"They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord."
How often do you hear Christians referring to other believers as "righteous?" The excuse for my generation not using that description might be because of the 60's slang phrase "righteous dude" which had nothing to do with Biblical righteousness. But I don't hear other generations talking about personal righteousness either.
I fear it is because we are uncomfortable speaking about any righteousness other than that imputed through faith in Jesus Christ. No one is righteous without being made righteous, but we are called to pursue personal righteousness. Paul said, "Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philippians 3:9). He also said, "All Scripture is...profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). We are to learn to live righteous lives because of the gift of Christ's imputed righteousness.
John, speaking to his "little children" in 1 John 2:29 says, "If you know that he (Jesus) is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him." In 2 Peter 3:14, Peter looking forward to Jesus’ return said, "Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace." Ephesians 4:22-24 describes the pursuit of personal righteousness in the language of "put off" and "put on." We are told to put off our old way of life and put on our new self “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Paul continues through verse 32 listing what we are to eliminate and add to walk in righteousness and blameless in all the commandments and statues of the Lord, like Zechariah and Elizabeth.
This new self is not self-righteous. It is right only because of the work of Christ not the work of Roy. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a parable to those who trusted in themselves for righteousness. Two men are in the temple, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee prays (Roy's translation) "God, thank You I am not like other men especially this tax collector. What you want me to do, I do. You are fortunate to have me on Your side." The tax collector wouldn't even lift his eyes as he stood away from everyone else. His only prayer was "God have mercy on me a sinner!" Jesus said the tax collector went home right with God. "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
My pastor understands human nature very well. When he gives Biblical examples where there are two different groups like the 99 sheep that don't wander away and the one who does, he is quick to point out our inclination is to think we are in the 99, but Jesus tells the story for us to see we are the 1. I want to be the justified tax collector in the parable but am compelled to admit there are times I think God is fortunate to have me on His side.
Excellent and merciful Lord, forgive me of my self-righteousness. Please put Your children in my life who will puncture my inflated self-image. You alone are righteous. My righteousness is as filthy rags. Holy Spirit, hold before me those old practices that I need to put off and strengthen me to replace them with the attributes of Jesus, my Lord.