What does it mean to be righteous?

Matthew 5:20
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The word “righteous” has at least two distinct meanings which we come across. The first definition is one we may think of most often and is exemplified by what Webster’s dictionary has to say. Webster’s first definition for the word righteous is “morally good: following religious or moral laws”. The second definition is perhaps spoken of less often and is a Biblical, godly definition of being righteous. That could be condensed to “The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. Thus, God’s laws, as given in the Bible, both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human righteousness.” (Ref: http://www.gotquestions.org/righteousness.html)
WOE! That second definition does not sound at all like something we could ascribe to a person. The first definition seems like something we can attain, something we can reach for. However, the second definition effectively forbids us from ever being righteous as we can never have the attributes of God effectively within ourselves. However, that second definition is what we are held to in God’s eyes. For us to enter into heaven, we must be righteous and our righteousness must exceed that of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. The first definition may have applied to them; they had good outward behavior, they followed moral laws outwardly, but all of their good works were not enough. On the inside, their spirit was dead, they were not righteous in God’s eyes.
How, then, can we be righteous in God’s eyes? How can we be righteous? The answer is decisively simple and all too often something we avoid and detest. The answer is that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, who prays for forgiveness of their sins and seeks his forgiveness will be saved. Being saved is to be made righteous before God.
Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Christ’s life and death was not like any other, ever! His life was a gift; God in flesh living among us. His death was a payment; he paid for the sins of all who believe. Christ does not end there! Christ was resurrected from death and the grave. He is the true King of the universe and He is the way of ultimate life, of eternal life. Through Christ, we can be righteous in God’s eyes. To be righteous is to be forgiven.

It is the desire of my heart that all my family would come to a complete and full knowledge of Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we can experience a full life. It may not be a life free of pain or suffering, but it can be a life filled with an unspeakable joy that cannot be quenched. A hope of the future that cannot be found anywhere else. We can work as hard as we want, we can try to be good as much as we want, and all of that is fine and good and even desirable. However, if we do not know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord, our personal Savior, our personal friend, we will never know righteousness and we will not experience life everlasting. Let us all pray for one another that we may all have the greatest gift that has ever been.

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