NO RIGHTEOUSNESS OF OUR OWN – EVER
By Fred Pruitt
(This is a long excerpt from “The Intercessions of Paul – Part Two.” I cannot stress this point enough. It is one of the MAJOR KEYS to everything else in the spiritual life in Christ.)
Paul is introducing us to a completely different way to look at Jesus and the spiritual life, a way that does not center on ourselves and what “we” get out of it (salvation and blessings, etc.), but rather a moving into Christ in oneness with Him and all His activities and concerns, thus bringing us into the fatherhood level in Him, in which our lives have lost their self-focusing “what about me?” syndrome (what Christ does for me), and moved into Who Christ is – the spoken “I AM” of the Father now dwelling in us and as us, and What Christ is – the “Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth,” Who lays down His Life even for His enemies, and now we see that THIS is the life that we are now. It is no longer about Christ Who has delivered me, keeps me safe, answers my prayers, blesses me – but Christ by me Who now delivers others!!!!
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Stripped down to nothing, Paul finds himself “in” Him, and the “dung” which he has discarded has made way for the true righteousness. Only someone who comes to this point can truly understand what it means to “not have my own righteousness.” I cannot have my own righteousness! To do so would completely cancel out true righteousness, substituting it with a pale shadow-wraith pretending to be righeousness!
That “own righteousness” is as subtle as the serpent who came up with it. It seems so innocuous and so completely logical to think that if I work on certain aspects of myself, fix myself up to be more pleasing to God, God will give me a gold star in my crown. What could possibly be wrong with that attitude? Because it is eating from the forbidden Tree! As I said, it is the subtlest temptation in all the world to think I can improve myself enough to make me acceptable in God’s sight. Here is what Eve came to: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise …” (Gen 3:6).
As I heard on a radio show once, “Our teacher will teach you how to live a holy life that God can bless as your reward.”
This is typical around the body of Christ in our day, and it is 180 degrees out of sync with the message of the New Testament. The message of the New Testament is not “Live a holy life and God will bless you for it,” but rather, “God in Christ lives in you and by the Spirit is your perfect inner holiness, and out of you flow rivers of Living Water which comes out of the infinity of Christ WHO IS IN YOU! After all, Paul says in Romans 10:6-10, that we don’t seek to bring Christ down from heaven above, nor do we look for Him among the dead to bring Him back up. “No,” Paul says, “the word is nigh thee … in your heart,” (our innermost dwelling place where God lives in us). If we are His, what I have described above is our current truth. Quit looking for Christ from somewhere else! He is already IN YOU, Paul says, now JUST SAY THE WORD! There is no waiting on “our” righteousness to improve, because we do not have ANY! Now the righteousness we have is the Lord Our Righteousness, and there is no impediment.
If I think I do have even just the teeniest little bit of righteousness of my own, then I can only still be susceptible to the law, responsible to it and incomplete in myself. That is what it means when it says a little leaven leavens the whole loaf. Even if I could keep all the outer commandments, I could still not fulfill the one “law” of the New Testament, love, because love is intangible and has no solid outer measuring stick. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Gal 5:14).
This is one of the deepest and hardest-to-come revelations any of us may receive. We have no righteousness of our own. We have all given lip service to the idea, “Oh yes, we know, it is not by our righteousness,” but we don’t really KNOW it yet. The temptation is always there, that we might need just a little tiny teeny weeny itty bitty pinch of our own righteousness now and then, and that is the culprit, right there. It’s the pea under our mattress.
For many, the best and often last hidey-hole in us to reserve a little place for a righteousness of our own, is in the “responsible” self, the self that thinks it is “responsible” to be the last stand place, the final bulwark, that part of us that “decides” to resist temptation or give in to temptation, the final boss inside us (in case the Lord’s upholding doesn’t come and do the job). I call him Mr. Control-Room Self. Orders come and thoughts come and Mr. Control-Room Self makes himself to be the final arbiter or judge of these things, second only to God, of course.
The thing is, God didn’t invite Mr. Control-Room Self to come and help God run things. Likewise, neither did God set it up for Mr. Control-Room Self to make the determinations of right and wrong or good and evil. In fact, as long as Mr. Control-Room Self keeps trying to help God in running the ship, it kind of leaves out the God Mr. Control-Room Self is trying to maintain a relationship with. Mr. Control-Room Self is on the job, and there is only room for one in the captain’s chair, himself.
As I have repeated it many times, Jesus told the disciples, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) That includes Mr. Control-Room Self.
“Our own” righteousness is a sneaky thing. I used to pray, “O Lord, You know how much I want You, I want to know You more! I love You and desire nothing but to be with You. Take away my impatience, let me listen better to others, give me wisdom, give me peace and joy, etc etc etc, because I want to be a better instrument for Your use blah blah blah blah.”
One day I heard what I was saying, and I started laughing, because I saw the irony. I saw how absolutely silly it was to think of myself praying “righteous” prayers, or having godly motivations. It was there that I saw how totally caught we each are in our own all-pervasive vanity – in self-focus, independent self, self-will, self-love, etc. And that there was NO WAY OUT (by our own efforts). Even my desire to “get out of it” was tainted by the very selfishness I wanted to escape!
Only a death could deliver me, not another renewed effort to greater devotion or dedication. I saw for the first time, my true state as regards righteousness, holiness, love, etc., and my true state was zero. I had NONE. And in that regard, I had sunk down into “nothing,” except, “to be.” And from then on it has been, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but whatever he sees the Father do, the Son does the same.” What else could the Son of God as Son of Man confess?
This is part of what Paul is describing as “winning” or “attaining” Christ. The Greek word is translated both ways. The sense of it is not that Paul is leaving behind all these things that had been valuable to him in order to impress Christ, or to gain his salvation as a reward for his works through Christ, but rather and more fully, he has an unrelenting inner drive to be a participator in His outpoured Life, “partners” so to speak with Christ, which is found no other way than by grace through faith to enter into the works of Christ, to be doing what Christ is doing, that Christ through the Spirit might live His intercessory Life in and as our human lives. That his (Paul’s) human life would be in the flow of Christ in him, which is nothing other than a laid down life for others. Discovering his own “nothingness” in the equation is the beginning, which then leads here.
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”
This is a power-packed sentence! This is not Paul praying he would become more spiritual. This is not Paul praying for revelation so he could share deeper things with his followers. This is not Paul praying that he and Jesus would become closer, so that he could know Him better as a buddy sitting on the chair opposite him. Nor is Paul going for great sanctification and holiness, so that one day he might manifest the Stigmata.
Paul knows what he is seeking and what he will find. Do we want to “know Him?” Do we want to know the depths of the Godhead, the revelation of the Christ? Then let us put out of our minds visions of heavenly glory, stars in our crowns or heavenly rewards, lights, angels, colors, sights, wonders beyond our minds and understandings. Let us not make those things our goal. They may yet be ours, but in this exceedingly short moment we are given, there is something infinitely more urgent, more immediate, than the attainments of any heavenly visions or manifestations.
All the sheep have not yet come home. Some are still in chains of bondage, either as slaves still held in Egypt, or brethren still in the wilderness of the bondage of self-focus, independent self – the flesh – awaiting their release from the chains. As the old gospel song says, “None of us are free, if one of us is chained.” There is a debt yet to be paid, not “paying back” the Lord for what He has done for us, which would be preposterous, but the debt which Love owes to all God’s creatures. We have entered the Life which is Divine Love, indebted to the whole world to fill it with itself.
And it is still true, what Paul wrote to the Romans 10:11-15 –
“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”