But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. … Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. ~ Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28
Young children seek to gain their independence. A favorite phrase quickly becomes a refrain in their life: “Me do it! Me do it by myself!” They want to tie their own shoes: “Me do it by myself!” They want to pour their own glass of milk: “Me do it by myself!” Independence is a wonderful thing for a child to seek, unless, of course, they have not yet developed the ability to complete such tasks. If they can’t yet tie their shoes or pour a glass of milk, the end result will only be frustration, failure and possibly puddles of milk on the floor.
We human beings, by our natures, want to operate exactly that same way when it comes to our relationship with God. Our grammar may be a little better, but the message remains the same: “I want to get right with God by myself!” And, by our very natures, we stubbornly think that we can.
We think God will be happy with us if we observe most of his laws most of the time or, at least, if we observe most of his laws better than most others do. But here’s the problem: Our holy God demands perfection from us. And not just most of the time. All of the time. Because none of us can claim that sort of perfection on our own, what the Bible says is true of all of us: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have failed to meet our holy God’s holy standards. That failure to observe all of God’s laws absolutely perfectly leads to a much worse result than puddles of milk on the floor. Our sin should result in eternal death in hell.
This is why God planned a different way for us to be saved from hell. Because he knew we could not obtain righteousness (perfection) on our own, he planned to give it to us as a gift. He sent his Son Jesus into the world in order to live the righteous life we could not and to pay the price we owed for our sins through his death. Christ did all of that work in our place, as our substitute. And now, God offers Jesus’ perfectly righteous life to us as a free gift—a free gift that he gives to us through faith. God’s Word clearly says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
“I want to get right with God by myself!” Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior leads us to strike that stubborn phrase from our vocabulary—that stubborn attitude from our lives—forever! Faith in Jesus Christ leads us to cling instead to Christ and his righteousness as the only way to get right with God and as the only way to heaven.
Lord Jesus, grant me a heart that despairs of myself and my own failed attempts to gain righteousness before God. In its place, grant me a heart that trusts only in you and the righteousness you won for me through your life. Amen.