God’s righteousness has not always thrilled me. In fact as a child and young person God’s righteousness and his desire for my life to be righteous terrified me. God’s righteousness and mine were infinitely far apart. Books have always been my friends. When I began to read about the life of Martin Luther, I could relate to his attempt to achieve a righteous life that would please God.
Luther was brought up to fear God, death, judgment, and hell. He became a monk in order to get on a fast track to heaven and not go to hell. He prayed seven times a day, fasted often for days, and said this, “I was a good monk. … if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, it was I.” He climbed the Scala Sancti on his hands and knees praying in his vain attempts to achieve a righteous life. He grew to hate the “righteousness of God” mentioned in Romans 1:17. For all of his strenuous efforts he never experienced the comfort of God’s grace UNTIL he realized that Jesus is both the terrifying judge and the merciful Savior. He realized that Christ was forsaken at Calvary because he bore our sins.
In Romans he discovered that God’s judgment on sin was placed upon Christ, punishing Jesus in our place. Further that God pronounces us as justified when we accept by faith alone what God has done for us in Christ. The most profound and joyful thoughts on the righteousness of God are to be found in Luther’s testimony despite intense persecution by the Pope and his followers.
I would add personally when I understood what it meant to be justified by faith, joy, love, peace and a new freedom became very real to me. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount resonate within me. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
So what does it mean to seek God’s righteousness? That’s for tomorrow!