Continued from Part Three…
After teaching his listeners about meekness, Jesus went on to His next point, saying:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Verse 6
Because this statement is such a crucial part of the life of a believer–much like the anchor on a boat keeps it right where the pilot of the boat wants it to be stationed, we will take a bit more time with this short little verse of Scripture, and we will do this by taking a look at human nature and God’s solutions. We will then tie this together with “hungering and thirsting for righteousness.”
After having examined the first three attitudes that Jesus spoke of, it becomes quite clear that in order to have these “attitudes” genuinely working in our lives, we will have to do more than just make up our minds that this is how we are going to live. We live in a fallen world and there is no lack of evil influences surrounding all of us. Not only that, our own soulish nature is not naturally “godly”. In spite of the fact that modern psychology tries to convince us that all humans are born “good”, the real facts tell a different story. Which of a little child’s parents teach them how to lie? Is it the father or is it the mother that teaches them how to rebel? Neither one, of course. It shows up in the actions of a child without help from any outside influence. The Bible teaches us that all human beings are born into sin. They have a fallen nature from birth. So, even though a person makes a genuine decision from the heart to live a perfect, godly life at the time that they pray the sinner’s prayer and decide to be a follower of Jesus, they will fight a battle with the flesh for the rest of their life. The Apostle Paul puts it quite well in a passage in the Book of Romans where he gives a very good description of the battle of the flesh we all face.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 7:14-8:1
The first portion of the above passage, of course, sounds hopeless and depressing, but it is an accurate description of the human condition. God, however, has provided us the way to overcome what seems impossible and it is found in the last verse of chapter 7 and the first verse of chapter 8. The answer simply is to be completely wrapped up in our relationship with Jesus Christ. So, how do we go about living our Christian life without being controlled by the flesh, but by the Spirit of God instead?
When Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled, He was not making an empty promise. We find a verse in Colossians 3 that instructs us to put on the “new man”. In other translations of the Scriptures we are told to “put on the new self”, or “put on the new nature.” Let’s now see exactly what the verse is saying to us:
…put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…verse 10
The answer to having the attitudes of Jesus ruling the actions in our lives is not to practice “mind control”, but rather allowing Jesus complete rule over our lives by “putting Him on”. At the time of salvation, the spirit part of a human being is brought to life and the Holy Spirit who then begins to indwell the new believer, begins to commune with him or her. God created the human being as a three-fold being; spirit, soul, and body.
It is our soul that becomes the battleground. The soul is composed of the mind, personality, and emotions. It is by the “washing of the Word of God” that we are conformed into the person God has created us to be. One of the most important things to understand is that God has made man in His own image. No matter how intelligent some animals may seem to be, only man was created in the image of God, and, it is only man that has a built-in desire to know and worship his Creator. This however cannot happen until God has given life to the spirit of a man, and that is at the point of salvation. This is put into easy terms to understand, once again, by the Apostle Paul:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
This passage tells us that when we “put on” Christ, we become a new creation. Everything of the past is left in the past. We are totally forgiven and all our old sins no longer exist. It does not happen gradually, it happens immediately. This is God’s promise to us. Not only that, we then are given the task of passing the Good News of this reconciliation on to others. Because we now have direct communication with the Spirit of God, we are direct representatives, or ambassadors, of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As we now look back at what Jesus said to the crowd in Matthew 5:6, we can begin to make sense of what He said and why He said it the way He did. Do all people hunger and thirst after righteousness? No. Do all Christians hunger and thirst after righteousness? No…but it is to their loss if they don’t. Because God has not created us as robots, we can decide for ourselves how deep our commitment to the Master is going to be. Even though we “put on” Christ, we can choose to let our spiritual condition slip through neglect of our spiritual walk with God. We can even decide to sin. This does not mean that we have lost our salvation, but it does mean that we sometimes give a foothold to the devil in our lives. This can bring consequences we should really not want. Let’s go back to Colossians 3 once again and look at a few more verses to help us understand what Jesus is telling us in Matthew 5:6.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man…Colossians 3:1-10
This teaches us that, even though God has given us everything we need in order to live our physical life on this earth in His power, we still have to make the daily decision to allow His Lordship over our thoughts and actions. And…we have the choice whether we truly follow through on our hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. Sadly, many allow themselves to be so distracted with all that is in this life, that God is not high on their priority list.
Later in Matthew 5, Jesus described the people of God as “the salt of the earth.” He then asked a pointed question, “If the salt has lost its savor (or its ability to provide proper seasoning), then what good is it?” Even though verse 13 is not part of this study, it does have much to do with our “hungering and thirsting for righteousness.” How much “flavor” is evident in our Christian lives depends on how much emphasis we put on our intimate walk with God. It has less to do with our “maturity” as seasoned saints of God than it does to our daily pursuit of walking with God. Anything that is worthwhile is worth the effort it takes to get it.
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation, this is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Your face. Psalm 24:3-6
All spiritual benefits and favor come through the righteousness of Christ. When a person hungers or thirsts, nothing else but real food or drink will relieve the physical need. It is the same in the spiritual realm. The spiritual life of many people, particularly in the western world, consists of an occasional church service and maybe a few minutes a week in a spiritual “self help” book or maybe even a short devotional. Our attitude should be: “give me to eat and drink, or I die!” Because, we realize that anything else is worthless in comparison. In other words, “even if I have nothing else, with the righteousness of Christ working within me, I have everything I need.”
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33
A stirred-up, quickened soul craves continued, daily meals of the righteousness of God. Without it, we find our souls feeding on yesterday’s manna, and as we know from the experience of the Israelites in the desert, yesterday’s manna had rotted. Too many Christians live on yesterday’s, last week’s, or last month’s manna for their spiritual nutrition. Yet, our Father offers us daily, fresh manna. God’s promise is that those who earnestly hunger and thirst for righteousness, will be filled. The prophet Isaiah put it in these words:
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance, include your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you–the sure mercies of David.” Isaiah 55:1-3
We also find these words from the prophet Jeremiah:
“For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.” Jeremiah 31:25
In conclusion of verse 6 of Matthew, chapter 5, we find that God has made an abundance of promises in His Word, that He would satisfy and fill any that will approach Him with a hunger and thirst for righteousness and that come to Him with a sincere and humble heart. We serve a good God.
To Be Continued in Part Five…