Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalms 25:8-9)
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:10-14)
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
One of the marks of most false religions and cults is that they teach self-righteousness in some form or another. That is, a sense of being "righteous in one's self." They teach that in some way a person can achieve a level of goodness in themselves by their own efforts, and reach either a state of godhood themselves, or achieve God's approval by their works and "obedience" to a set of rules or law that their particular group has put together. Just the same, those who claim to have no religion, and claim to be atheists, have a sense of righteousness in themselves, thinking themselves good without God, and have no sin or need of a Savior. In trying to set up their own moral standard, they develop their own causes which gives them purpose in their own supposed goodness. But God has made a remarkable way for mankind to find His salvation, goodness, and true righteousness. It is through humility alone, that man, seeing himself as a hopeless sinner, comes to find a salvation that is completely of God Himself, all of grace, and that there is not one thing He can do to purchase or earn that salvation for himself, not when he tries to hold onto and justify his sin. Rather than seeing himself as some little god that is able to attain perfection, he is stripped bare in his soul to the realization that he is nothing but clay and completely sinful in the light of a holy, perfect God. It's only in this state, when a man is brought low, when he truly sees himself as God sees him, that He is freely cleansed from his sin and brought into the true righteousness that God alone gives, by grace alone, through faith alone. And just as we received Him, so we walk in Him (Colossians 2). The only true righteousness is the righteousness of God.
I had a dream once that shook me. I'm not claiming it was some special vision of God or anything, but nevertheless, it had a strong impact on me. In my early Christian life, I thought my "obedience" so called was my righteousness. I understood I was saved by grace and that the Lord had come to live in my heart, but I did not understand His righteousness was now mine, imputed to me. I was up and down, according to how good I did or didn't do and according to my feelings. One night I had a dream where I died along with some others in a car accident. I was taken to heaven, and brought into a room to wait until summoned. Soon an angel came to get us and brought us into a huge auditorium filled with people that you couldn't even see the end of. In front there was a huge screen that everyone could see. I saw a man there with Jesus, and his life was being shown on the screen, and all that he did for Christ with pure motives was rewarded, and he was given rewards, which he was to take before the Father and lay at His feet. I was called to come forward and it was my turn to have my life on the screen for all to see. Everything I had thought I did for Christ I saw the self-serving motives to, and the self-dependence, and the pride. I came away with nothing but filthy rags, and I was to lay that before the Father's feet. I remember feeling such shame and sorrow and wishing I could go back and do it over again, and then suddenly I was awake, and I was so glad to find that it was all a dream!! I did have a chance to really serve the Lord!
The thing that stood out to me the most in that dream was my motives, my heart, my pride. All I thought I was doing as a Christian was nothing but me, me, me. It still took me some years to understand the righteousness of God I had in Christ, but the Lord was faithful to show me, patient to teach me, and longsuffering with me as I stumbled and got back up again many times. Finally He opened my eyes to see, He alone is my righteousness. If I hoped in anything else, I would find it filthy rags one day before Him and His holiness. What a loss!!! The only glory we have or will ever have is the glory of God Himself in us. All else will be looked on with such disdain and shame. All the pomp and impressions of man and the glory he gives himself will one day be seen for the foolishness and shame it is before God and man, for all to see. That is a very sobering thought for those who put themselves or others on a pedestal. It's a sobering thought for any of us, who even in the least things in life think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
The world teaches self-importance and self-exaltation. Yet this is the very heart of what is wrong with the world and the root of evil in the world. In today's world especially there is more and more of a movement against the righteousness of God proclaimed in His Word, the Bible, and in the self-righteousness of mankind, a hatred and animosity and violence against all who love His righteousness and trust in that alone as theirs. There is a hatred that is becoming more and more aggressive against all that is of that true righteousness because it exposes their hearts and acts, and reveals just what it is in God's light. When one has their own "light" which is really darkness, they have to do all they can to snuff out the true light that will expose it.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." (John 3:19-21)
One day, however, everyone's works will be exposed before all, and nothing hidden will remain hidden (1 Cor. 4:5; Luke 12:2-3). All will be brought out in the open for all to see, what was of God or what was of man - what was of the Spirit or what was of flesh. I know one thing, I want to be found in His righteousness alone. Obedience to Him is obedience to the Gospel, which is faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, receiving His righteousness, humbling ourselves before Him, and allowing His life to then be our life here as His ambassadors in this world, until one day we will be with Him where He is, fit for His perfect holy Heaven by that righteousness alone. Nothing blemished or imperfect will be there! Imagine! For man to think he can achieve that kind of perfection through supposed obedience to the law is nothing but a degrading of God's perfect standard, lowering it to their own level of "righteousness" which in God's eyes is as filthy rags.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (Philippians 3:7-9)
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. (Romans 3:21-27)
Why is it so hard for the world to receive such a remarkable gift? Why is it so difficult for us to accept something so freely given to all who will come to Him? It is human pride alone! We must somehow see something good in ourselves. We must somehow see that we've earned what we get. The greatest hindrance of all to a person receiving Christ is simply pride. It keeps us from admitting sin, and defeat, and failure. It tries continually to put a good light on our grossest sins and make them look like something beautiful, something good, something justified. The lost seek to create their own "morality" justifying their immorality, calling evil good and good evil. The more the world does so, the more it hates the light of God's holy Word and His people. Yet, still, only those who have humbled themselves to see their sin, admit it, and receive His free gift of salvation will go away justified. One day the truth will be made known. We can face His light daily now, or later. But we will face it. How glorious to stand before Him one day dressed in His righteousness that He freely gave!! What an assurance that will be in the hearts of all who do so. What a false assurance those will have who trust in their obedience to some form of religion or law they think will save them, and what a disappointment they will find!
Dear Lord, may we be found in You on that day dressed in Your righteousness alone, and not our own works at all. Open our eyes to see what You have freely given to all who believe, and the greatest love that any human could ever know that you so freely give to whosoever will. Enable us to see our pride for all it is, that it is truly our shame. Help us to let it go for the glory that You have for us, and allow us to be clothed in the most beautiful garments that You alone can provide.
If you are not sure you have eternal life, if you want to know more about salvation through Jesus Christ, and how you can be sure, you can read more about it here.