People live their lives for many things: happiness, pleasure, wealth, relationships. Yet these things do not fully satisfy apart from a relationship with Christ. What good is it for anyone to gain all these things yet to lose his soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26). God’s people have been saved from sin and death and are called to live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). In doing so, they look forward to an eternal reward that moths cannot destroy and thieves cannot steal (Matthew 6:19–20).
Jesus bore our sin on the cross and died to pay its penalty: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who trust in Jesus are freed from the consequence of sin and from the power of sin to dictate their lives. Jesus took their sin upon Himself. Those who are born again through faith in Christ have righteous standing before God. Thanks to Christ’s suffering, we do not have to live in sin. Instead, we can live for righteousness.
Righteousness can be defined broadly as “morally acceptable behavior.” Biblically, those who are righteous are acceptable to God, as made possible by God. Righteousness conveys a sense of justice, justness, or divine holiness. God is the standard of righteousness. To be righteous is to be right with God. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us when we are saved, yet it is also something we are called to pursue. We are called to live for righteousness.
To live for righteousness means we wholeheartedly realize that sin does not please God. Because of this, we pursue holiness instead of sinfulness in our thoughts, words, and actions. When we live for righteousness, we submit even our thought life to what is righteous: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). To live for righteousness means to desire God to transform our minds (Romans 12:2) and conform us “to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
When believers live for righteousness, they also submit their words to Christ’s lordship. We no longer speak carelessly, realizing that our words have power to reflect Christ well or poorly. Our words should demonstrate the power of God’s grace. For this reason, we are called to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). What God has done in our hearts should be reflected in what comes out of our mouths (Matthew 12:35).
Likewise, believers who live for righteousness reveal the Holy Spirit within them and give evidence of the work God is doing in their lives. We no longer live for selfish pleasures, but we desire to live for the things of God. We live for righteousness when we humbly ask God to create in us a clean heart and to renew a right spirit within us (Psalm 51:10). We spend time in God’s Word and pursue the character of Christ. We want our actions and our entire lives to be molded by Christ alone.
When we place faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us to live for righteousness (Acts 2:28). As we “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25), He produces fruit in our lives that reflects His character. We are “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11). God’s people are called and enabled to live for righteousness, which brings glory and praise to God. As Proverbs 15:9 says, “The LORD detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue righteousness.”