"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:20
There is one thing I have noticed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John when the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are mentioned: the word "hypocrite" is not too far away. Over and over again, we find the Pharisees and the teachers of the law more worried about pleasing men rather than pleasing God. During Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount," the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are mentioned again. Jesus was teaching the disciples and other followers about righteousness and about how citizens of the kingdom of heaven should live. He said in Matthew 5:20, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus wasn't talking about an external righteousness, which is what the Pharisees and the scribes were practicing. Jesus was talking about true righteousness, righteousness that can only come from God through a heart transplant. Deuteronomy 30:6 says, "The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." We need to understand and accept that there is nothing we can do on our own to be righteous. Righteousness can only come from God through Jesus Christ. The Pharisees and the scribes thought that by keeping this law and that law they could be right with God. However, the kingdom of heaven came into the world; Jesus came and preached true righteousness. Jesus preached a message of repentance and faith in Him. The Pharisees and the scribes rejected Jesus and continued to believe that they could keep the laws, which in fact they could not do. Jesus had more to say to them in Matthew 23:25-28, where He said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Jesus warned us and taught us that righteousness is not about how good we look on the outside (external); righteousness is about a heart transplant and transformation through repentance and trust in Him (internal). True righteousness demonstrates God's amazing grace that saves the lost sinner! True righteousness demonstrates God's awesome power that redeems the filthiest sinner! We are not saved by law. We are saved by Jesus. When we repent of our sin and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, His righteousness becomes our righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus is the only righteousness that will surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. If we want to be a part of the kingdom of heaven, it won't happen through trying to keep a bunch of laws on our own. It will only happen through true righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus that comes to us through salvation.