I grew up in church. For us in the South this isn’t too uncommon. Of course I see it as a blessing to have the Word of God presented to me in numerous ways over many years from my parents, family friends and various bible study teachers. But for so long, church was just something we did as a family. No questions asked, we go to church because we do. I learned the stories, I tried not to lie to my parents, and I worked hard to be the good kid at church.
This was so deeply engrained in me that it wasn’t until my first semester in college that I understood that the gospel is so much more than “being the good kid at church”. Growing up in church meant I learned the right answers to the questions so I quickly developed an arsenal of answers that I thought the teacher wanted to hear. However, as I grew in my faith and grew to understand the Word of God The Lord showed me that I was constructing my own righteousness. I thought that going to church made me righteous, that knowing the bible story made me righteous, that not disobeying my parents made me righteous. I had bought into this lie that I was right before God because of who I was as a teenage church-goer.
But the gospel is not my own righteousness. And the righteousness of God comes only through Christ and his work on the cross.
Paul addresses this very idea in In Romans 10:1-4. He makes clear that the Jews who rejected Jesus were disillusioned to their right standing with God. They believed they were righteous because of who they were and what they did according to the Law.
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [Israel] is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Did you catch that? Israel had a zeal for God but it was according to their own way to righteousness and therefore empty and only leading to death. But the righteousness of God, faith in the work of Jesus Christ at the cross, is a righteousness not of our own. This righteousness belongs to Jesus and is all-sufficient and leads only to eternal life. And it the gift he has given to us who believe in him!
Maybe you’re a teenager and you think going to church twice a week makes you okay with God. Maybe you’re a parent who brings your student to church so they’ll be a “well rounded kid”. Let’s reject the idea that we can obtain our own righteousness because of who we are, or what we can do. Let’s not buy into the lie that being a part of youth group saves us. Instead, let’s look to the Glory of God and the faithfulness of Christ the Son. It is his righteousness that saves and leads to life, not our own.