Tag Archives: righteousness

Desperately Seeking Righteousness

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Matt. 6:33 (NRS)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.

Matt. 5:6   (NRS)

In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a desperate individual endeavoring to save his family from dire circumstances created by his lack of employment and subsequent homelessness.  Chris is given the opportunity for a job on Wall Street by a benevolent mentor who sees in him, not only hidden talent, but a “hunger and thirst” for a better life.  When Jesus spoke of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, He knew the impact “kingdom living” would have on individuals in search of a “better life”.  Jesus saw individuals who were spiritually hungry, starved by the empty promises of this world.  The result was emaciated spirits and dry souls.   The world was desperately seeking.

To be righteous (dikaios), in a broad sense, describes man as God had originally created him to be—one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. The believer’s righteousness is not their own but is the imputed (credited) righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1) and the desire to continue living righteously before God is made possible by Jesus Christ’s presence within believers through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives the believer the ability to live right and to do right (Ez. 36:25-27; Phil. 2:13).

To “seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness” established the right priority and focus in the life of the believer.  With the many enticements and distractions offered by the world, it is easy to understand the lukewarm commitment to the things of God—even within the church.  But God demands our love and our loyalty as we seek to live for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.  The Apostle Peter reminded persecuted believers of their “new priority” as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  (1 Peter 2:24)

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.  (1 Peter 4:1-2)

Jesus’ invitation to righteousness was an invitation to a new way of living—kingdom living; no longer marked by hypocrisy and corruption as seen in the lives of the ruling religious leaders. Jesus invited those who sought God’s righteousness to simply “Come” (Matt. 11:28-30).  This invitation would resonate with individuals in familiar terms they could easily understand—hunger and thirst.

To “hunger and thirst” for God’s righteousness indicates a strong craving that becomes the driving force in the life of the believer.  The Psalmist captured this fervent yearning in Psalms 42:1-3:

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

While hunger and thirst are terms typically used to express basic human needs, the hunger and thirst that Jesus describes in this beatitude depicts a “spiritual hunger and thirst” that finds no satisfaction in the physical realm.  And what is the effect of this yearning?  “It is filled!”

The world is at enmity with those seeking the righteousness of God.  But in spite of the persecution we may encounter or the rejection we may face, it is imperative that we stand firm and give the world the reason for our hope—a living hope that is realized both now and in eternity future (1 Pet. 3:15).     Our culture continues to seek answers to the moral and social problems of our day using man’s wisdom.   Such efforts are “senseless striving” without first desperately seeking God’s righteousness.

The Spirit of Truth

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”   John 14:16-17 (NLT)

John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the USA, shared the following observation about truth.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  

Likewise regarding truth, the Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that await him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).  Truth, unfortunately, is being packaged in many forms; many are more speculation and creative editorializing, than substantive truth.  Because of this trend, it is important that believers have a “real-time” reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  While our primary guide is the Word of God, as we discussed last week, God has also provided another source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Earlier in this series we defined truth as that which agrees with reality.  For the believer, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text today, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without the presence of their Beloved Jesus (John 15:18-20).  It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.  It was Jesus’ loving response to the diseased and disenfranchised that modeled what true love looked like.  They would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

In John 14 Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with them forever.  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.  We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to share with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.  It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).  The Spirit of Truth would assist the disciples in accomplishing the “greater works” promised by Jesus (John 14:12).   Jesus was indeed “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.  After Jesus’ departure, the ministry of truth would continue because the Spirit of Truth.

Like the disciples of the first century, believers in the 21st century have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist them especially in exposing the spirit of error.  The spirit of error is seen in the morays and life styles of the world.  For unbelievers, it leads them to be deceived and disobedient to the purposes of God in their life (Ep. 2:2).  For the believer, the spirit of error tempts them to doubt God truth and draw them away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).  The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, myths and fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Compass as we search for truth.

Prayer:  “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”  Let your Spirit of Truth reign supreme in my life.  Let me trust in that which He guides me to do and obediently follow the path of Your choosing.  I receive Your Spirit of Truth and walk in the knowledge and freedom which You have graciously given me.

