“Awake to righteousness and do not sin, for some do not have the knowledge of God.” — 1 Corinthians 15:34
“Righteousness” is not a word on which we tend to spend a lot of time in church anymore.
It has become a trend in the church world to stay focused more on faith than on righteousness. But I have learned that righteousness is central to everything we believe as Christians.
The most basic definition of righteousness is simply “right standing with God.” One thing that blinds people to a true understanding of righteousness is confusion about how we become right in the sight of God. It is commonly thought that our actions are the determining factor in God’s judgment of our righteousness, but that’s not true. There is a relationship between our actions and our right standing with God, but a right relationship with God produces the right actions, not the other way around.
According to Romans 5:17-19, we’re not sinful because of what we have done. We are sinful because of what Adam did. It was his disobedience that threw us into a sinful state. But thanks to the obedience of Jesus Christ, God doesn’t view us as sinful; he sees us as righteous. God wants you established in what Christ has done. He wants you conscious of your everlasting righteousness in Christ.
This year, our 14-year-old son had open heart surgery. Once the surgery was complete and they got him settled in the intensive-care unit, they were forced to leave in the breathing tube because of swelling in his face and neck. In order to keep him calm and let him rest so he could heal, the doctors gave him medicine that kept him asleep and paralyzed.
What that meant is that he was alive, but not fully conscious. Once the doctor decided it was safe to take the breathing tube out, he said, “let’s wake him up.” In order for him to be 100 percent conscious and have control of his body, the medicine needed to get out of his system. The more he woke up, the more movement he had, the more he could speak, the more he could function like he was supposed to, the more conscious he became.
I am convinced that the church is a lot like my son’s body in that hospital bed. Something has been injected into the body of Christ that is keeping it asleep and in a paralyzed state of existence. We’re alive, but not fully conscious. The body of Christ is present in the world, but we’re not moving or affecting the world around us. We’re not functioning like we were designed to function. And it’s because the enemy has given us a paralyzing agent that has rendered the church immobile and ineffective. The name of that paralyzing agent is found in Romans 5:18. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation.”
But I believe that we are in a season when God has given the order that we don’t have to stay in a paralyzed condition any longer — that it’s time for the body of Christ to wake up. We have to get condemnation out and let righteousness come alive. Romans 8:1 reminds us, “There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
It is up to us to be restored to right thinking so we are in right standing with God. It is only when we accept the revelation of our righteousness that the paralyzing power of condemnation will no longer work.
Today, I encourage you to choose to wake up to righteousness. Begin to see yourself the way God sees you — as righteous. That’s when you will be able to start overcoming sin, bad habits and everything that the accuser of the brethren is trying to use to hold you back from having life more abundantly.
Cowart is the pastor of Live Oak Church and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.