You are familiar with the verse: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV It Gives you a sense of what Jesus pointed out to the people around Him was of importance. “Seek first” has that sense of priority and of quest. Discovering and embracing the kingdom of God in real time beginning now is worth some effort. And so is pursuing “His righteousness.”
The idea of what is mean by God’s righteousness has seemed to me to be a striving toward identifying with His character. That is true, but there is more. It appeared that righteousness and the process we call sanctification were running neck and neck, but there is more. In terms of theological usage sanctification is the process by which those who have been justified in Christ are becoming more like Him and losing more of the look of the world and the flesh. Righteousness includes that concept, but has more.
God is not called sanctified in Scripture, but He is called righteous. Righteousness is radiating from God and engulfs His own in its light.
God’s people are to make it a point to do a couple of things those who don’t know God don’t do, and that is to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness. The emphasis on righteousness is on target we need God’s declaration that we are righteous in order to free us to follow Him. We need His empowerment of righteousness to activate in us characteristics we cannot cultivate in our own power.
I came across some great thoughts on this in the book, The Kingdom Life. Bruce Demarest makes some observations and applications in the realm of righteousness.
We intentionally trust that God is right when He says we are righteous, and we intentionally trust Him for direction to mature into what is already true—that righteous identity, which is our new heart. This is the basis for our becoming like Christ.
Here’s an example of how this works. About two years ago, someone deeply offended me (Bruce), damaging friendships and reputation and causing a loss of funds, among other things. At that point, I had a choice: forgive or not forgive. If I decided to forgive, I had another choice: to will myself into forgiving because I’m supposed to or to trust the vision and counsel of Jesus, rest in His wisdom, and let Him determine the outcomes. Remember, Jesus is standing with me whenever I sin or am sinned against. Even if I decided not to forgive, Jesus stayed with me through all my resentment and bitterness. Jesus was close enough for me to hear Him say, “If you ask Me—and I hope you do—you will forgive this person as I have forgiven you. Trust Me with this advice, and I’ll heal you, restore you, and free you with the truth it brings to you.” Since I trusted Jesus, I forgave. This did not come from willpower, which for me is like no-power, but out of trust. Notice how trusting him fulfills the command “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13, NKJV). Thus, I participated in God forming me. Yet even before I decided to forgive, Jesus was still standing with His arms around me. Because I chose to forgive, I’ve experienced genuine freedom from any residual bitterness.
Even in the most raw and real interactions in life that of hurt and forgiveness, pain and release, there is the outworking of the power of righteousness. Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness because for one thing there is nothing like it and nothing that tops it.