The Righteousness that Qualifies
By Pastor Don Strand
So far, the description of a disciple, one who follows and learns, of Jesus has been negative in nature. The first three “Beatitudes,” the “blessed are” statements of Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount have been about lacking. A follower of Christ is poor in spirit, a person who mourns over sin and is meek by understanding that without Christ, they can do nothing to save themselves. The fourth Beatitude, however, is the jewel in the list.
What does one do, in response to the awakened awareness of one’s sin and need? He or she doesn’t give up, doesn’t wallow in self-pity, and doesn’t whine and lament their condition. Instead, those who belong to Christ become zealous to become what they are not. When we see our self-righteousness for what it is, completely devoid of merit, when we understand that our default setting is hypocrisy and pride, when we recognize these traits for what they are, worthless in God’s sight, we hunger and thirst for righteousness. And Jesus promises that those who do, “shall be satisfied.”
The words “hungering and thirsting” indicate an intense, focused longing for something. Think of a person wandering lost in the desert and without water. Every mirage drives him forward, only to find more sand. Water is all he can think of, nothing else matters. He drops whatever possessions he has and stumbles forward, searching, hoping, looking only for relief for his parched lips and depleted dehydrated body. This is how the disciple of Jesus responds when faced with the reality of his or her need; they become driven to find the righteousness that restores their relationship with God.
Have you experienced this hunger and thirst? If not, perhaps you have a compartmentalized faith. If you have not recognized and lamented that you lack what is required, and hungered and thirsted for that righteousness, then maybe you have the kind of faith that you take out on Sunday morning to put on display at church, and then put away for the rest of the week. Maybe you ‘play church’ on Sunday and then return to the reality of who you are in the world on Monday.
That is not what Jesus has in mind when He says those who ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness will find it and be blessed’. His disciples are passionate about the things of God. A Christian is consumed by the desire for righteousness; they long for purity and will not settle for less. This is a condition of the heart and mind; one that comes by regeneration by the Spirit Who removes a heart of stone and replaces that dead, cold, stone heart with a heart of flesh that is alive to and living for God.
What is clear from Jesus is that this is what He wants from everyone who names the name of Jesus for salvation. Jesus is not looking for followers who want to trifle with the things of God; to merely add God to the other things already occupying their lives. If our passion and focus are on anything other than God, including career, family, economic security, health and fitness, sports, or anything else besides God, then we are still lost. That’s a strong statement, but one that comes out of these Beatitudes. To know God is to passionately long for Him and His righteousness. And that will be the subject of our conversation next week. I hope you’ll stay tuned.