I write a lot about social justice issues, missions, and reforming culture. But, it is only possible for the Christian to engage in any of that because we have first and foremost been set free from our sin, death, Satan, and Hell by the blood of Jesus and His sacrifice and victory on the Cross and through His resurrection. Because "it is finished" we no longer need to make striving for our own righteousness before God our all consuming focus. We are free to serve God and others! We can entrust ourselves to God and truly believe that we are righteous with the imputed righteousness of Christ! What a great salvation!
I first ran across Dr. Rod Rosenbladt a few years ago when a friend of mine passed me a little booklet called Christ Alone. It was gold. I happened to see a link to a Dr. Rosenbladt mp3 on The Gospel for those Broken By the Church. I have not listened to this yet, but a couple of excerpts are printed that I found helpful:
If the Ten Commandments were not impossible enough, the preaching of Christian behavior, of Christian ethics, of Christian living, can drive a Christian into despairing unbelief. Not happy unbelief. Tragic, despairing, sad unbelief. (It is not unlike the [unhappy] Christian equivalent of "Jack Mormons" - those who finally admit to themselves and others that they can't live up to the demands of this non-Christian cult's laws, and excuse themselves from the whole sheebang.) A diet of this stuff from pulpit, from curriculum, from a Christian reading list, can do a work on a Christian that is (at least over the long haul) "faith destroying."
He goes on:
Are we Christians saved the same way we were when we were baptized into Christ, or when we came to acknowledge Christ's shed blood and His righteousness as all we had in the face of God's holy law? That all of our supposed "virtue" - Christian or pagan - is just like so many old menstrual garments (to use the Bible phrase)? But that God imputes to those who trust Christ's cross the true righteousness of Christ Himself? We are pretty sure that unbelievers who come to believe this are instantly justified in God's sight, declared as if innocent, adopted as sons or daughters, forgiven of all sin, given eternal life, etc. But are Christians still saved that freely? Or are we not? We are pretty clear that imputed righteousness saves sinners. But can the imputed righteousness of Christ save a Christian? And can it save him or her all by itself? Or no?
Dr. Rosenbladt does not say that obedience is impossible or that we cannot grow in holiness. His point is that much of Christian preaching today is moralism, which drives people to despair. By that he means that the primary focus of much of our preaching is on our lives and what we can do to please God. While not bad in and of itself, if Christ is not our focus, we end up looking to ourselves and our own resources and we grow weary to the point of giving up. Our focus must always be on Christ and the righteousness that He provides us. We should always live from that perspective.
Dr. Rosenbladt is a Lutheran. The greatest thing that I have learned from Lutherans is their focus on "Christ outside of us" as our source of righteousness. So many Christians look within themselves for evidence of God's saving work. They judge themselves and look at their own behavior constantly. While it is appropriate to confess and turn away from sin, our righteousness should never be based on our own performance. Our righteousness is ALWAYS based on the finished work of Christ alone. I should always look to Him. No matter what my life looks like in any given moment (either good or bad), I am only righteous because I have placed my faith in the objective truth OUTSIDE of myself that Christ died for sinners. This is an historic space-time fact. It really happened and my salvation, my justification, and my sanctification depends solely on my looking to Jesus in faith, not myself. We do not have a righteousness of our own, but that which comes from faith in Christ. Christ became sin for us so that in Him who knew no sin we might become the righteousness of God.
Unless we truly come to know Christ and trust in His grace and mercy, all true spiritual growth becomes impossible. It is just moral living and there are dozens of works-based religions around that show us that we do not need Jesus to adhere to moral principles.