Prayer is a very important part of our faith and walk with God. Who among us has never been in need of powerful and effective prayer? James 5:16 tells us that the prayer of the righteous is both powerful and effective. That is a strong promise! So, how does one become righteous?  Faith and works!  James 2:14-26 explains that faith without works is dead.  Let’s explore the 3 ways to become righteous and their relationship to eternal salvation.              

     1. Faith in Jesus.

A man meets Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates and is told that he needs 10,000 points of good works to get into Heaven. The man starts listing his good deeds, some amazing for earthly standards, but Peter is only giving him 1 point for each good deed. Frustrated, the man says, “At this rate, the only way I’m going to get into Heaven is by the grace of God!” Peter says, “Bingo, 10,000 points! Come right in.”

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 4 that if Abraham was justified by his works, then he would have something to boast about, but not before God. Paul then reiterates Genesis 15:6 when he writes in Romans 4:3 that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.  In verse 5, Paul equates “believing” with “faith”, writing that God justifies those by their faith, thus crediting them as being righteous.

More specific to this relationship between faith and righteousness, Paul first wrote in Romans 3:22, “Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” It is through our salvation in Christ that makes us justified before God, seen as righteous in His eyes because our sins have been covered by the blood of Christ. Isaiah 61:10 called this the “Robe of Righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it this way, “For He has made Him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Saved by grace is the key, but if our goal is to emulate Jesus who was without sin, we have to learn how to strive for Christ-like works and righteousness through resisting temptations of sin. Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives [works] in this present age.” How do we learn to do that?

     2. Reading and studying the Bible.

2 Timothy 2:9 [KJV] says, “The Word of God is not bound.”  That may have been prophesy for our time. We can get the Bible on CD, mp3, Internet and smart phone apps! However you want to get it, just be sure you do get it and study it! Why? Because the Bible is God’s gift to us so we can learn how to live well, according to God’s plan. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

God wants to bless us! That theme is repeated over and over again throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  A straight forward example is Psalm 5:12 which simply states, “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” More detailed on the subject is in Deuteronomy 28. The first half of the chapter states the many blessings God grants those that are righteous by obeying God and the second half explains the curses on those that do not. The purpose of the curses are to get our attention so we will repent and turn back to God in order that He may continue blessing us again, leading us into a good and purpose driven life He had planned out for us even before we were born.  

     3. Obeying God.

Once you’ve studied how, the next step is being like Nike and “Just do it!” Righteousness is first mentioned, as one might guess, in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 6:9. The verse says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”

Through Christ, an unrighteous, spiritually dead person is transformed into a new, spiritually alive person seen as righteous by God because the unrighteousness (sin) is covered by the blood of Jesus. Perhaps that is why it is likely we’ll get to Heaven one day, look around and see people we once knew and wonder, “How did that person get in here?” And sadly, it is likely there will be a few that think that of us. There also might be some people missing that surprise us.

The reason some “good” people won’t make it into Heaven and some “bad” people will is determined by their faith. We cannot be saved by works of righteousness alone. Jesus died on the cross for our sins that we may believe and have eternal life but whoever does not believe stands condemned (John 3:16-18).  That is the essence of the most important way to become righteous before God.  However, let’s remember the first message Jesus ever preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” stated in Matthew 4:17. Repent! It was a commandment, not a suggestion.  Repenting is not only seeking forgiveness, but it is more precisely the act of changing one’s mind about sin and one’s behavior from then on.  It means beginning to live righteously.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:17 that a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. When you are forgiven God forgets your bad fruit (sins) but people don’t, so from then on, produce the good fruit that makes for a righteous witness for Christ in the eyes of people. That is how we effectively live out the great commission Jesus gave us to advance the Kingdom of God by spreading the Gospel, bringing the goodness and light of Jesus to lost souls in an evil and dark world so that they may be saved as well. Paul wrote it this way in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

A parting note: Don’t be one of those people that think it is okay to live a life of sin so long as you ask Jesus for forgiveness upon your dying breath. Many don’t get that chance before they pass on. Instead, choose life and to live it to the fullest, empowered by the Holy Spirit which comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Making oneself a servant of Christ results in a reality that is opposite to what non-believers think. It is not limiting, but rather completely freeing with a renewed clarity on achieving lasting happiness.