July 31 I Sunday
“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” —Romans 3:22-24
A number of years ago, I was living a pretty wild lifestyle. But the moment I gave my life to Christ, when I called on Him in faith, His Holy Spirit came into my life and a transformation took place. All of a sudden, my appetite for sin diminished. The things I used to do before, when I went to do them again felt horrible. I no longer wanted to go party on a Friday or a Saturday night; instead, I wanted to stay home with my parents and read Scripture together. The only explanation for this desire is that the righteousness of God had taken up residency in my life, transforming me from the inside out. In other words, God’s righteousness was manifesting in my life.
The righteousness that Jesus was calling us to have in Matthew 5:20—“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven”—is a righteousness that only He can impart in us. As we consider Jesus’s teaching from the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, He is calling everyone to a righteous life informed by His Word, but it is enabled and produced in us only by His Holy Spirit at work in us. Put differently, what Jesus requires of us, He produces in us by faith.
Essentially, we could imagine Jesus saying to us, “Come to Me and you will not be angry all the time, despising your brother or sister. Abide in Me and you will not be ruled by sinful desires and lusting after others. Make Me the centre of your life and you will be a person of integrity and honesty. Spend time in Me, yoked to Me, and you will even love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is why Paul tells us, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21).
Notice that the requirement for righteousness is not foregone; instead, it is fully fulfilled by Christ. How amazing it is that Christ not only covers our unrighteousness with His blood at the cross but also indwells us with His Spirit to daily live out His righteousness. May our lives ever be a living witness to the transforming power of God.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for transforming me into Your likeness by Your Spirit at work in me to produce righteousness. Indeed, it is no longer I who live but Christ in me. Amen!