As you may have noticed at this point on our journey together, I have been reading Romans lately. Thinking about it, mulling it over, considering in which ways I already believe it is true, wondering what I don’t believe about how this world works that God has already stated as true about how this world works. Enjoying as the truth in the epistle to the Romans is made plain to me. In many ways, I feel like it is taking much longer than I would prefer. I am amazed by the new things I notice about the text and also the things that seem equally amazing each time.
I started my more in-depth study in Romans 8, then backed up to Romans 1 and started from the beginning. Of all the things said in all eight chapters, I still find the same two words most encouraging. I can’t deny Romans 8 ends with enough encouragement to make my heart feel like bursting, but it is two little words in the beginning of that chapter that continue to strike me. I am so grateful that what the Law was powerless to do, God did.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that many highly successful days. I was having some pretty good weeks, but I am finding myself on a slippery slope with my brain just begging me to be mad at people. My brain likes to rehearse other people’s sins. I think it distracts it from facing my own selfishness. In twelve-step groups, we say “focus on yourself”, which has nothing to do with being selfish and everything to do with facing your own sin instead of pointing out other people’s transgressions.
Based on my actions this week, I am not very righteous. My thoughts revolve at a self-centered and high rate of speed. Always, always, always looking for ways to protect myself, promote myself and please myself. Very seldom do I truly wonder how to do these same things for others at the expense of my own comfort. When I do, in some twisted sort of way, it is still so that I feel better about who I am and not about truly giving selflessly of myself.
But never mind what I do. My righteousness has nothing to do with it. My righteousness has to do with what my God did.
Yes, what the Law could not do because it was weakened by the sinful nature of people, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And boy, do I like the sound of that.
I didn’t make myself righteous this week. God did.
There is another favorite phrase I have in Romans. It comes a few lines after what my God did. You see, He did this “in order that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
It is pretty much beyond my comprehension to comprehend that the righteous requirement of the Law has been met in me. There sure doesn’t seem to be much proof of it most days. Do I act better than I used to act? Yes. Are my thoughts less vicious than they used to be? Yes. Do I protect myself and my things less than I used to do? Yes. But fully met? Hard to notice by living around me or simply by being me.
If the text said “partially met”, I could handle it. Though as I think about it, I am quite sure that phrase is an oxymoron. One must either be righteous or unrighteous. I don’t think it could possibly be about a percentage. A little evil is just evil. A little good tainted with evil is still evil.
I do some good things sometimes. On rare occasions, I even sacrifice in a truly sacrificial way. But fully met? I’d find it more comprehensible if God had said Jesus made me partially righteous. I find it comprehendible, or at least highly inspiring, that someday I will be perfect in heaven. But the Law is fully met in me now?
And in all my studying of the gospel message, these two words still seem the most inspiring, the most encouraging. What I could not do; God did. The righteous requirement of the Law has been met in me. I am free!
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24
Has the righteous requirement of God’s law been fully met in you? Are you righteous?