Why bother with righteousness? Why do we desire it and why are we as believers dissatisfied without it?
Loving righteousness and sensing the lack of it is not natural, that is, the flesh isn’t motivating us. Even if we could see moral beauty, we still wouldn’t want it. We have no innate desire for or ability to do righteousness.
Wanting righteousness and mourning the lack of it doesn’t even come from Scripture. God’s Word reveals the standard of righteousness, it illustrates it, and it promises blessings or judgments according to man’s relationship to it. But the Bible by itself has never made any man righteous. In fact, the law makes men more unrighteous by stirring up new desires for disobediences.
The only way to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to pursue it, and to enjoy it is by God’s Spirit. The Spirit does more than give better definitions of right. He does more than make the case against our wrongs. He convicts us and then changes our affections so that we want holiness.
God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3–4, ESV)
The Spirit is the only one who can make our prayers of confession meaningful. He is the only one who can get down into our hearts and work His way out through our prayers and decisions. This is part of the advantage for us in Jesus’ ascension: He sent the Helper to convict the world (John 16:8). Our dependence on the Third Person’s help to acknowledge our sin is part of our worship of the Triune God.