For Christ’s Sake, Part 2

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12 (NRS)

Disciples of Jesus Christ are to “rejoice and be glad” when they are persecuted.  This doesn’t appear to be a “realistic response”, whether living in the first or the twenty-first century, especially for those who live under the influence of Satan and the world (Ep. 6:12).  It is, however, both realistic and reasonable, for those who are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12).  Kingdom living does not look like the world—it is radically different!  Believers are to adhere to the truth of God’s Word, living holy and righteous lives, with no expectation of acceptance or support by this fallen world.  It is God who is the rewarder and sustainer of those who are called to His purpose and who find their meaning in Him (Ep. 2:10; Acts 17:28).

The Disciples were to “rejoice and be glad” during persecution because their focus was to be on the future—the kingdom of heaven yet to come.  The Apostle Paul described the trials and persecutions that the Disciples would experience as “light afflictions lasting only for a moment in comparison with eternity.”  And what would be the reward for such suffering?  An exceeding and eternal weight of glory!    J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase expresses Paul’s thought more succinctly:

These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain, For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.   2 Cor. 4:17-18

Rather than looking at their external circumstances, the Disciples were re-directed by Jesus to focus on what couldn’t be seen with the “physical eye”—the spiritual reward awaiting them in heaven.

This final beatitude offered comfort to the Disciples by comparing them with another group of highly esteemed, holy men who experienced persecution for righteous living—the Old Testament prophets.  The prophets were commissioned to present “thus says the Lord”; calling for repentance and return to God (Is. 30:15).  The Disciples were called to continue the ministry that Jesus began.  They were to present the gospel of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19) and through the Holy Spirit, men would be drawn to repentance and to the knowledge of Jesus the Christ (2 Pet.3:9).  Both groups faced persecution on earth for “righteousness’ sake” yet they looked forward to their promised reward from God (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27; Matt. 5:12).

Like the Disciples, believers today are to “rejoice and be glad” when faced with persecution.  We are to keep our “eye on the prize”—eternal reward in heaven versus the momentary enticement of this world.   This is a difficult concept for 21st century man to embrace; it is contradictory to a world that demands “instant gratification” and trusts only in what it can see.  To persevere during persecution, believers must continually remind themselves who they are (Rom. 8:17; Col. 3:12), why they are here (Ep. 2:10; Matt. 28:19-20) and where they are ultimately going (1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Cor. 5:1).

As believers, we must accept the reality that if we truly live for Christ, we will suffer persecution. However, we are confident and find comfort in knowing that God is sovereign and has already obtained victory over Satan and the world (Matt. 28:18; Col. 2:15).  God will sustain and deliver us, just as He did for the Prophets and for the Disciples who preceded us (Ps. 27:1).  We rejoice and are glad, for our reward is in heaven.

“Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life,

and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  Revelation 22:14

Good to the Last Byte…

Although the Prophets never witnessed the fulfillment of the Messiah in their life time, they anticipated “future glory” as reward for their faithfulness to God (Is. 35:2).

For Christ’s Sake, Part 1

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my (Jesus) account.”  Matthew 5:11 (NRS)

Righteous living detailed in the Beatitudes to this point represented “internal changes” followers of Christ should exhibit as a result of their “new nature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus would end His teaching by sharing the “external response” righteous living would evoke for allegiance to Him. It would be for Christ’s sake, that persecution would follow.

This final Beatitude continues the theme of persecution that began in Matt. 5:10. In this eleventh verse, however, there is a dramatic shift in Jesus’ teaching pattern. Up to this point, Jesus has spoken of the Beatitudes in the third person “they”; the object of persecution now shifts to “you” (second person). For the Disciples, who were the immediate recipients of Jesus’ teachings, this shift would require them to deal with the reality that they too would now be the objects of abuse and suffering. Why? For Christ’s sake. If they exhibited the righteous behaviors Jesus outlined to this point, they, like Jesus Christ, would be viewed as a threat to the status quo–with its injustice, inequities, and sin.

