Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (kjv). Any other righteousness we might endeavor to seek is on too low a level. The only righteousness that will admit us into heaven is the righteousness of God, which comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. It is received by faith as a gift. Here is the first specific manifestation of God’s grace in the lives of those who come to Him through Jesus Christ: righteousness. God cannot do anything for us until He has made us righteous; it is the first thing He does when we approach Him.
You would probably agree that the majority of Christians have never grasped this truth. In fact, I think you will find that much of the church’s liturgy—including our music and our hymns—are designed to leave us sin-conscious. In many cases, we almost feel that it’s presumptuous to consider ourselves anything but sinful. This is a remarkable fact.
There is one thing the devil fights against as powerfully as anything else, and that is any person who begins to realize what it is to be made righteous by faith. Satan will keep you, by any means that he can, under some measure of condemnation and guilt, and he’ll keep you feeling very religious about it, too.
Many people would feel embarrassed or presumptuous to call themselves “righteous,” for they think that they have to earn righteousness. Scripture, however, emphasizes that, rather than being something we can merit, righteousness is a gift no one deserves. It is a free, unmerited gift. You either receive it as a gift, or you live without it. The choice is yours.