Righteousness has nothing to do with how you feel.

The Bible clearly declares that Christians are righteous before God, so why do so many people have trouble accepting that they are righteous? The primary reason is that most Christians believe their feelings instead of what the Word of God says. We all sin, so it is natural to “feel” unrighteous in God’s sight. Our sin and shortcomings produce feelings of guilt and shame, and it is good that they do, because our guilt often prompts us to quit sinning. Unfortunately, those same feelings of guilt make us feel unaccepted by God. Nevertheless, even when we sin, we are righteous in God’s sight because of the work of Jesus Christ. Our sin and feelings of guilt are real, but so is the righteousness God has given us.

Some Christians teach that our righteousness is the ability to stand before God without any sense of guilt, sin, or shortcoming. In other words, those Christians teach that a truly righteous person should not have feelings of sin and shame in his life. That is not correct, and misses the point that our righteousness is a gift from God. Certainly it is true that if we do righteous acts we will not feel guilty about them.

The problem is that we all sin, and do unrighteous things. Thankfully, the book of Romans is very clear: we are not righteous because we do what God says (no one will be righteous in God’s sight by keeping all the rules; Rom. 3:20), but rather we are righteous “apart from” keeping all the rules (Rom. 3:21). Our righteousness comes, not by what we do, but because we have faith in Christ. [1] We all fall short of God’s standards, and it is natural that our sin and shortcomings produce feelings of being unrighteousness and unaccepted by God.

We must realize that “feelings” and our God given righteousness are not necessarily connected. Christians are righteous even when we do not “feel” righteous. On the other hand, we may “feel good” about something when it is not good or godly. The Bible (and experience) teaches us that we all sin, and the only way a person can sin against God and not have feelings of guilt, shame, or wrongdoing is if he sins in ignorance, or if he has what the Bible calls a conscience that has “been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). Unfortunately, that is the case with many people. Hardened criminals are well known for their seared consciences, and they can do very evil and hurtful things without feeling any shame or remorse.

Sadly, there are Christians who have seared consciences in certain areas, and no longer feel any sense of guilt or shame when they sin in those areas. However, they certainly are not righteous simply because they do not “feel unrighteous.” Thankfully, it is almost always the case that one’s conscience is seared only toward certain behaviors. For example, a Christian who has become so wrapped up in pornography that he no longer feels any guilt or shame about it, may feel very guilty if he steals something. God is a God of grace and mercy, and many people with seared consciences have been restored to wholeness and tenderness by obedience and prayer.

The lesson each Christian needs to learn is that our God-given righteousness is not necessarily connected to our feelings. We sometimes feel unrighteous even though we are righteous before God, and we may feel good about ourselves while doing things that are not godly.

It seems paradoxical that even when we sin in the flesh, we are still righteous in God’s sight. That is because righteousness is such a wonderful gift of God’s grace, and a spiritual reality. You may not feel at-one with God, but if you are a Christian, you are. The Bible says Christians are to live by faith and not by “sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). That means we are to live by trusting what God says and not by what we see or feel. We have to trust that what God says is true, and that any feelings to the contrary are lying to us.

Remember the record of Adam and Eve? Eve “felt” that it would be okay to eat the fruit God had said not to eat, and so she ignored what God had said about it. Disaster resulted. We all need to learn from Adam’s and Eve’s mistake, and realize that no matter how we feel, what God says is the Truth. We may feel that Christ will never return, but he will. We may feel like the evil on this earth will never be removed, but it will. We Christians must learn to think about ourselves the way God thinks about us.

If you are feeling unrighteous, go back to the Word of God, study what it says, and pray to clearly understand the gift of righteousness that has been freely given to you. Then take captive your thoughts of unrighteousness (2 Cor. 10:5), and tell yourself you are not going to be tricked by what you feel, but that you are going to believe the Word of God. Say, “I am righteous before God” over and over, hundreds of times if you have to. Say it out loud if you have to. Your feelings of unrighteousness come from deep within you and from your earliest experiences. It may take a lot to change those feelings, but God will help you. Remember: all things are possible with God.

Although we fall short of God’s goal of perfection for us, God has given us grace (undeserved favor) and sent Jesus Christ to die in order to pay for the penalty of our sin. Now, “bought and paid for,” each of us stands before God as a righteous person, at-one with Him.