It was not Jesus’ “goodness” that the world hated (and still hates)–unbelievers are good, but it was the impact His righteous and holy living had (and still has) on a sinful world. Darkness was exposed and those who practiced it felt uncomfortable and threatened by the light of Christ (John 3:19-21). It was not Jesus’ “kindness” that they feared–unbelievers can be kind, but what they feared was the reality that all who choose this fallen world and sinful living over Christ and eternal life relinquished the possibility of participating in the kingdom of heaven–today or in the future (1 John 3:2).

Kingdom living, living for Christ’s sake, ushered in a new way of thinking and behaving (life style) that would transform the heart. Change would not begin outside but from within (Ezek. 36:26-27). One can simply look to the Bible and see those whom Jesus transformed from “dishonorable vessels” to “vessels of honor” (2 Tim. 2:20-21).  The Apostles Paul and Peter are examples of changed lives who would later be persecuted for Christ’s sake.  This kind of transformation was unheard of  in the 1st century life. It is no surprise that the Jesus’ teachings would later be blamed for “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Jesus shared “the cost” for living for His sake. He characterized persecution in three distinct ways: first, in word (reviled), secondly, in act (persecuted) and thirdly in accusations of evil (all kinds of evil spoken falsely). Jesus’ description of persecution also indicated the response the Church would face as it sat in the midst of a fallen world. The first church, like the Disciples, could expect to be in perpetual collision with the world. They were antagonists to the evil they challenged. Persecution, for Christ’s sake still exists in the 21st century. It is not unique to distant countries on a map but is alive and active in our glorious nation. Satan hates the things that Christ stands for and daily orchestrates personal persecution of believers who choose to live for Christ.

Living for Christ’s sake is radical living anchored in the reality of Jesus Christ and the new life His followers now enjoy–a life of freedom, peace, and blessedness. This life style is reflected in how we think and act. We are poor in spirit–dependent on the saving grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We are meek and we mourn–under girded by the tender mercies and comfort of the Holy Spirit within us. We hunger and thirst for righteousness–“as the deer pants after the brook”, so we passionately pursue intimacy with God. We are both agents and recipients of God’s mercy and peace. Through confession and repentance, we strive for purity of heart so that we may see God–His will and His way.

As we experience persecution for righteousness’ sake, let us emulate the spirit of Peter and the other Apostles as they demonstrated their boldness in living for Christ’s sake.

Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.’

As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name (Acts 5:29, 41).

 

To Thee, my God, I flee,

to hide from the rebuke and hate of man,

who daily pursues, oppresses, and wrests my words;

hide me in the secret of Thy pavilion,

I entreat Thee, from the strife of tongues.

F. B. Meyer

Blessed Are Ye

Persecution for Righteousness’ Sake

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 (NKJ)

It’s been said that this beatitude is the most searching of all the Beatitudes.  This is because it forces believers to evaluate their “spiritual impact” on the world around them.  Persecution by definition is not desirous in that it includes harassing or oppressive treatment because of what one believes and/or how one lives.  Are you experiencing persecution for being a follower of Christ and His teachings?  If not, perhaps this beatitude will help you “let your little light shine more brightly” (Matt. 5:14-16).

What did Jesus mean when He spoke of persecution “for righteousness’ sake”?   As discussed earlier in this study, righteousness (dikaiosune) (dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay) means “to be in right standing and acceptable to God”.  This is reflected in godly thinking, feeling and acting.  To live righteously requires a “new nature” that God provided for us (2 Cor. 5:17)—a nature that is being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). To be persecuted for righteousness’ sake infers that we are oppressed or suffer for being like Christ.

Righteousness is when we are “like Christ”.   Jesus was the supreme example of righteousness.  While we may desire to be righteous like Christ, we would prefer not to experience the persecution part of this beatitude.   But persecution was a frequent topic of Jesus as He prepared His disciples for what lie ahead. (John 15:18-20).

If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.

