The great controversy has always been over Christ. We read in the book of Revelation about when the controversy first began in heaven: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought” (Rev. 12:7).
Satan hates Christ and has always tried to replace Him: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14).
The same controversy takes place in the lives of men and women today. Satan desires to reign on the throne of the heart. He wants people to follow his ways, not Christ’s ways. In the area of Christian living, he wants to replace Christ’s righteousness with man’s efforts. He wants them to look to their own efforts for righteousness rather than Christ and His righteousness. He wants them to look to themselves for obedience rather than to Christ manifesting His obedience in and through them.
This issue was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. The battle cry of the reformation was sola fide, “by faith alone.” This issue is at the heart of the gospel and the message of righteousness by faith.
The Bible is clear on the matter. Concerning the Christian’s walk with God, Paul wrote: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6).
The way one receives Jesus Christ as Savior is by faith. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, that He forgives our sins, and that He gives us eternal life. One becomes a Christian by faith in Christ. Works are not involved.
God does not require a lost sinner to begin doing good works before coming to Christ. The sinner does not have to “clean up” his life and try to make himself acceptable to God before receiving salvation. No, the sinner simply comes to Christ as he is, accepting Jesus by faith as His Savior.
Once we are born again and begin seeking to live the Christian life it is natural for us to focus on our own efforts to obey God’s law. However, we soon discover that this is impossible. Paul described this impossibility:
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:21-23).
Paul had personally experienced the impossibility of obeying God’s law through his own efforts. He was forced to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (verse 24).
He then gives the answer to his cry: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (verse 25).
The apostle Paul had learned that faith in Christ was the only way to victoriously live the Christian life. Of this he wrote: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3, 4).
In order to walk in the Spirit, one must daily experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and choose to yield to the Spirit’s promptings. Once the choice is made to yield to the Spirit’s promptings, we are then to look to Christ to live out His victory over the temptation in our life.
Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Because of Jesus’ perfect, righteous obedience to God’s law, when we have Jesus living in us we have His righteous obedience available to us. Therefore, Paul stated that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4).
You see, because of the “weakness” of our flesh, we are unable to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. However, if we have Jesus living in us through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, He will live out His righteous obedience “in us” if we place our “faith” in Him to do so. This is how we have Christ’s righteousness manifested in our life by faith. We can be righteous only by faith in Christ and His righteous obedience. Remember, there is no righteousness in this earth except Christ’s righteousness. Ellen White wrote, “The only defense against evil is the indwelling Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness” (The Desire of Ages, p. 324).
Personal Reflection and Discussion:
1. What is Satan constantly trying to do in relation to Christ?
2. When we work hard to obey God in an attempt to be righteous, whose plan are we following?
3. What kind of life did Jesus live in relation to God’s law?
4. According to the Bible, how can we be righteous?
5. How do we obtain righteousness?
• Call your prayer partner and discuss this devotional with him/her.
• Pray with your prayer partner:
1. Pray for God to baptize you with His Holy Spirit.
2. Pray for God to revive you and His church.
3. Pray for God to forgive you for seeking to be righteous by your own efforts.
4. Pray for God to lead you to understand and experience righteousness by faith in Christ alone.
5. Pray for the individuals on your prayer list.”
Excerpt From: Dennis Smith. “40 Days.”