Sorry for the length of today’s blog. I tried to keep it as short as I could but today’s topic required it to be a bit longer.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)
I really think this is a neat way to describe the way we are to desire God and the things of God. In the physical world a good appetite usually indicates good health while a poor appetite usually indicates that there is something physically wrong with a person. In the same way a good appetite for righteousness indicates good spiritual health and a poor appetite for righteousness indicates poor spiritual health. When the desire for righteousness is strong it testifies of a strong and vigorous faith. When the desire for righteousness is lacking it testifies of a weak and anemic faith. So in a way this attitude exposes our spiritual condition and the health and strength of our faith.
The type of desire that Jesus is talking about here is a starving spirit and a parched soul that craves after righteousness. It is the kind of desire that the psalmist speaks of when he says that his soul longs for God in the way that a deer longs for water during a time of drought (Psalm 42:1-2).
One of the things we must understand about the desire Jesus speaks of is that it is a desire for all righteousness, not some. Let me explain. Most people have a desire for a measure of righteousness. Some have a desire to be righteous but not do righteous. While others have a desire to do righteous but not really be righteous. The attitude that Jesus says is blessed is an attitude that desires all righteousness. It is those people who desire to be righteous and to do righteous. It is important that we understand this because the promise of a filled life is conditional. Jesus does not promise that everyone will be filled. Jesus promises those who desire all righteousness will be filled.
Those who are blessed are those who hunger and thirst to be righteous and to do righteous. To be righteous is not enough. To do righteous is not enough. Both are absolutely essential in order to be blessed. The unfortunate fact is that many people just want bits of righteousness. Just enough to make them comfortable in whatever condition they choose to live in.
There are those who desire to Be righteous without doing righteous. Those who fall into this category want to emphasize that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Since we are saved by grace through faith all that matters is that they believe in Jesus. Things like reading their Bible, coming to church, praying, serving Christ are not necessary since they believe. This attitude leads to two serious errors.
The error of baseless security. The error of baseless security leads a person to emphasize that we are accepted by God through our faith while neglecting the importance of obeying God and serving others. The person who falls prey to the error of baseless security will brush off any question about their lack of obedience to God by saying something like, “We are saved by faith, not by works.” Their thinking is that as long as they affirm faith in Christ they are right with God despite their lack of obedience or service to God.
I call this the error of baseless security because the person whose faith doesn’t produce acts of righteousness has no foundation to base their security on. Let me show you this from Scripture. Stop right now and take the time to read James 2:14-26 to see the Biblical basis for what I’m calling the error of baseless security.
The error of loose living. Those who are taken in this error feels that the grace of God allows them to go and live however they want to. They are secure and comfortable with their faith despite the fact they consistently live their lives in sin. They might accept that their sin hinders their relationship with God and other believers, but they fully reject any idea that their lifestyle of sin says anything about their salvation and right standing with God. To understand why this error is a problem read Titus 2:11-15 and notice what the grace of God teaches us.
The desire to be righteous without doing righteous produces a false righteousness. You won’t find any place in the Bible where it teaches being righteous without living righteous. You cannot separate the two. There is no such thing as being righteous without doing righteous. The attitude that God blesses is one that desires not only to be righteous but also to do righteous.
There are those who desire to Do righteous without being righteous. This may sound odd, but let me explain. Those who fall into this category focus on doing things that they believe make them right with God. Some won’t smoke, dip, drink or chew and they won’t date girls who do. Others focus on being good moral people. Some give to charities, including churches. Some join churches and are baptized. Others seek help people in their time of need. While these may all be good things, those that fall into this category seek to do them without ever really trusting in Christ as their Lord and Savior. This attitude also leads to two serious errors.
The error of the fair exchange policy. The fair exchange policy is when a person sees something wrong in his or her life and doesn’t do anything about it. Rather, they find something right in their life, and make an “exchange.” Such a person will say, “I can’t be that bad. Look at the good deed I recently did. That means I’m okay.” That kind of person always trades off the bad and good deeds in their life. They never evaluate themselves honestly to see if they are really a believer. They say, “I know I sinned, but I just did a good deed that will compensate for it.” The pick and choose what they will do in an effort to do righteous without ever really being righteous. For an example of someone trying to use the fair exchange policy read 1 Samuel 15. As you read it notice what God told Saul to do, what Saul actually did, the reasons Saul gave for his actions and God’s attitude toward Saul’s actions.
The error of self-righteousness. The error of self-righteousness causes us to emphasize that we are right with God because of the good things that we do. We do our good deeds, we generally live moral lives, and we may follow certain rules that we’ve laid out. However we neglect one of the most basic truths of Christianity, righteousness only comes by faith in Christ.
The desire to do righteous without first being righteous produces a false righteousness. You won’t find any place in the Bible where it teaches doing righteous without first being righteous. There is no such thing as doing righteous without first being righteous. Our doing of righteousness must flow from our being righteous. We can only be righteous through faith in Christ. The attitude that God blesses is one that desires not only to do righteous but also to be righteous
The blessing that Jesus promises to those who desire all righteousness is that they will be filled. When we hunger and thirst after all righteousness we will be filled with all righteousness. This means that we will be righteous and God will work through us to do righteous. Our being righteous will produce a fruitful life of righteous deeds that are done for the glory of God.