It’s been a while since I’ve seen or heard the saying that “Jesus is the answer,” but I got to thinking about it the other day. Though I understood what was being said, I always wondered about it. I posted this on fb a while back and the answers indicated that Jesus is the answer to any question we could ask. Without wishing to be difficult or disrespectful in any way either to Him or to those who answered my question, I can think of several questions to which He isn’t the answer, questions which by their very nature deny Him as the answer.
However, I’m thinking of a particular question, a question to which Jesus, and He alone, is the answer, a question asked very early in human history, a question which is basic to human existence. It’s found in Job 9:2, “how can a man be righteous before God?” (NKJV)
“How can a man [or a woman] be righteous before God?”
If, as some believe, this life is all there is, and death is the end of everything, then this question is of no importance at all. If though, in contrast to this view, the Bible is true, then what it says is of paramount importance. It’s not my purpose here to defend the accuracy and/or authority of Scripture, but simply to record what it says: …it is appointed for man to die once, but after this….
There’s an almost universal undercurrent in the back of our minds that there has to be something “out there” to make up for or take care of all the things in this world that aren’t right. If there isn’t, there should be. After all, how can human justice really take care of the Stalins, the Hitlers, the kidnappers of little girls from their school, regardless of how this latter situation is resolved? It just seems like “death” isn’t enough for such people.
Well, it turns out that “death” isn’t all there is. There is something “out there” –
It’s not the purpose of this post to deal with what this judgment might entail. It’s purpose is to point out that all of us, even if we’re not Stalins or Hitlers, are going to be in that judgment. Nor is it the purpose of this post to get into the discussion about the different “kinds” of judgment there may be, that is, is there just one “general judgment” in which all will participate, or are there judgments based on whether one is a Christian, a Jew at the time of Christ’s return, or an unbeliever?
It’s enough for this post that the Scripture teaches that we all, every single one of us, will stand before God and give an account of our lives.
Job asked, “How can a man be righteous before God?”
Isn’t it enough, as many think, that we just do our best?
Is “our best” good enough?
The short answer is, “no.”
There’s a strange Scripture in Proverbs which says that “even the plowing of the wicked is sin,” Proverbs 21:4 (NKJV). Some of the newer versions translate it as “the lamp of the wicked.” The Hebrew words are very similar, if not identical. Nevertheless, the idea is, that even when the wicked do those things which are basic to life, they are sinning.
How can this be?
Romans 3:23 says. “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” There are a lot of good, valid definitions of sin in Scripture, showing the varied aspects of it. Yet, perhaps Romans 3:23 aims at one of the basic thoughts of sin, it doesn’t glorify God. This means that when a wicked person, and that is all of us apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, even when a wicked person plows his field to prepare for planting or lights a lamp so he can see in the dark, he is sinning because he has no thought for the glory of God. Indeed, his thought, even if unconsciously, is, “Why should I do that?”
There’s an Old Testament verse which bears on this. In Daniel 5:23, after telling what Belshazzar had done with the Temple vessels captured by his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, using them in idolatrous revelry to praise his own gods, Daniel said, “and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, YOU HAVE NOT GLORIFIED,” (emphasis added).
So, among other things, sin is a failure to glorify God.
But, how can we know what glorifies God?
There’s another verse from Paul: “There is none righteous, no, not one,” Romans 3:10. This brings in the Moral Law, put in capsule form in the Old Testament, though there is more to it than a few verses in Exodus 20. It is mentioned throughout the Bible. Paul wrote that none of us is righteous, that it, has ever kept that Law.
We may think we live by the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount or some other portion of Scripture, but if we’re honest with ourselves and with God, we know better.
There’s only been one Person Who could ever truthfully say, “I do always those things which please Him, that is, God, John 8:26. That is why John calls Him “Jesus Christ the righteous, in 1 John 2:1. No one could ever be called that in and of himself, like the Lord.
This brings us back to Job’s question, “How can a man be righteous before God?”
Paul answers in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. “In Him,” not in ourselves.
What does this mean?
On the Cross, there was an exchange. The Lord Jesus exchanged places with sinners. Though sinless Himself – “righteous” – He took their sins as His own. Doing so, He placed Himself under the wrath and judgment of God against sin.
On the other hand, those who believe on the Lord Jesus are counted as “righteous.” The righteousness of Christ, gained through His obedience to the Law and ability to say that He pleased God in all things, is credited to believers as if it were their own. Believe me, it is not.
The Psalmist rejoiced in this grace of God when he said, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities, Psalm 103:10. He dealt with the Lord Jesus according to them.
People sometimes say that they want what they deserve. That may be true in this world, but it’s not a good thought for the next. One of the Puritans used to say that anything outside of hell is more than we deserve.
The question: “How can a man [or a woman] be righteous before God?”
What is YOUR answer?