“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness ….” (Matthew 6:33)

“For the Kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. (Romans 14:17)

Every Christian is thrilled to declare God is love.  But we often gloss over the truth God is also the Righteous One who calls His people to righteousness. (Acts 22:14, Matthew 6:33) This term, “righteous”, appears in scripture over five hundred times.  Yet most of us would struggle to define it.  

Righteousness is about right rather than wrong and good rather than evil.  It is the opposite of “sin”.  And it can never mean “self-righteousness” because we are not capable of being right, good, or sin-free on our own. (Romans 3:9-23)

The righteousness we must pursue is not our own.  It is “the righteousness of God” we receive “through faith in Jesus Christ”. (Romans 3:22) But be careful how you understand this!  The righteous live by faith. (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4) The righteous are doers of the Word, not just hearers. (Romans 2:13; James 1:22-25)

Put another way, the righteous live in right relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are children of God who truly trust Jesus and want to follow Him, not just get a ticket to heaven. (1 John 3:1-10) We have decided God is the only One with the authority and ability to determine what is right and wrong, and that the Bible reveals those life standards to us. (Genesis 2:17, 3:4-6; Isaiah 5:20; 2 Timothy 3:1-7, 16-17) We know God’s Holy Spirit lives within us and we seek to be led by Him – the Spirit of our Lord. (Galatians 5:25; Romans 8:14; John 15:16:13-15; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We are not required to be stumble-free. We are clay jars – God’s works in progress – learning each day how to put off the old self and put on the new self. (2 Corinthians 4:7; Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13; Ephesians 4:20-24) When we fall short, and we will, we repent, confess our sins, and receive with gratitude His blood-bought forgiveness. (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:5-9)

Those who know their Shepherd’s voice can be led obediently in paths of righteousness. (Psalm 23:3) When we stray, we receive our Father’s loving discipline, which may be painful at first but soon restores both righteousness and our peace in Christ. (Hebrews 12:11) This is the “easy” way, led by the One who is the Way. (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:6) 

“Easy” does not mean trouble-free or persecution-free because when you walk like Jesus, you will be persecuted by God’s enemies like Jesus. (John 15:18-25, 16:33) Some of those enemies will be in the Church. (Matthew 23:13; John 8:42-47; 2 Corinthians 11:12-15) But you can know them by their fruit and be strengthened by the Prince of Peace who lives in you and has overcome the world. (Matthew 7:15-20; Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27, 16:33)

The heartbeat of righteousness is selfless, unconditional love in truth and deed for God and everyone God loves. (Matthew 5:43-48, 22:35-40; 1 John 3:18, 4:7-12) If we don’t get love right, we are nothing, have nothing, and gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) 

But we must remember that this love rejoices in the truth and never rejoices in wrongdoing. (1 Corinthians 13:6) We love the Lord and abide in His love by having and keeping all His commandments. (John 14:21-23, Matthew 28:18-20) And we do not use grace as an excuse to compromise His standards of righteousness for our lives. (Romans 6:1-18)

Compromise is systemic in today’s culture, particularly as to sexuality, materialism, and idolatry. But nothing has compromised righteousness in our churches today more than politics on both sides of the aisle. We have forgotten that with God, the ends do not justify the means, and we can only overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) In our efforts to support the issues of righteousness most important to us, we have yoked ourselves to unrighteousness on other issues. (2 Corinthians 6:14) We have failed to understand that truth without love is not God’s truth, and love without truth is not God’s love. (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 13:6) 

We want what God wants: righteousness for our nation, but we must understand that “it starts with me”. (Proverbs 14:34; Isaiah 6:1-8) We cooperate with Jesus, who authored our faith and seeks to perfect it, by laying aside every sin and weight in our lives that hinders our loving witness for Him. (Hebrews 12:1-2; Acts 1:8)

Our reward for pursuing righteousness will be twofold. In the life to come, we will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21, 23) While we await that day, we can experience the Kingdom of God on earth: the peace and joy in the Holy Spirit that is available for those who seek righteousness with their whole heart. (Romans 14:17; Matthew 5:6; Jeremiah 29:13)

God bless you, and God bless our community.

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