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"For with the heart man BELIEVETH unto RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Rom. 10:10).

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17).

We glean two significant facts about righteousness from these verses:

1. With the heart man believes unto righteousness.

2. Righteousness is a gift.

Righteousness means right standing with God. We have right standing with God, not because of what we did, but because of what Jesus did for us in God's great plan of redemption. The newborn babe in Christ has as good a standing with God and can get an answer to prayer just as quickly as the mature saint who has lived many years for God.

Too often, we associate righteousness with good works. The Bible teaches that good works and right conduct are important, of course. But all our good works and all our right conduct could never make us righteous. If they could, we wouldn't need Jesus.

We've mistakenly thought we might somehow grow into righteousness. Thank God, we can grow in the Lord and can develop spiritually. But righteousness is not something we can work to attain. We cannot grow into righteousness; it's a gift from God.

If you have been born again, you will never be more righteous than you are now. You won't be any more righteous when you get to Heaven than you are at this moment.

How do you become righteous? By believing unto righteousness (Rom. 10:10), and receiving the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17).

When you were born again, you became a new man in Christ Jesus - a new creation - and you were made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:17). In the new birth, you were born righteous!

"But now THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD without the law IS MANIFESTED, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD which is BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST unto all and upon ALL them that BELIEVE" (Rom 3:21-22).

In His great plan of redemption, God made provision for all who believe in Jesus to have right standing before Him. That sets something to dancing inside me!

It's so important for believers to understand that they have been made righteous in Christ. A lack of understanding of righteousness holds more people in bondage than perhaps anything else. In my opinion, righteousness is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the Bible.

In my own personal experience, not understanding righteousness almost cost me my life. At 16 years of age, five doctors gave me up to die. But my spirit kept telling me I didn't have to die. (Your spirit knows things your head doesn't, particularly if your spirit is born of God.) My heart told me there was hope and help in God's Word.

So while I was bedfast and almost totally paralyzed, I studied the Word, endeavoring to keep an open mind. As I did, I began to see some truths about faith and prayer. And when I saw those great statements that were spoken by Jesus in Mark 11:23 and 24, my spirit leaped with joy within me.

Thrilled, I decided to run a reference on scriptures pertaining to faith and prayer. That brought me to James chapter 5.

"Is any SICK among you? LET HIM CALL FOR THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And THE PRAYER OF FAITH SHALL SAVE THE SICK, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:14-15).

When I read that the sick were to call for the elders of the church, tears sprang to my eyes. I thought a person had to do that to be healed, and I didn't know of any church elders I could call who believed in divine healing.

Then the Holy Spirit, who is our Teacher, spoke to me and called something to my attention. (When I say the Holy Spirit spoke to me, I mean it was as though someone spoke up from inside me, within my spirit.)

The Holy Spirit said, "Did you notice that James 5:15 says, '...the prayer of faith shall save the sick...'?"

I read it again. "Yes," I answered, "it does say that."

"You can pray that prayer as well as anyone," the Voice within me said.

I began to see what the Holy Ghost was telling me! I began to believe it!

But then I read a little further, and I stumbled on the very next verse.

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of A RIGHTEOUS MAN availeth much" (James 5:16).

When I read that, the devil took advantage of my lack of understanding to defeat me. He knew I didn't know the meaning of righteousness.

"Well, yes," the devil said, "you could pray the prayer of faith and receive your healing - if you were righteous. You see it says in James 5:16, '...The effectual fervent prayer of a RIGHTEOUS man availeth much.'"

When Satan spoke to me, it was like a voice speaking in my mind. Notice Satan didn't contradict what the Holy Spirit had said to me. The devil didn't say, "You can't pray the prayer of faith." He knew I believed I could pray in faith.

So instead, the devil looked for another way to defeat me. He reminded me of my past mistakes and failures by putting mental pictures of them in my mind.

"Can you really say you're righteous?" he asked. Not understanding what righteousness is, I examined myself from the natural standpoint. In light of my past sins and failures, I was definitely not what I considered righteous. So my answer was, "No, I can't."

Then I began to reason in my mind: If I could just live long enough, maybe I could develop enough spiritually to become righteous. And according to James 5:16, if I ever do become righteous, I'll be a whiz when it comes to praying.

I laid the whole subject of righteousness aside because I was certain I didn't qualify. My ignorance regarding righteousness allowed Satan to rob me of my healing at that time - something that God had already provided for me and wanted me to have right then.

Months later while I was still bedfast, the next verse in this passage in James 5 caught my attention.

"Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit" (James 5:17-18).

I thought, If Elijah is given as an example of a righteous man who prayed and got results, I'll study about him in the Bible. Then I can follow his example and get results to my prayers.

But the more I read about Elijah, the more he reminded me of myself. Actually, that's just what James meant when he said in effect, "Elijah was a man just like us. He was subject to the same human thoughts and emotions that we are."

Elijah did have his great moments. He prayed and kept rain from falling for three years (1 Kings 17:1). He prayed down fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18:36-38). He slew the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). He prayed down rain in the midst of a three-year drought (1 Kings 18:42-45). The Spirit of God came on him and he outran the king's chariot 14 miles across the plains of Jezreel (1 Kings 18:46).

But when he got to Jezreel someone told him, "Jezebel said that by this time tomorrow, she's going to make sure you're dead." Elijah started running again (1 Kings 19:2,3). But this time the hand of the Lord wasn't upon him. It was just Elijah running in fear.

Elijah ran until he was too tired to run anymore. Then he sat down under a juniper tree and cried, "Lord, just let me die" (1 Kings 19:4).

Elijah didn't really want to die. If he had really wanted to die, why didn't he just stay where he was? Jezebel would have made sure he died! Why go to the trouble of running all that distance and then die?

No, Elijah didn't want to die any more than a person does when out of frustration he says, "I might as well be dead." You see, Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.

"Lord," Elijah said, "You might as well let me die. I'm the only one left anyway. Everyone else is backslidden but me."

There are folks today who say, "No one else has the truth except me and my little bunch." I'm so glad they're wrong!

God had to correct Elijah. "No, I have 7,000 reserved unto Myself who have not bowed their knees to Baal" (1 Kings 19:18).

As I read about Elijah in the Old Testament, I thought, How could God call Elijah righteous? He's not my idea of a righteous man. (We get in trouble when we substitute our ideas for God's Word.) Yet James inspired by the Holy Spirit gave him as an example of a righteous man praying!

I continued to study the Word as I lay on the bed of sickness. Then I discovered Psalm 32.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity (Ps. 32:1-2).

By gaining a revelation of your righteous standing before God in Christ, you can step out of the narrow place of religious tradition and sin-consciousness into the boundless fullness of God!

Author Biography

Kenneth E. Hagin
Web site: RHEMA
Rev. Hagin served in Christian ministry for nearly 70 years and was known as the "father of the modern faith movement." His teachings and books are filled with vivid stories that show God's power and truth working in his life and the lives of others.

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