How Are We Made Right With God?
According to Barna Report, 74% of Americans strongly agree with the statement that God will judge all people! The most important question, therefore, is how does one become right with God before the day of judgment? To give a wrong answer is to misunderstand the way to heaven. For if, as someone else has said, God requires one thing of us, and we present another, then how can we avoid condemnation on that day of judgement? If He has revealed to us how we can be right with Him and if we reject that method, and insist upon pursuing a different way, then how can we hope to be accepted? How does one become right with God?
Before answering this question, we must first answer two other questions. First, on what basis will we be judged, and, second, who will judge us? The answer to the first question, the basis of judgment, the Bible makes all too clear: "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the Law who will be declared righteous" (Romans. 2:4). According to the Bible, we will be judged by God's Law, and only those who obey God's law will be declared right with Him.
In the Bible there is the story of a rich young ruler who asked Jesus Christ, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" Jesus tells this young man that if he wishes eternal life, then he must keep the law; then Jesus rigidly applies what it means to keep the law so that even Jesus' disciples were astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" (Mt. 19.16-26). The standard God will use on the coming day of judgment is His Law, perfectly kept. Our Lord Himself says that we are to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5.48). And, as James points out, "For whosoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all" (James. 2.10).
But surely, someone might protest, God cannot judge humanity so rigidly! He must allow for mistakes, after all we are only human! However, this objection brings us to the second question, Who is it that will judge us? Perhaps a better question is, What is this Judge like? The Bible tells us that God is holy (1 Peter 1:15), righteous (Psalm 119:137 and 142), and just (Romans 3:26), therefore His treatment of us must also be holy, righteous, and just. For God to be just, He must condemn the sinner for this is what His law demands, "The soul that sinneth shall die" and, "the wages of sin is death" (Exodus 18:4; Romans 6:23). God is also immutable (Malachi 3:6) and He cannot customize His Law to fit the short comings of His creatures, and because He is just He cannot accept inferior obedience, or simply look the other way.
The law demands what the sinner cannot give-- perfect righteousness (Romans 3:23). If God is holy, righteous, and just, then the law must be satisfied: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (Genesis 18:25).
Obviously, understanding the nature of the One who will judge the world, and understanding the basis of this judgment, no one will escape a guilty sentence from God's throne. The Scriptures tell us, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them" (Galatians. 3.10). Left to ourselves, all of us will be found guilty and condemned: "There is none righteous, not even one," "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans. 3:10, 23). The problem is not that we have some faults that maybe God will graciously overlook. We are sinners. Moreover, we are not sinners merely because we sin, but because we are inherently sinful. In other words, not only are we not right with God because we sin, but because sin dwells within us (Romans. 7:14). How can we, in this dreadful state, ever hope to be right with God? This brings us to our original question: How do I, a sinner, a transgressor of the law, become right with a holy, righteous, and just God? Given the circumstances, it is seemingly hopeless.
Now, the good news. The same God and judge of the world, who is holy, righteous, and just, who must condemn the guilty, is also a God of love (John 3:16), mercy (Ephesians 2:4), and grace (Ephesians 1:5-7); and HE has revealed a way in which He can in love, mercy, and grace freely forgive the sinner, yet remain holy, righteous and just. God's way is by giving to the undeserving sinner His own righteousness--the righteousness of God.
The Scriptures tell us, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction" (Romans 3.21-22). "And that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3:9). "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). This righteousness from God, given to all who believe, is the basis for our being right with God. It is called in theological terminology "Justification." We are declared just by God because of the righteousness of Christ, freely given to all who trust in Him alone. This is the heart of the Gospel. Christ has kept the law for us (Romans 8:3-4), and in our place bore the punishment of our sins (1 Peter 2:24). We are made right with God not by our own works, but by the righteousness of another, the very righteousness of God Himself! Jesus Christ is, for all who trust in Him alone, "The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:5).
What are you trusting in? Are trusting in your own righteousness? Are you trusting in your church, your baptism, your good works? Or are you wholly trusting in Christ alone, and what He has done? The answer to these questions will determine how you are judged on that awesome day when God shall judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).