The Declaration of Righteousness

J.R. Waller, MBA

Key Points

  • The Christian life is one of rest and peace because we follow Jesus and not ourselves or the world.
  • When we come to Jesus for salvation through faith we are declared righteous in God’s sight.
  • Salvation and sanctification are all of grace from God. He alone saves, justifies and works in us to sanctify us, we need only come to Him in faith and then obey. Our obedience is our response to His many acts of grace and love towards us.

Introduction – The Burdens of Life

28) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

The Christian life is a life of rest and peace. Jesus Himself tells us that He gives us rest if we come unto Him. This does not mean that the Christian life is easy or that as Christians we have license to do as we please.

We still wear a yoke (which was used by Oxen to pull wagons in early agrarian societies). It is no longer our yoke or the world’s yoke that we bear, however, and that makes a substantial difference.

At our core, our very souls feel a constant burden from wearing the yokes of the world, religious legalism, status, and class. Not to mention the yoke we place on ourselves each day.

That yoke involves us placing an inordinate amount of pressure on ourselves, to “make something” of ourselves, or to be the “best” that we can be. It can also take the form of an “I must be in control at all times” mindset.

Whether you find yourself wearing the yoke of the world or your very own yoke, they both can be unnecessarily burdensome on our hearts, minds, and lives. Wanting to excel in life is not wrong but when it comes at the detriment of our physical and mental health and well-being, it is not a good habit.

A New Way to Measure Success 

There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be successful, but success is not to be measured by wealth, status or appearance. Following and serving Jesus are to be the driving forces to your success.

You see, when we go to Jesus as our savior and take His yoke upon us, it means we follow, obey, and learn from Him. Now, that’s not always easy but it is also not a burden. In fact, it gives us rest to our very souls.

As Christians, we no longer have to measure our lives by the amount of pressure we place on ourselves, by comparing ourselves with others, or by living to please the demands of the world. We only need to please God.“Following and serving Jesus are to be the driving forces to your success.”

None of us measure up to God’s standards. That alone sounds like an even greater burden than what we and the world place upon ourselves. However, that is only true if we are lost and non-believers in Jesus.

This is why when unsaved individuals look at the Ten Commandments, for instance, they feel a tremendous weight. If we are not righteous (Rom. 3:10-12 KJV) then how can we ever measure up? We can measure up because of what He has done for us on the cross.

Faith Counted for Righteousness 

Jesus’ yoke is a great release from worrisome burdens. It brings joy everlasting. Notice I did not say happiness. Joy is different, it is a constant state of mind that relishes being in a relationship with Jesus and that always looks at life with the eternal promises of heaven in mind. Joy is consistent, happiness is fleeting.

But does God’s rest and peace merely come from following after God or is there more? And how does God’s act on the cross allow us to measure up to God’s standards? How does bearing God’s yoke bring rest, peace and joy to our very souls?

The reason is that salvation and sanctification (trusting in Jesus for the first time, following Him, and letting Him work in us to make us more like Him) are all of grace (Eph. 2:8-9 KJV). Salvation is nothing we do, it is all of what Jesus has done for us.

Outside of our choice to trust Him by faith, salvation is all of God’s work and nothing of ourselves. It is a gift we accept (Romans 3:24 KJV).

We believe God will save us because we take Him at His word (this is faith) and we look to Him as the object of our faith. Our faith then is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5 KJV)

We are then those who David called “blessed” because Jesus “imputeth” us with His righteousness not because of our works, but because of His death for us. (Romans 4:6 KJV)

A Light Burden

Jesus’ burden is light for us because He is the one who saves, justifies, and who keeps us preserved in the faith.

We place our trust in Him. Salvation is a result of what He did for all of mankind on the cross. It comes by hearing His word, gospel message, and by His Holy Spirit beckoning us to come, as well.

Faith is the only means by which we come to Jesus for salvation. Everything else is His working and that’s good news! It is not our righteousness, it is God’s, which is found in us. (Phil. 3:9 KJV)

Now then, when we look back at the Ten Commandments and the law, we suddenly realize that we can measure up. We are no longer condemned under the law because we do not have our own version of righteousness but have God’s through faith. (Phil. 3:9 KJV)

The Declaration 

Now a distinction must be made. God justifies us and declares us righteous. He does not make us righteous on this side of heaven.

That is very important to understand. We are still in the flesh, however, God sees us as righteous because He sees Jesus’ righteousness within us.“….God sees us as righteous because He sees Jesus’ righteousness within us.”

This is what Luther referred to with the phrase “Simul Justus et peccator”, which means “at once justified and a sinner”. We still live in the flesh in this life and need to ask for repentance, however, we also remain justified in God’s sight. We partake then in the declaration of righteousness. As Paul explains…

16) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.Galatians 2:16 (KJV)

This set’s the stage then for why Jesus’ yoke is light and why following Him is not a burden. Let’s look at another word from Paul…

1) Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.Romans 5:1-2 (KJV)

Why is His yoke easy? Because He declares us righteous by our faith in Him and when He does that, He does it for all time. We are at peace with God because of Jesus’ justification of us. We then have the freedom to follow the One who loved us first. (I Jn. 4:19 KJV)

The Response 

We might come to Jesus many times throughout our Christian life with temporary feelings that make us think we are not good enough or not even Christians. We will also have sins that continue to beset us in this life and yet, feelings are not facts, and sins can be overcome. Nothing can ever revoke our citizenship in heaven or can take away Jesus’ declaration of our righteousness, that is our assurance because of His promises.

Remember, we see Jesus through a glass darkly, but He sees us clearly as unblameable and unreproveable in His sight. (Col. 1:22 KJV) Ultimately, what God thinks of us, says of us, and how He sees us far outweighs what we may think of ourselves.

Also, remember that while the enemy is the great accuser, we are under no condemnation because we are in Christ. (Rom. 8:1 KJV) This is why Jesus came, to take our place in court (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV) that we might be made righteous.

When Satan tells us we are worthless and not worthy of God’s love, we can tell him to take it up with our great High Priest who is our lawyer and who has taken our place in the heavenly courtroom of judgment.

30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:I Corinthians 1:30 (KJV)

Going back to our original verse, we can why Jesus’ yoke is easy to bear. However, there is a response from us that is required. Our response is to follow and obey.

Jesus is now our Father and we must obey Him as His children. While this is difficult sometimes due to our flesh, it is far easier than following the world and ourselves.

When we consider Jesus’ declaration of righteousness on our life, His great love for us, His substitutionary death for us, and that He saves, holds, and keeps us, then all of a sudden we understand that Jesus’ burden truly is light. He has done and is doing all of the work and He will continue to as we follow Him. (Phil. 1:6 KJV)

The Christian that thinks on all of these things is left with such deeply profound gratitude that he cannot but help but follow Jesus out of a love for what He means to him and because of what He has done for him. His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and He gives us rest unto our souls because He has declared us righteous. Amen!

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