But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This is what Paul elsewhere calls “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11), the good news that God has to announce to us, which consists of a gift that God gives us — the righteousness of God himself. This word righteousness is highly misunderstood in our day. Often it is associated with behavior. If people are behaving in a right way, we say that they are behaving righteously. But in the book of Romans righteousness does not directly touch on behavior. It is not what you do; it is what you are! That is even more important, because your behavior stems from what you are. The gift Paul is talking about, the gift from God, is that of a righteous standing.
But the real meaning underlying this word, as understood by us today, is found in the word worth. People everywhere are looking for a sense of worth. Psychologists tell us that this sense of worth is the most essential element in human activity, and that without it you cannot function as a human being. Therefore, whether we know it or not, or describe it in these terms, we are all looking for a sense of worth. But the gospel announces that it is given to us. What other people work all their lives to achieve is handed to us right at the beginning, when we believe in Jesus Christ. According to the gospel, we cannot earn it, but it is given to us.
There are millions of people today who are openly acknowledging that they need help, and who come looking for help. There are others who never ask, but behind their smiling facades and confident airs, there are insecure hearts and a consciousness of deep self-doubt. This is the basic problem of mankind. This gospel, therefore, is dealing with something tremendously significant. It does not have to do only with what happens when you die. This is one of the reasons why many churches today are half-empty; so many people do not know that self-worth is what the gospel is all about. Far, far deeper than the need to feel that some human being loves us is our need to know that God loves us, and that we are acceptable in his sight, that we have standing and value and worth to him. Something about us, that bit of eternity planted in our hearts by God himself, bears witness to us that this is the ultimate issue. Somehow life can never be satisfying if that question is not settled.
What God is offering is a gift of righteousness — his own perfect righteousness, that cannot be improved upon, a perfect value. By faith in Jesus Christ, he gives us a sense of worth and acceptance, and there could be no better news to mankind.
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Thank you, Father, that you know my deepest need for a sense of worth and that you have provided it for me through the work of Jesus.
How do we answer the question, ‘Who am I?’ Do we gratefully think and live as persons of worth because of God’s amazing, undeserved gift of His righteousness? Or do we continue to vainly seek worldly affirmation?