Have you ever put the wrong key into a lock?
The key goes in, but, try as you might to get it to turn, it will not open the lock.
It can take a while to discover your mistake–some of us spend far longer trying to get it to work than others–but in the end, when the error is finally realized, we feel so silly!
How could such a simple solution be so difficult to see?
In our world today, there’s a whole lot of people fumbling with a lock. Many haven’t yet realized that they’ve got the wrong key.
Let’s Call the Lock Righteousness
We’ve all sinned – fallen short of the glory of God, as Romans 3:23 puts it. God is righteous, we are not, and that’s a problem.
It’s a problem because that which is unrighteous cannot enter into the presence of a righteous God. This leads to an even bigger problem: God is our source of life–“in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)–so if we cannot get to him, we are cut off from life. We are spiritually dead.
The door to God is shut–it’s locked–and the lock on that door is called righteousness. Until we figure out how to get righteousness–how to turn over the lock–we’ll remain cut off from God.
The Wrong Key
God’s word gives us a set of rules called the Law. The Law shows us what righteousness is.
Don’t make or worship idols. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. Keep the Sabbath holy. Honour your parents. Don’t kill. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t covet.
The Law of God is actually more extensive than these Ten Commands–still these are the rules that most of us are familiar with. These are the rules that we constantly seem to judge ourselves by; the standard of righteousness to which we compare ourselves.
The solution seems simple: If we just obey the rules then we’ll be righteous. Time and again, we have done our best to match this law, to make ourselves into a key that will fit the lock, but we fail to get the lock to turn over every time. As hard as we try, we fall short of righteousness.
This failure generally comes as a surprise to us–it constantly disappoints and frustrates us. But it really shouldn’t. You see, we are the wrong key. We’ll never fit into that lock no matter how hard we try.
So, what are we supposed to do?
Well, there are two options.
Option #1: Stop Trying to Open the Lock
We could just give up. We’ve tried and tried and can’t get that lock open, what’s the point in trying again?
This is exactly the advice many of us have been given when it comes to pursuing righteousness. “Just stop trying. You’re never going to be perfect.”
But if we took that attitude with real locks, there would be a whole lot of people locked out of their cars, houses, and jewelry boxes. When it comes to righteousness, giving up has an even worse result. Without righteousness, we remain spiritually dead.
Option #2: Find the Right Key
If you didn’t like option one, maybe option two will make more sense to you.
Every lock has a key–all you have to do is find the right one.
The Law told us what righteousness is, perhaps it holds a clue to the key as well…
In Matthew 22, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus a question. He said, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Jesus summarized the Law in two commands. These two commands could be summarized into a single word – love.
1 John 4:7-8 tells us that God is love: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Now, if righteousness is defined by the Law… and the Law can be summarized as two commands… and if those two commands are actually just one–to love… and if God is love, then God is the fulfillment of the law. God is righteousness.
This shouldn’t surprise us. We already stated that fact in other words when we said that God was righteous. But now perhaps we can see the solution to our problem.
God is the key.
Opening the LockWe’ve been trying to fit ourselves into a lock--righteousness--that we just can’t fit. Jesus Christ is the key that can fit the lock and open it. Click To TweetWe’ve been trying to fit ourselves into a lock–righteousness–that we just can’t fit. Jesus Christ is the key that can fit the lock and open it. So rather than struggling to be righteous, wouldn’t it be easier if we just let Jesus be righteousness for us?
That’s what he has offered to do. That’s what he died to do. He asks you and I to believe he did it for us.
If we do, his righteousness becomes ours. The lock is opened and we’re free to enter into the presence of God.
There, and only there, will we find life. It is in his presence that we’ll be transformed into his likeness. For only when you are there, covered in his righteousness, can he begin to make you righteous too.
“… if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:21b-22)