousness is in Christ alone.” Paul says of the gift of righteousness: “Those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17).