Now, in terms of identity – and this is the year of identity – the bottom line is this: you must identify yourself as a righteous person. If you are born again, you are righteous and you have to see yourself as righteous. If you believe in Christ and His complete work, then right now you are approved by God, you are right with God, you are accepted by God. You have free access to God’s favour, God treats you as if you are perfect, He answers your prayers like you have never messed up, He loves you like you never strayed, and He favours you like you always get it right. There is no waiting for righteousness, there is no working for righteousness – you are right now righteous!
Romans 3.21 says that a righteousness without the law has now been revealed – this is the great thing that Christ did on the cross – He made you righteous without you having to behave righteous. You didn’t get it right, but you are right. That’s good news! But for some reason Christians struggle to accept this. We often struggle in the same way as the Galatian church.
Read Galatians 3.1-5. In Galatians, Paul is telling the church in Galatia that he painted a picture of Christ crucified for them. He showed them that Christ died on the cross for their sins and all they had to do was believe and receive salvation. But religion got in the way, and religion tried to add to the simple truth of believing in what Christ has done and added all sorts of works to it.
In Numbers 21.4-9, the people are being attacked by poisonous snakes because of their constant grumbling and complaining. People are dying horribly due to snake bites, and they come to Moses and ask him to pray. When Moses prays, God tells him to make a brass snake and put it on a stick. Anyone who looked at the serpent on the stick was healed and the poison was neutralized, anyone who looked in a different direction died. Now if you were in that situation, and you knew friends who looked at the serpent and lived and friends who didn’t and died you would go and look at the serpent Moses made. It’s a no-brainer! Now, if someone was obstructing your view of the serpent, knowing it would save your life, you would absolutely get them out of the way.
Read John 3.14. Jesus is saying that He is the real serpent on the stick. That what Moses did was just a picture of Jesus. You see on the cross (the stick) Jesus became sin with our sin (2 Cor. 5.21) and became the serpent on a stick. All we have to do is look at Jesus and realize that He became sin with our sin and that we are the righteousness of God in Him, and all the poison of sin in our life is neutralized by God as we gaze at Him. It’s that simple. Becoming a Christian is that simple, and living the Christian life is that simple.
The problem is that many people try to add to the Christian life. Like the false teachers in Galatia who tried to tell people that to be filled with the Spirit and move in the gifts of the Spirit you had to meet a certain standard of holiness. Jesus warns us against people who add to the simple gospel as well in Matthew 7.
Read Matthew 7.13-14. There is a narrow road and a broad road. I have heard people say the narrow road is when you are really living for God and really doing the things of God, and the broad road is when you go off and live for yourself – in other words, if you don’t live right all the time, you fall off the path and end up in hell. That’s not what Jesus is saying: He is saying that there is only one place to look if you want the poison neutralized and that’s Jesus. Just Jesus is your salvation, your healing, your victory and joy. Just look to Him! Now – if you add to just Jesus then you make the path broader because you are adding stuff to it – normally rules about how we dress, how we give, how we love, how we are.
Read Matthew 7.15. After telling us about the narrow path, Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets. There are always people who are trying to get you to add things to the work of Christ – add your effort and give you laws to obey. Just like in Galatia, so it is today. Jesus calls these people false prophets. People who tell you that you have to obey certain rules to be right with God or have favour with God are false prophets, no matter if they are on Christian TV or seem lovely! They come in sheep’s clothing – they go to church and look like you, and praise God like you, then they tell you that we haven’t got the full message and you need to add a bit of this or that – rules that take you away from looking to the complete work of Christ.
Read Matthew 7.16-20. It’s all about fruit! All false teaching has the following thing in common: they separate the tree from the fruit. Let’s explain: an apple tree just produces apples – that’s natural for the apple tree. Pear trees make pears and cherry trees make cherries. According to Isaiah 61.3, you are a tree of righteousness. You naturally produce righteousness as a Christian.
A tree just produces fruit – you cannot sellotape fruit to a piece of wood and call it an apple tree. Yet that is what we often do with people forcing them to do certain things to be a Christian. Just get them planted in the Word and they will eventually produce fruit naturally. Just keep feeding a Christian their identity in Christ and they will eventually bear fruit.
Most of our problems as Christians, and most of our sin is caused by not knowing who we are: not grasping that Christ has made us righteous once and for all. All gossip is a lack of understanding righteousness – you run down others because you are not confident in who you are. But you feed on your righteous identity, you study and meditate on the Scriptures you start to become confident in yourself and don’t need to snuff out someone else’s candle to believe that yours is burning bright. Christians who don’t know their righteousness will never have healthy relationships because everything becomes a game to see who has kept the law the most. Get off that path – it doesn’t work, and start to rest in your Christ-righteousness.
Read Matthew 7.21. Jesus said that you will enter heaven by doing His will. There are two ways we can do His will. Either keep the law perfectly (and I think we have established that is not going to work) or believe the gospel! When you believe the gospel you are made righteous (Romans 5.1) and you are right with God. Lots of people say Jesus is Lord but they have never believed that He sent His Son to make them righteous. You have to believe that it’s about Jesus and His work.
Read Matthew 7.22-23. Never think you are going to heaven because you have worked a miracle or done a good work. You are going to heaven because Jesus Christ became sin with your sin so you could be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5.21). Not only that you can receive healing, receive prosperity, receive joy, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit not because of your works but because of the work of Christ on the cross. That’s good news!