Preached on February 2, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA.
Turn with me to Matthew 5. Today we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the Beatitudes. Before we get started in our specific text, I wanted to mention something that I believe I have wrongfully under emphasized over the last three weeks. For me, and I hope for you, each one of these beatitudes have greatly convicted me. They have pierced my heart, and this is exactly what God wants His Word to do when we interact with it.
Having said that, once we are convicted by God’s Word we have two roads we can take. Road one is the road of the Pharisees and road two is the road of Grace. The Pharisaical road is when someone reads the Word of God and looks to themselves for the strength to adhere to what they found convicting. For example, last week we examined what it meant to be meek. If you walked out of here and said I need to be more meek. And then you asked yourself, “What can I do to be more meek?” Then you are walking down the road of a Pharisee. For you are looking to yourself to produce the fruit in your life. Jesus warned us about this in Matthew 16:6.
Instead, we are not look to ourselves, but to the Lord. It is His Grace that produces these qualities, these beatitudes, in our life. These Christian characteristics listed in the beatitudes are a result of the Holy Spirit coming into your life, regenerating you, and giving you eyes to see, a heart that mourns, and a lowly disposition. If you are born of the Spirit of God, then you should walk by the Spirit of God.
The answer is somewhat obvious, for the answer is in the word itself. To be righteous is to be right. To do things, to say things, to think thing that are correct, and to not do wrong things.
This word righteousness assumes something. It assumes that there is an actual, real, measurable standard by which we all must live by. What is interesting about this belief of a universal and absolute standard is that it is a fleeting belief in this postmodern world. More and more people reject the idea of absolutes. Instead more and more of the American culture accepts relativism. Relativism is the idea that each person has their own standard to live by. It is the idea that each person makes their own rules and no one can tell them that they are wrong. Relativism is the belief that righteousness is self defined, or culturally defined, and this belief is rampant in America and rampant in churches.
Jesus's statement concerning righteousness totally blows the door off of relativism. Jesus says there is a right way to live. Jesus says there is a standard of virtue. And this is not the only time Jesus uses this word in Matthew. In fact, he mentions righteousness twice in the beatitudes, and he mentions is three more times in the rest of the sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:33). Therefore, either Jesus is lying to us, or there really is a right way and a wrong way to live in the world He created.
And if the world was intellectually honest, we would all agree with this; because this standard is something that everyone can sense or feel, it is intuitive. No matter what culture, no matter what point in history you look at, you will always find a similar standard that people live by. This standard is commonly called the moral law. For example, murder; all cultures throughout all time agree that it is wrong to randomly kill someone for no reason. Another example, all cultures throughout all time agree that it wrong to steal. If that is not enough, the proof or the moral law lies in your reaction when someone treats you “wrongly.” If you didn't have implanted in you a sense of right and wrong, then you would not be offended when someone spits in your face and pushes you to the ground.
The truth is that there is a standard, and there is a standard Giver, and he happens to be Jesus's Dad, the Creator of the Universe, and we are to live by this standard. But there is a problem, and Jesus speaks of that problem.
When Jesus say's “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” He is making a very indicting statement about humanity. For to hunger and thirst for something means that you lack it. When you hunger for food, it means your stomach is empty of food. When you hunger for righteousness, it means you are empty of righteousness. You lack righteousness.
So if we put these two thoughts together we see that God has a standard, or way, in which we are to live; however, we fail to live in conformity with that standard. We fail to live in a right relationship with our Creator. In fact, we are incapable. The most on point indictment of this truth is Romans 3:10.
And Jesus says that those who recognize this and hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed. So now let us ask, what does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
First, to hunger and thirst does not mean a casual interest. This desire to have righteousness is not one that is like taste testing. To hunger and to thirst is to have a deep and desperate longing for righteousness, and lets be honest, it is a desperation because we are spiritually starving. We are completely void and the threat of death is always looming. Psalm 63:1 provides a great picture of this thirst.
With that said, Jesus tells us that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will be satisfied. How? How are we who are void of righteousness to get righteousness? We have already seen that the law of God is not the answer, for its purpose is to show us our unrighteous condition, not to fix it. So if the law won't make us right before God, what will?
Before we end, I want to clarify one thing. The hunger and thirst for righteousness does not end at conversion. It is an ongoing characteristic of a Christian here on this Earth. It is a longing that continues, until the return of Christ, or until death. Right now, some of you are saying hold on, you just told me that Christ satisfies and we just read in that “whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” All of these things are simultaneously true. Perhaps scripture would be the best way to explain.
If you have tasted that the Lord is good, this is exactly where you are at today, and what a good place to be. You have searched for satisfaction and you have found it in Christ. Your looking is over. There are so many who have yet to find it. Wandering in the dessert and dieing of spiritual hunger and thirst. So let us not waste this great gift. Let us drink deeply from the well of Jesus Christ.