A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 5:6
The beatitudes serve as an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount that summarize the principles of kingdom life, a life that is blessed by God. They introduce the Christ-like characteristics of kingdom life. Jesus is not calling us to fulfill some burdensome ethical demands that we can never meet, but rather to see the blessings that are ours in Christ as we live for him. They are not imperatives or required standards that we must perform in order to earn God’s approval, but rather the description of the kind of life that is blessed by God.
Blessing, and its biblical opposite, curse, are words intimately related to God’s covenant with his people. He promised that those who were faithful to him would experience his blessing, but those who turned from him would experience his curse and judgment. God’s blessing upon his people means fellowship with him, the experience of his covenant promise.
[Read Matthew 5:6]
The righteousness that Jesus is speaking of is not primarily “imputed righteousness”—the righteousness of Christ given to those who repent of their sins—but “implanted righteousness. This righteousness is that which comes from Christ working in a believer through the Holy Spirit.
Critical to understanding how we can live this kingdom-life is recognizing that these beatitudes are not self-produced in our lives. They are products of a life energized by the Spirit of God. They are, like the list Paul gives in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit. They are expressions of a Spirit produced kingdom-life which is a great blessing.
Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be blessed. They will have a divine happiness that comes from living in God’s kingdom and living out God’s kingdom. But this kind of righteousness is impossible without the empowering presence and work of the Holy Spirit in us. Trying to do it on our own is a frustrating and fruitless endeavor.
Martin Luther hated the idea of God’s righteousness because he knew he could never attain it. He thought that for God to demand from him what he could not do was unjust. Sinning, weeping, and grieving Luther mourned and physically beat himself black and blue trying to find some way of attaining this righteousness demanded by God. As he struggled with this concept, in God’s mercy the Holy Spirit revealed to him that the very righteousness God demanded was the very righteousness supplied in Christ in the gospel. Luther said this revelation became a “gateway to paradise.” In Christ he could be a righteous man, and so can we.
It Matthew 5:6 Jesus conveys that a genuine disciple is one who longs for Christ’s righteousness. Hunger and thirst are human physical needs. They are also fundamental spiritual needs. Righteousness is required for spiritual life just as food and water are for physical life. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is multifaceted. It means first to long for a right relationship with God and to be righteous before him. But it also means to live rightly before him in the world and to desire to see righteousness restored in the lives of others.
Thomas Watson writes, “It is the very temper and constitution of a gracious soul to thirst after God: It is a heart that cries, ‘I long to see God in his word. I long to hear God in his word. I long to speak to God in prayer. I long to meet God in his people. I long to be like Christ in my life to others.’” This is hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Jesus is not using hyperbole here in 5:6, and he is not overstating how we should seek after righteousness. We must seek it above all things. Jesus is speaking of an intense longing after righteousness that is like physical hunger and thirst. Like the psalmist writes in Psalm 42:2, “As the dear pants for flowing streams so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
This righteousness is not about occasional acts of doing right, but a passionate concern for pursuing the life God demands through the grace he supplies. He is not suggesting that people make a strong effort to achieve their own righteousness because his righteousness cannot be achieved, it can only be received.
We did not come to God on our own merits, but Christ’s. What is required here is a hunger and thirst for the righteousness that the Spirit freely gives. The invitation of the gospel is free and so is God’s righteousness. When a guest comes for dinner all we ask is that they come hungry. We don’t ask that they earn their meal. It is the same with God.
Physical hunger cannot be satisfied with anything but food, and the same is true for Christ’s righteousness. It is Jesus we need and nothing else. Let me have Christ’s righteousness to clothe me, feed me, and transform me, that I might taste his goodness.
Jesus also communicates that a genuine disciple will be filled with Christ’s righteousness. Jesus promises that if we long for his righteousness we will be satisfied. Blessed…for they shall be satisfied.
The righteousness that will satisfy us is from God alone who eagerly fulfills this longing in us. He will not disappoint anyone who desires to do his will. Those who long for his righteousness will receive a full measure of it, not the leftovers or table scraps.
Many believers grieve that they cannot be more holy, that they cannot serve God better. Jesus says, “Blessed are they that hunger.” He is saying, “You may not have as much righteousness as you desire, but you are blessed because you still hunger after it, and I will satisfy you.”
You might think, “My hunger after righteousness is so weak how can this be true?” But if you have a pulse there is still life. Even a weak desire is pleasing to God. Our desires mean something to him. Even though we feel we are weak in desire and weak in appetite it is still a sign of grace because we are concerned for what we don’t have.
The paradox is that though we will be satisfied, yet in this life we will still hunger. Jesus promised in John 6:35 that those who hunger and thirst will never hunger and thirst again, but he was speaking of a future kingdom.
So, there is a sense in which we are fully satisfied with Jesus and all that he provides, but there is also the reality of living in this world where we still battle the presence of remaining sin. Not until we reach heaven will we no longer hunger and thirst (see Revelation 7:15-17).
In our lives there are many things that compete to satisfy our appetites. What do we truly hunger? The reality for all of us is that what we hunger and thirst for will determine how we live. It will determine if our character is kingdom character as seen here in the beatitudes or worldly character that seeks first itself rather than the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
A hunger for righteousness will grow by seeking after God in his word. We must hunger after righteousness, because if we do not then we won’t obtain it and the blessing Jesus promises. In Proverbs 15:9 the writer declares, “God loves those who pursue righteousness.” Hunger less after the world and more after righteousness. Let us not lessen our appetite with snacks before dinner. Let us hunger and thirst for righteousness for only here will we be satisfied.
Song of Response
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