This is something that every Christian needs to understand. As a Christian your identity has changed, permanently. You are not the person that you used to be, thank God for that!
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:21
The truth and reality is that in Christ you are no longer a sinner. You no longer have a sinful nature. Sin no longer has power over you. You can still choose to sin because you have a free will, but before you were saved you had no power over sin. We have no right to judge unbelievers for their sinful lifestyle because they can’t do anything about it. The Old Testament is thousands of years of proof that humans could never live a sinless life. Making a genuine mistake isn’t sinning. Sinning is knowing something is wrong and choosing to do it anyways.
Jesus became sin to free us from sin. God Himself became sin so that we might become sons and daughters. We become righteous people because of what He has done, not our own efforts. Isaiah 64:6 describes the righteousness we produce on our own as filthy rags. Trying to produce righteousness on our own is like trying to clean up with a dirty rag, it will only spread around the mess. The righteousness of God is based upon the last two words of 2 Corinthians 5:21: in Him. We become the righteousness of God because we are in Christ. When we are in Christ, God no longer sees us for who we used to be. Instead He sees us as His perfect sons and daughters. God has completely forgiven us from all past and present sins.
When you start understanding that you are holy, blameless, righteous, and free from sin, that’s who you will become. Proverbs 23:7 is quoted often and we lose the power of it: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What you believe about yourself is so, so important! Jesus tells us in John 8:32 that knowing the truth is what sets us free. The truth is that you are God’s righteousness. If you continue to believe that you’re a sinful person or have a sinful nature, you simply won’t live in the freedom Jesus offers. Paul wrote that we have a righteousness that comes from faith. Us receiving God’s righteousness depends upon our faith and belief. Your identity as a child of God requires you to believe that.
Why Being Self-Righteous Is Dangerous
Self-righteousness is a term that is thrown around a lot without being understood. Being self-righteous is having the certainty that you are correct, and superior to other people. There are two sides to this. One being the false idea that as a Christian you are a “sinner saved by grace” or that you still have a sinful nature. That’s the opposite of being self-righteous, and it denies what Jesus paid for, along with the power of water baptism. The other side is being “holier-than-thou” and thinking you’re worth more than someone else. Self-righteous people usually compare different sins, making some to be worse than others. Self-righteous people often see problems with the sins of others, overlooking their own. Saying “I sin occasionally, but I would never do that” is a dangerous place to live. That’s saying that you live by your standards of righteousness, not by God’s standards.
When Adam and Eve sinned their immediate response was self-righteousness. They left the presence of God, the place where they were righteous. Then they sewed fig leaves together in attempt to cover themselves. Their own efforts to cover themselves with dead leaves, that would’ve only lasted a few days before falling apart. God’s response was to cover them with a sacrifice. God knew that to make us righteous there had to be a sacrifice made. Thankfully, Jesus came and died as the One perfect eternal sacrifice, making everyone righteous in Him.
As I said, our righteousness is based on our position. We are completely righteous because of where we live- in Christ. Instead of trying to clean ourselves off with a dirty rag, we were washed in the blood of God’s perfect sacrifice. Does that mean you’re perfect? No, but God sees us as though we never sinned. Hebrews 10:14 says “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” You should know and believe that you are the righteousness of God, because you’re in Christ. The righteousness of God is a gift that’s available to everyone. It’s not something you work for, or earn, it’s a gift that you receive only by faith.