“…But He loves him who follows righteousness.” Proverbs 15:9
I try to read my devotions every day or as often as I can (because life can get crazy, right?). Devotions keep me on track spiritually and deepen my faith. So, not long ago. I was reading a certain devotion that reminded me of how we ̶ when we accept Christ into our hearts ̶ become the righteousness of God. Then, we are to continue pursuing righteousness (Proverbs 15:9).
I started wondering, what does it mean to pursue righteousness? What does that look like? I ask because there seems to be some confusion. If our righteousness can only come from Jesus, what is there to pursue? How can we pursue something that only belongs to Him?
It turns out (you guessed it) the Bible details how we are supposed to pursue righteousness so we can perfect our faith. But, first we need to know where righteousness begins.
Righteousness Belongs to Jesus
For years, the Israelites kept a hope alive that God would one day send someone to redeem them from sin. Unfortunately, many of them are still waiting. But for those who have accepted Jesus as the promised Christ, we have a new hope based in His righteousness that covers our sin.
Our righteousness begins with understanding that we are not pleasing to God because of our sin. Isaiah 64: 6 says,
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
We are not worthy to stand in God’s presence. His holiness and perfection cannot tolerate sin, plain and simple. Our incurable sin nature requires a Redeemer who can justify us and cover our sin with holy righteousness so that the Father will accept us. Jesus is our Redeemer and the only one who can do this.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
“The Lord is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:6
Jesus freely offers us justification and His righteousness when we experience His saving grace. Without Jesus, God cannot accept us. We are still filthy rags. So, it’s important to receive Jesus’ righteousness. After then, it’s up to us to keep working it by desiring holiness above all else and pursuing a Christ-like character.
Pursuing righteousness means we become a “work in progress.” It’s perfected over time through our obedience to Him, and it slowly reveals itself as evidence of our faith. We work at it every day with the goal of seeing its true perfection one beautiful day when we see Jesus in person.
Growing Closer to Him
We can’t pursue righteousness alone. We need the Lord’s help. Here are five everyday ways you and the Lord can work out your righteousness so you grow closer in your relationship.
Seek His Presence
Working out, whether spiritually or physically, requires showing up. Not showing up means nothing gets done, which is why we need to seek the Lord’s presence every day. Reading His words and spending time talking to Him are basic ways to pursue righteousness. You’ve been told this advice countless times, no doubt, but it bears repeating if we are serious about growing closer to Him
Walk in the Spirit
In Galatians 5:22–23, the apostle Paul details the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Holy Spirit guides and convicts us to practice these attributes every day so we bear good fruit (do what is good for us and those around us) and demonstrate our pursuit of righteousness to others.
Good fruit grows more good fruit. Our choices affect the people around us. Walking in the Spirit not only deepens our relationship with God, it encourages others in their pursuits too. Don’t forget, we’re all in this together.
God places great value on wisdom, so much that He wants you to specifically ask for it. Here are a few scripture verses to consider.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
“Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13
“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.” Proverbs 8:12
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5
It’s not on Paul’s list of spiritual fruit, but I believe seeking godly wisdom is evidence of righteousness. Wisdom might be useful for everyday types of situations, but godly wisdom is on a whole other level. Godly wisdom involves a deeper knowledge of God and His ways, a better understanding of right and wrong, and confidence to respond to others from a place of love.
Invite wisdom into your walk with God. Just ask Him for it. It’s there for the taking.
Jesus was the most generous person to ever walk the earth. His sacrifice on the cross for us clearly shows His giving nature. As His disciples, we too are called to be generous.
Galatians 6:10 tells us to “do good things for all.” Jesus Himself tells us it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). And since love is the greatest fruit of the Spirit, John tells us in 1 John 3:17, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” John is saying we should be appropriately generous with our love.
Generosity is then not only a requirement of our Christian walk, but it’s also a by-product of our pursuit of righteousness. It’s a natural outflowing of being in a relationship with Jesus.
We can be generous by utilizing another Biblical principle- our time, talent, and treasure. Each of us always has one of the three available for the benefit of others. Make it a habit to daily examine what you can give to someone else to make their day better.
Don’t Be Short-sighted
We usually associate short-sightedness with a lack of long-term vision. Peter talks about it another way in 2 Peter 1:5–9:
“…Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”
In many ways, Peter is echoing what Paul wrote about the fruits of the Spirit in the book of Galatians. He reminds us to be virtuous, knowledgeable in the Word, use self-control, and persevere in all circumstances to produce godliness, which all leads to evidence of God’s love within us.
Peter takes things a step further than Paul by stating matter-of-factly that we will have forgotten our salvation if we don’t pursue righteousness. This is what he means by short-sightedness and implied self-righteousness, and why it’s so important to avoid it.
Don’t Give Up
Pursuing righteousness is an ongoing journey. Encourage yourself daily in the Lord by keeping your eyes on Him, reading the Word, praying and asking for wisdom, and making purposeful efforts to walk in the Spirit. This is what Paul prays for in Philippians 1:9–11,
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”
Though God knows our righteousness will never be perfect on this side of Heaven, He is always pleased to see our determination. The simple act of trying and persisting captures His attention every time. So, don’t give up. Pursue your righteousness in the Lord remembering He blesses those who seek Him (Lamentations 3:25).
“You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways.” Isaiah 64:5