Why do we do what we do? Sometimes we may feel as though we are living the Christian life well... we are doing "all the right things"; we read our Bibles regularly; we have successfully abstained from besetting sins that have caught us up in the past; we may be considered by those within and outside the church as "good Christian people".
While all these things, in and of themselves, are good, we must be careful not to confuse “spiritual obedience” for healthy Christian living. We must make sure that the “why? question" is not answered by wrong motives. Sometimes we are living or acting a certain way in order to appear to others what we think they want to see. We want others to approve of us. Deep down, we want self-approval... We want to be justified in the eyes of other people. These efforts serve an end with one aim – self-justification. This is, in a word, self-righteousness. Notice, when we do this, we lose the proper “why?” perspective. We cease caring about how we appear – in our hearts – before God. We no longer think of whether God approves of us. It is much easier to present our actions as a façade before others.
Self-justification, or justification before others, is more concerned with outward appearance, while a focus on justification before God is concerned with the condion of one’s heart and right standing before Him. It is when we find ourselves unwilling or unable to live for God that we can often deduce that it is because we have been living externally – self-righteously. We know that we must repent of our unrighteousness, but seldom do we give thought of repenting of our righteousness. Habakkuk 2:4 speaks of the self-righteous person… “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith.”
Even more important than the why is the Who. Whose righteousness enables us to live the Christian life? There is only one way to live the Christian life, and that is not by our own feeble attempts at maintaining a righteousness which we claim for ourselves (perhaps relying on our intellectual knowledge about God or Christian upbringing), but it is in looking to Christ’s righteous work and death on the cross that we are able to live out this christian life.