What does it mean to pursue righteousness?

Pursuing righteousness does not mean becoming self-righteous or trying to be good enough. Romans 3:10–20 makes it clear that no one is righteous in themselves and that no one can be justified through obedience to the law. Rather, true righteousness is responding properly to having right standing before God. Only He can make that happen for you.

First John 4:9–10 says, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." God initiates a relationship with us. It is Jesus who paid for our sins. Because He did, those who put their faith in Him are considered blameless before God when it comes to eternal judgment. We are also made new and given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in our lives to sanctify us, which is to make us righteous in practice. As we grow in our relationship with God, we become more like Him. It is in living out the reality of our salvation that we pursue righteousness (Philippians 2:12–13).

Jesus told His followers, "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me …" (John 14:21). In John 15, Jesus similarly talks about abiding in His love, keeping His commands, and thus bearing fruit. The fruit of righteousness is a work of God in our lives, yet it is also something we are commanded to pursue through following God's ways (Galatians 5:16–25).

Jesus also said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6). God is faithful to make us righteous (Ephesians 1:3–14; Philippians 1:6). This happens through sanctification and ultimately glorification.

The New Testament ties righteousness closely with faith. For example, Romans 4:13 says, "For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith."

We must take care not to get things out of order. We are made righteous by Jesus and through putting our faith in Him, not through our own works (Ephesians 2:8–10). Our response to being made righteous is to act accordingly. We don't behave righteously to earn salvation or standing before God. Rather, we pursue righteousness because of our new identity in Christ.

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