Do you ever feel like you’re just checking off your to-do list? I know that I did for much of my life, and it made me totally miserable. I frustrated myself trying to do lots of good things in hopes that I might feel better about myself, but it was never a permanent solution.
We all have a deep need to feel alright about ourselves. And we can spend a lot of time and energy trying to do things that make us feel like we’re okay—okay with ourselves, with others and even with God. But we don’t need to wear ourselves out trying to be right with God through our own effort. The truth is we can’t make our lives right on our own—we need God.
When we start a relationship with Him, Jesus gives us is “rightness,” not “wrongness.” He wants you to know that you’re not wrong with Him, but that you’ve been made right with Him. It’s not through being perfect or doing all the right things—it’s a gift for us to receive when we accept Christ as our Savior. He offers us everything that He is, including His righteousness. We can feel right about ourselves, not because we do everything right, but because we have been made right by our faith in Jesus.
Separating Your Who from Your Do
One of the ways the enemy tries to deceive God’s people is by trying to convince us that we have to do everything right in order to be accepted and have a relationship with God. He tries to lure us into thinking that the good things we do will make us right in God’s eyes. As a result, when we’re doing “good” things, we feel like we’re alright with God. But when we think we’ve failed, we can feel like God is angry with us.
This is why it’s so important to know the difference between our “who” and our “do.” Our identity, worth and value—our “who”—depends entirely on what Jesus did for us, not on the good things we do.
For many years, I tried to please God with what I did. It seemed as if I was living on a performance treadmill—always trying to do something to feel good about myself and feel like I was in right standing with Him. In the process, I became weary, worn-out and unhappy. I would think, Something is just not working.
No matter how much we love God and choose to do what’s right, we will always be frustrated if we don’t learn that, For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving]…(Ephesians 2:8 AMPC).
In His mercy, God allowed me to see that there was absolutely nothing I could do to make Him love me any more or less than He already did. All He wanted was for me to believe in Jesus, the One Whom He sent (see John 6:29) and receive the righteousness He provided.
One of my favorite scriptures, 2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMPC) says, For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become…the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].
This means we are accepted through Jesus and He sees us as totally righteous. This does not mean that we don’t sin anymore or that we can dismiss it like it’s no big deal. It simply means that God loves us even while we are on our way—while we are in the process of becoming like Christ—even before we have “arrived.”
For example, as a 2-year-old, one of our granddaughters used to throw fits when she didn’t get her way. She tossed herself on the ground and screamed uncontrollably. Now, even though I disliked her behavior, I still loved her tremendously. I don’t stop loving my grandchildren or kick them out of the family because they do wrong things. I love them and work with them to develop the good character I know they need to succeed in life.
The same is true with God, our heavenly Father. He doesn’t love our wrong behavior, but He certainly loves us. Romans 5:8 says that He proved His love for us by sending His Son “while we were still sinners.” In other words, He didn’t wait until we were righteous to send Jesus—He sent Jesus because we would never be righteous without Him!
It’s About Relationship
Righteousness isn’t about rules—it’s about developing a personal relationship with Christ. He wants us to be in love with Him!
It helps to think of it in human terms. I love my husband, Dave, and he wants me to spend time with him out of love and affection—not because I have to. If I spent exactly one hour with him each day just to check it off my list, I don’t think he would be too excited!
God created you to have a relationship with Him. He wants you to know that He sent Jesus to die for your sins so you can be close to Him. It’s not because of anything you do, have done, or ever will do…it’s simply because He loves you!
As we begin to truly understand our righteousness “in Christ,” we will no longer wallow in condemnation or feel like we have to earn God’s forgiveness. Instead, we can live with the confidence and security that God knows us better than anyone…and He loves and approves of us.
God’s love for us is about so much more than the things we do. He loves us…period. Nothing we do will ever change that—nothing.