Kingdom living is righteous living.   The Beatitudes, as with all of Jesus’ teachings, turned the world upside down and challenged the status quo with all its sin and injustices. Jesus would reward the poor in spirit and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake with the kingdom of heaven.  For those who recognized their brokenness and sinful natures—those who mourned, were meek and hungered and thirst after righteousness, God offered through Jesus Christ an eternal inheritance, spiritual comfort and complete satisfaction.  Their new nature in Christ would cause them to be “Christ-like”—pure in heart, merciful, and peacemakers in an aggressive and unfriendly world.  Kingdom living, as outline in the Beatitudes, would result in persecution by the world.          

Those who choose to live godly in Christ Jesus can expect to suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).   Jesus’ teachings were not only controversial in the context of the 1st century but they continue to create major discomfort for those living by the world standards (which are no standards) in the 21st century.  The principles of kingdom living outlined in the Beatitudes represent a way of living that is counter culture. They call to question the way the world deals with life and with those who exist within its boundaries.  The Beatitudes evoke anger and hostility from those who choose to remain in sin (John 8:21)  The Apostle Paul can attest to the true cost of righteous living as he personally suffered imprisonment, beatings, and danger from his own countrymen all because He preached the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 11:23-27).

Even in the technological age of the 21st century, Jesus’ teachings are relevant and pertinent for living.     The topics of our daily news never change—murder, corruption, and sufferings perpetrated by mankind upon mankind.  These signs of the time reflect the need for Jesus Christ.  The believer’s life, kingdom living, is an opportunity to share what righteousness looks like.  As believers do this, they can anticipate the same treatment Christ received from a hostile and sinful world.  The possibility of persecution should not silence righteous living.   Beware of teachings that steer you away from the reality of suffering and persecution.  Such teaching lends itself to “silencing” the true Gospel and “undermines” the glory that is to be realized in suffering with Christ (2 Thess. 2:14).

Good to the Last Byte…

In these last days before the return of Christ, the Church and Christians must learn to expect and embrace persecution for righteousness’ sake.  Persecution for righteousness’ sake has its outworking throughout the Bible with examples including Abel, Moses, David, Daniel, Elijah and Jeremiah, just to name a few.  Their righteous living caused others to hate and mistreat them.  Don’t feel bad when you are persecuted for righteous living—you are in good company.

The Practice of Peacemaking

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  Matt. 5:9 (NRS)

What adjective do people use to describe you?  Do they portray you as a bridge builder or a wrecking ball?   Do they see you as one who encourages others or as a dream crusher?  As silly as this exercise may seem, it is important that believers daily exhibit behavior that reflects God’s nature, especially behavior that demonstrates kingdom living.  Today’s beatitude examines God’s peace as it is revealed by those called by His name.

In the beginning man enjoyed a special relationship with God in the Garden of Eden.  But with the introduction of sin, man became estranged from God.  The fellowship and peace once enjoyed by the Creator and His beloved creature was broken.  But because of His great love God reconciled Himself to man through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19) thereby once again making peace possible between Himself and man.  Through the act of reconciliation, God has also created the opportunity for man to share with his fellow man God’s ministry of peace (2 Cor. 5:20).  Peacemaking found its genesis in the heart of God.

Peacemakers (eirenopoios which means “make peace”) are intentional in creating opportunities that mirror God’s heart of peace in the world. Those who are peacemakers are first and foremost people who understand and embrace God’s provision of peace.  They understand that peace is not the result of external factors or human effort but is the internal “heart work” of the Holy Spirit, who is daily conforming believers to the image of Christ, the Ultimate Peacemaker (Rom. 8:29).   Peacemakers strive to promote the kingdom of God.  They look for opportunities to both prevent potential conflicts and encourage peaceful relationships even if it means personal sacrifice and self-deference (1 Cor. 9:22).  As Christ demonstrated God’s peace in His ministry, believers become peacemakers in this present age (Phil. 4:7).

Who are children of God?

