“…in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having a righteousness of my own…”
In the original motion picture “Rocky,” the protagonist, Rocky Balboa is a boxer trying to make it in the sport. Rocky makes an important statement. He says, “If I just go the distance and hear that bell… then I’ll know I am not just another bum from the neighborhood.”
Now you might be wondering what this has to do with the verse I referenced above. Well, it has everything to do with it. You see, we all have something that we are striving for that proves to ourselves and others that we are not just bums from the neighborhood. That desire to prove ourselves is a desire for righteousness. For Rocky, it was to go the distance in the ring. For the apostle Paul, it was a righteousness that came from obeying the Law and being a strict Pharisee.
We can take anything and make it our attempt to establish a righteousness on our own. It can be athletics, our career, our children’s successes, our beauty—all kinds of things. But this isn’t real righteousness. Real righteousness comes to us, by belonging to Jesus, who lived the life we were made to live (but we have failed), and died the death that we deserve to die (in our place), and rose again and is seated with God awaiting the day when he brings the world to rights. Jesus’ righteousness is the only righteousness that saves, and we only get it by being found in him, by giving our lives to him, by trusting in him and his righteousness. And this also means that as we trust in Jesus for our righteousness, we turn away from our own righteousness. This doesn’t mean that we don’t pursue excellence at work, for example. But it means that our work is no longer our righteousness, it is simply our work that we do to glorify God and love and serve others.
Jesus has done everything we need to be righteous before God. It’s our choice: will we trust his work or try to establish our own? If we try to establish our own, we won’t be righteous, we’ll find ourselves condemned.
Other than in Jesus, where are you tempted to find your righteousness? What are you doing to consider that form of false righteousness as rubbish, and actively trusting in Jesus’ righteousness?