Righteousness versus self-righteousness is a condition of the soul and spirit and reflects either the heavenly nature or the worldly nature of each of us.
Righteousness is when we live in the heavenly will of God here on earth as it is in heaven as part of our everyday lives, as a way of witnessing to the world around us without calling any attention to ourselves, other than what others casually observe, such as having only plant foods in our shopping cart in a supermarket without calling any attention to the fact; it is amazing over time how many people comment on this or ask questions.
Self-righteousness is when we call attention to our public way of life so people will see what we are doing, which is really committing the worldly sin of the pride of life.
God wants is to be naturally righteous and not have any self-righteousness within ourselves, and if we are thinking about New Year’s resolutions, this would be a perfect place to start.
Some people latch on to verses like Deuteronomy 6:24-25…
24. "So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today.
25. And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all
this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.
In addition, they do it before others publicly.
However, today we are to consider what we are told in Matthew 22:36-40…
36. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
37. And He said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
38. "This is the great and foremost commandment.
39. "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
40. "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
In other words, if we live in this heavenly love we actually fulfill all the commandments in the Bible, because we would never do anything we are told not to do, and everything we are told to do.
Furthermore, if we do this naturally without calling attention to ourselves we are living in the righteousness that God desires.
As we look at Matthew 6:1-8, note carefully what we are told about righteousness versus self-righteousness, and as we do this, we should consider that these words are being spoken to us today…
1. "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
As mentioned previously, when we are living in the heavenly will of God, it should become part of our natural way of life, and not like this example of self-righteousness.
2. "When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
The question that each of us needs to ask ourselves is do we want the accolades of our fellow human beings or are we just satisfied with doing what the Lord desires us to do?
We hope and pray it is the latter.
3. "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing
4. that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
Also, whatever we give to others does not have to be in the form of money, but that whatever we do, it must be in the heavenly love of God.
In other words, what does God want me to do in this situation?
5. "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
Again, we are not to be like these self-righteous people.
6. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
No one has to know, or really needs to know what we are doing, because it is between us and God.
7. "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.
In other words, we are to pray from the depths of our heart and soul and not with any canned prayers.
Just have a conversation with God, and be still and listen for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit within us.
8. "Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need,
before you ask Him.
And the Holy Spirit will confirm this to us.
We all have a lot of emotions and sometimes mixed feelings about what is going on in our lives as the writer of Psalm 88:1-18 did, so as we read these verses, think about ourselves and our discussion about righteousness versus self-righteousness…
1. O LORD, the God of my salvation,
I have cried out by day and in the night before Thee.
Obviously something is troubling this person for he seems to be desperately seeking God, but at the same time he seems to be thankful for his salvation, and this is something that we all need to remember; no matter how bad things seem to get, we always need to remember we still have a lot to be thankful for.
2. Let my prayer come before Thee;
Incline Thine ear to my cry!
If we are praying from the depths of our heart and soul, God always hears, even if we don’t utter anything out loud.
3. For my soul has had enough troubles,
And my life has drawn near to Sheol.
When we start to feel that things are becoming overwhelming and we feel sorry for ourselves, we have a tendency to also become somewhat self-righteous, and that can bring is to the point of allowing some ungodliness into our lives.
4. I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit;
I have become like a man without strength,
5. Forsaken among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom Thou dost remember no more,
And they are cut off from Thy hand.
If we are truly born again and filled with the Holy Spirit we should think more as Paul did when he said to live is Christ, but to die is gain.
6. Thou hast put me in the lowest pit,
In dark places, in the depths.
Now, this kind of feeling or blaming God for our problems is worldly thinking, and involves the self-righteousness that says, “I don’t deserve this.”
On the other hand, if we have done something wrong, we need to confess it such as saying something like, “You have put me in the lowest pit because of my sins.”
7. Thy wrath has rested upon me,
And Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves.
Is that because of unrepentant sins?
We’re not specifically told, but it sure seems like it, when we look at the following verse.
8. Thou hast removed my acquaintances far from me;
Thou hast made me an object of loathing to them;
I am shut up and cannot go out.
9. My eye has wasted away because of affliction;
I have called upon Thee every day, O LORD;
I have spread out my hands to Thee.
To me, this all sounds like self-pity, and he is complaining that God isn’t responding to him; there is nothing being said about being thankful or repentant.
Even if we are not sure about what we have done to displease God, our prayers should still be directed to Him to help us understand so that we won’t make the same mistake or mistakes again.
We should never forget that evil always seems to follow good, and we need to look at ourselves and our lifestyles to determine whether we are filled with righteousness versus self-righteousness, because if we have any self-righteousness within us, we are not fully living in the heavenly will of God.
And no matter how often I read this psalm, I always think of it as being written by someone who is not fully living in the heavenly will of God.
10. Wilt Thou perform wonders for the dead?
Will the departed spirits rise and praise Thee?
The psalmist seems to want a “No” answer to these questions, but they can really be answered either “Yes” or “No,” because if the person dies in Christ, then the answer is “Yes”, but if they die in the ways of this corrupt world, the answer is most likely a “No,” but the final determination is the Lord’s, because He sees the intent of each person’s heart and soul.
11. Will Thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave,
Thy faithfulness in Abaddon?
12. Will Thy wonders be made known in the darkness?
And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
After Jesus was killed, He testified in hell, and it is even part of our Christian creed, so if we look at these verses with the mind of Christ, the answer is “Yes.”
13. But I, O LORD, have cried out to Thee for help,
And in the morning my prayer comes before Thee.
The reason I’ve been saying that the psalmist seems to not being fully living in the heavenly will of God is because he seems to know God, but at the same time, he doesn’t seem to fully trust Him and His decision, for even if we die in Christ, we will rise to be with Him in heaven forever and ever.
14. O LORD, why dost Thou reject my soul?
Why dost Thou hide Thy face from me?
15. I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on;
I suffer Thy terrors; I am overcome.
The psalmist even seems to be blaming God for the evils in this world and those that are afflicting him, which to us seems to be part of a person’s self-righteousness.
16. Thy burning anger has passed over me;
Thy terrors have destroyed me.
17. They have surrounded me like water all day long;
They have encompassed me altogether.
18. Thou hast removed lover and friend far from me;
My acquaintances are in darkness.
And this psalm doesn’t even end on an uplifting note.
I believe that we need to determine if the evils afflicting us are those that are afflicting our society as a whole, and if they are, then we should trust God enough to realize that even if we die in Christ, it is still gain, for in the spiritual realm we will live forever with the Lord and all the animals who have suffered and died at the hands of worldly human beings.
We need to filter everything in our lives through the sieve of righteousness versus self-righteousness, and reject and repent of all the things that are self-righteous, for if we live in the righteousness of the Lord, we will be with Him forever, even if we physically die.
We can live in Christ, if we want to.
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