One of the biggest deceptions in the world, especially in the Church, is that of performance-religion and self- righteousness. There’s a huge emphasis on maintaining the moral standards of the so-called “Judeo-Christian-value system.”
We hear: “I’m a good Christian.” “I belong to a church.” “I go to a home group.” “I read my Bible.” “I pray every day.” “I give my tithes.” “I try to live a good life and do my moral best.” “I don’t need to be set free because I’m already free.”
In reality, these are the people who need freedom the most.
I haven’t really struggled with knowing right or wrong and good or evil. For me, it was discerning between a life of self-righteousness and righteousness by faith.
Two Sides to Self-Righteousness
There are two sides to self- righteousness, both equally deceptive in keeping people bound.
- The Good We Do!
The first area of bondage that self- righteousness produces is what Jesus called “making the word of God of no effect.” It’s the belief that I have it all together, and I’ve done my part or “better than most.”
Some people actually believe they have it all together and are fulfilling their side of a bargain with God. Jesus said to the Jews who thought they had it all together:
… “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. … Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition ….” —Mark 7:9-13 (KJV)
The Jews taught that there was a way to be righteous by keeping the law, even if it meant they had to bend the law to do so.
But Paul said, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20 KJV).
The law was designed to draw man’s attention to his sin! What Jesus was saying to the Jews was that by bending the law to make it workable, they made the law or Word of God of no effect!
Simultaneously, there’s another side to this truth. JESUS IS THE WORD OF GOD! Legalism and self-righteousness makes JESUS and His work on the cross of no effect in our lives. If we could keep the law by our own efforts, then we’d have no need for Jesus!
- The Evil We Do!
Legalism and self- righteousness create guilt, condemnation, and obligation. One of the purposes of the law was to make people see and understand that no one can be made righteous by keeping the law. The Jews were serving God, governed by rules, regulations and performance, which could never make them righteous before God. They needed to be set free, and so do many people today.
We can never experience any form of freedom if we are not freed from the deception of performance-religion, legalism, and self-righteousness.
When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), He was saying: you will know “The Truth” (Jesus) and what He came to do. And Jesus will set you free from legalism, self-righteousness, and the condemnation and guilt of the law!
When we know “The Truth” about God’s love, we are set free from seeing an angry God who needs to be appeased and demands performance and sacrifice!
In Romans 3:21-25, Paul said:
“But now the righteousness of God WITHOUT the LAW is manifested … by faith of Jesus Christ … upon all them that believe… Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth … To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which BELIEVETH in Jesus.”
This is the freedom Jesus gave us. It’s this freedom we are to celebrate and grasp hold of every day!