KEY THOT: It is true to say that Christ died for us and we died in Him and was raised from death to life in his resurrection and exaltation. But it is wrong to say that Christ also lived for us vicariously. While Christ's righteousness has been imputed to us by faith (that is, we are declared righteous on Christ's merit), this righteousness is not automatically imparted to us in our personal life until we begin to "follow in his steps" (v.21). While it is through the imputed righteousness that we are put in right standing before God, it will be through the imparted righteousness that we will be put in right standing before men.
That is why Peter reminds believers they will receive commendation from God only if they suffer for doing good, not evil: "But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God" (1 Peter 2:20, NIV). Which means that we need to be righteous before men, not just before God if we want to receive the Father's approval.
We can begin to receive the impartation of Christ's righteousness as we imitate his attitudes, his words and his actions as revealed to us in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The four Gospels do not just tell the story of how Jesus died, but also how he lived. If we want to imitate Christ we have to read the Gospels. And God has given us the Holy Spirit for this very purpose: that the imputed righteousness of Christ might become the imparted righteousness of Christ in us.
If we are following Jesus' footsteps as revealed in the Gospels, it would mean that as Jesus' disciples, we must be willing live like our Master: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" (Luke 9:23-25). It will not always be easy and there will be persecution, trials and even martyrdom.
Discipleship is not about becoming rich, but becoming righteous like Christ.
Father God, teach us to follow in Your Son's footsteps, so that the righteousness that has been imputed to us by our faith might be imparted to us by our obedience. Amen.