(1) Those who by faith in Jesus Christ have accepted God’s offer of salvation (Gal. 3:26).  The peace that Jesus speaks to in this beatitude is not a “natural” habit or disposition of man; nor is it something one can strive to achieve.  This peace is part of the new nature imparted to man during the process of salvation (2 Cor. 5:17).  This new nature changes the perspective of how man views himself, others, and the world.  He no longer lives for himself but for the glory of God (2 Cor. 5:15).  To practice peacemaking is not easy (in the natural)—that’s why a new nature is required.

(2) Those who are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14).  In contract, those who are not led by the Holy Spirit are directed by the mind and the flesh which are at enmity with the things of God (Rom. 8:6-8). Those who choose not to accept the offer of salvation, live as children of disobedience, guided by their fleshly nature, instructed by the ways of the world, and servant to the god of the air (1 John 3:10). How can there be peace on earth when mankind is consumed by greed, lust, pride, and hatred.  These are the root of peacelessness.

(3) Those who love God and obey His commandments (1 John 5:2).  I was once told by a fellow believer that in life they simply follow the “10/2” rule—the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21) and the Greatest Law (Mark 12:28-34). Evidence of being a child of God is seen in how one lives.  Giving little attention to self, the child of God focuses on the things that glorify God and serve others.

What an honor it is to be identified as part of such a holy and righteous linage.  No longer sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), we now are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).   We thank God for life and the name change—from children of darkness to children of God.

Desperately Seeking Righteousness

                                                  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” Matt. 5:6   (NRS)

In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a desperate individual endeavoring to save his family from dire circumstances created by his lack of employment and subsequent homelessness.  Chris is given the opportunity for a job on Wall Street by a benevolent mentor who sees in him, not only hidden talent, but a “hunger and thirst” for a better life.  When Jesus spoke of hungering and thirsting for righteousness, He knew the impact “kingdom living” would have on individuals in search of a “better life”.  Jesus saw individuals who were spiritually hungry, starved by the empty promises of this world.  The result was emaciated spirits and dry souls.   The world was desperately seeking.

To be righteous (dikaios), in a broad sense, describes man as God had originally created him to be—one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. The believer’s righteousness is not their own but is the imputed (credited) righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).  In addition, the desire to continue living righteously before God is made possible by Jesus Christ’s presence within believers through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives the believer the ability to live right and to do right (Ez. 36:25-27; Phil. 2:13).

Jesus’ invitation to righteousness was an invitation to a new way of living—kingdom living; no longer marked by hypocrisy and corruption as seen in the lives of the ruling religious leaders. Jesus invited those who sought God’s righteousness to simply “Come” (Matt. 11:28-30).  This invitation would resonate with individuals in familiar terms they could easily understand—hunger and thirst.

To “hunger and thirst” for God’s righteousness indicated a strong craving that becomes the driving force in the life of the believer.  The Psalmist captured this fervent yearning in Psalms 42:1-3:

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?

While hunger and thirst are terms typically used to express basic human needs, the hunger and thirst that Jesus describes in this beatitude depicts a “spiritual hunger and thirst” that finds no satisfaction in the physical realm.  And what is the effect of this yearning?  “It is filled!”  To be filled (chortazo) implies that a desire is satisfied—refreshed, supported, and strengthened.   Jesus described Himself as the true Source that satisfies the longings of mankind (John 6:22-27). Still today Jesus promises “whosoever will” that comes to Him shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Him shall never thirst (John 6:35).

The world is at enmity with those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Look at how the world responded to our Lord and Savior—they crucified Him!  (John 15:20)  But in spite of the persecution we may encounter or the rejection we may face, it is imperative that we stand firm and give the world the reason for our hope—a living hope that is realized both now and in eternity future (1 Pet. 3:15).     Like the Apostle Paul, we can boldly announce our extreme satisfaction in serving Christ.  For we know that whether abound or abased, we will be “filled” (Phil. 4:12-13).   May we never lose our “hunger and thirst for the God’s righteousness.

Good to the Last Byte…

Our culture continues to seek answers to the moral and social problems of our day using man’s wisdom.   Such efforts are “senseless striving” without first seeking God’s righteousness.