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Who is righteous?
- Jacob Ninan
One amazing truth about God's grace is how He accepts us just as we are, instantly, as we go to Him repenting, confessing our sins and trusting in Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, and clothes us with His righteousness (Ro.4:5;5:17). But that is just the beginning of the story, and not the end. We do not continue in our sinful ways and keep claiming His righteousness (Ro.6:1,2). God begins a work of sanctification in us by which He changes us from the inside little by little to make us like Jesus (Ro.8:29;2Ti.2:21). If this is not taking place in our lives, if our life is going on just the same as before, we must recognise that something was missing in our 'salvation experience.'
After observing Christians for more than 60 years, the apostle John warned us not to be deceived about this. He pointed out that it was those were practising righteousness who were really righteous (1Jn.3:7). This is, of course, not contradicting the truth about righteousness being credited to us when we believe. This is about what happens afterwards. If our life shows no change towards righteousness, the chances are that we missed something in the beginning. This is sadly true about many people nowadays.
What happens in such cases is that there are changes in one's religious behaviour. Going to church, reading the Bible and talking religious language may happen, and those who see them may think that they have become Christians. But they may still be in the category of those who say, "Lord, Lord," and practise sin (Mt.7:21). John points out that those who practise sin (still) belong to the devil (1Jn.3:8). It may sound like a harsh message but it is still true.
Practising sin is, of course, not the same as falling into sin. Everyone may fall into sin because of various reasons. The process of sanctification gives victory on an increasing scale. When someone is struggling against habitual sin, that also is an indication of new life coming out from within. But those who continue in sin show that there is no inward fight against sin, and no inner change has taken place.
The most common reason is that salvation was superficial. Probably there was no recognition and admission of sin, no repentance (a turning away from sin to righteousness in the heart), and no sincere and grateful faith that received Jesus' sacrifice in one's place. The Amplified Bible points out that true belief in Jesus involves adhering to, cleaving to, trusting, having faith in, and relying on Him. Obviously merely repeating a prayer, raising one's hand or signing a card will not do.
We can rejoice (with joy unspeakable and full of glory) over having been accepted as righteous by God just because we placed our trust in Jesus. There is no condemnation or fear of uncertainty regarding our acceptance. But the point of this article is to encourage us to make sure about our own salvation and also to help us to convey the right way of salvation to others we seek to introduce to Christ.