Introduction. Billy Joel put the same sentiment a different way: I d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.

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1 1 Valley View Chapel June 17, 2012 Credibility 101, Part 5 Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Introduction Today we come to the fourth beatitude: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NIV) Food and water aren t luxuries. They re necessities. We must have them if we are going to survive, much less thrive. That was certainly true in first-century Palestine where food and especially water were scarce. People in Jesus day knew an intensity of hunger and thirst with which few if any of us here today can identify. By implication Jesus was saying that just as food and water are physical necessities, so righteousness is a spiritual necessity that we can t live without. Jesus was the most righteous man who ever lived. You d think the religious people would have loved him and the common people would have stayed away from him. Yet just the opposite was true. The common people loved to be around him. They were drawn to his righteousness. The religious crowd hated him and wanted to kill him. So it s apparent that righteousness for Jesus wasn t the same thing that the religious leaders of Israel thought it was a grim adherence to rules; a dutiful performance of religious obligations; and a holier-than-thou smugness toward people who didn t measure up to their level of dedication to the system. That pretty much sums up how many today in both the churched and unchurched worlds think when it comes to righteousness. If that is righteousness, then who needs it? Mark Twain would have been right when he caustically observed: Having spent considerable time with religious people, I can understand why Jesus liked to be with tax collectors and sinners. Billy Joel put the same sentiment a different way: I d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. But the common notion of righteousness as stiff, disapproving legalists who want to ban anyone from having fun is not what Jesus meant. We need to see what Jesus kind of righteousness really is. Because Jesus said that this righteousness is indispensable for a satisfied life.

2 2 I love the scene in the movie City Slickers where Billy Crystal's character, Mitch, is alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly is giving Mitch some advice. Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This. Mitch: Your finger? Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You [just] stick to that. Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?" Curly: That's what you have to find out. Curly was talking about a passionate pursuit, a fervent focus, a dogged determination. But for what? The movie doesn t give the answer. But Jesus does. The one thing in life - the key to a satisfied and fulfilled life - is to hunger and thirst for righteousness. What is righteousness? The easiest definition of righteousness is to be right right with God; right with ourselves; and right with others. John Stott differentiated between legal righteousness, moral righteousness, and social righteousness. Legal righteousness is being right with God. The Apostle Paul told the church at Rome: For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. Romans 1:17 (NIV) The New Testament declares the good news that Jesus Christ, God s perfect son, died on the cross for imperfect people. Upon our saving faith in Christ s death to pay for our sins, we become what the Bible calls justified. Later in Romans Paul said: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 (NIV) To be justified means that at the instant of our saving faith in Christ s work on the cross on our behalf, all of Christ s righteousness is put to our spiritual bank account. When God looks at us, he sees his perfect son. The initial act of saving faith which justifies me conveys the legal righteousness that I need to be acceptable in the eyes of a perfect and holy God. Moral righteousness is being with myself. As I learn more about God s plan for my life and as I learn how to depend on the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me, my core character begins to undergo a wonderful transformation. My priorities begin to change. My activities begin to change. I find myself, in small sometimes almost imperceptible ways, starting to resemble Jesus. I sense a change in the innermost part of who I am. I find myself going to church because I want to, not

3 3 because I have to. I read the Bible not as a duty but as a precious encounter with the God I am coming to love and adore. I find myself praying not just to get things from God, but because I love being in his presence. That s moral righteousness. But hungering and thirsting for righteousness isn t just a private, personal me and God thing. There s a social element to righteousness. Social righteousness is being right with other people. And our first responsibility to others is to be the hands of Jesus to help meet their need. In the courtyard of a quaint little church in a French village stood a beautiful marble statue of Jesus with his hands outstretched, One day, during the Second World War, a bomb struck near the statue and mutilated it. After the battle was over, the citizens of the village decided to find the pieces of their beloved statue and attempt to reconstruct it. Patiently they gathered the broken pieces and reassembled it. There was one problem. They were not able to find the hands of the statue. A brass plaque was attached to the statue with this inscription: Christ has no hands but your hands. Social righteousness being right with others is being willing to wade into the river of human need and do something about it. The righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst consists of being right with God (legal); being right with ourselves (moral); and being right with others (social). The blessing of fulfillment and satisfaction Jesus promised that a passion for his kind of righteousness results in personal fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment, and purpose. The 17 th century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal said: There s a God-shaped vacuum in every heart. To hunger and thirst for anything other than Jesus brand of righteousness is to search for something that doesn t exist for it is only found by living God s way. A young man in 5 th century Carthage Africa hungered and thirsted after the good life and he got. But he remained discontented and dissatisfied. One day in answer to his mother s prayers, he surrendered the control of his life to Jesus Christ. He became Saint Augustine and later wrote the memorable words that captured so eloquently his spiritual quest: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Warren Wiersbe pointed out that the word for filled or satisfied in the original language chortazo also means controlled by. The person who is controlled by righteousness will experience a level of satisfaction unavailable to those who are not

4 4 controlled by righteousness. But what does it mean to be controlled by righteousness? The answer is found in the Old Testament. God said through his prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23:5, "The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch. (NIV) Later in the same book God declared: "'In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. Jeremiah 33:15 (NIV) In the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament Malachi told the people: "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. Malachi 4:2 (NLT) Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are controlled by the righteous Branch, the Sun of Righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. In religious righteousness, we are controlled by a merciless, unforgiving system to which we can never measure up. In Christian righteousness, we are controlled by a gracious, compassionate Savior. What if I don t hunger and thirst? It s possible that some of you this morning don t hunger and thirst after righteousness like you used to do. If I were to ask you: How s life treating you since you ve marginalized Christ? Pretty good? You d probably answer: Not so good, Pastor. Life is never very good for the child of God who has allowed his or her walk with Christ to become unimportant. The Lord loves us too much to let us continue in our indifference toward him. Do you want to regain the passion you once had for Christ? Do you want to recapture the joy of your salvation? Do you want to hear your father s well done whispered in your ear like in days past? Do you long for your unfulfilled, dissatisfied heart to be put at rest? There s only way back. You need to hunger and thirst after the righteous Branch, the Sun of Righteousness, and yield every compartment of your life to his control. So how do you get a spiritual hunger and thirst? Most importantly, you have to want it. Jesus asked the paralytic by the side of the pool at Bethesda: Do you want to get well? Are you tired of living half a life? Are you weary

5 5 of having things your way instead of God s way? A desire to recapture your spiritual hunger and thirst is indispensable. God won t magically zap you with hunger and thirst for him. You have a part to play. Let me suggest four things you can do to get back your hunger and thirst for God. First, be around Christians in a spiritual atmosphere as often as you possibly can. There s a dynamic principle at work here. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and you haven t felt very hungry? Maybe you were just going to order a cup of soup and a side salad? But then you smelled the steak, the chicken, or the fish. You saw the server bringing the plates of food to the next table. You got your appetite back. Be around people praising the Lord. Listen to the songs of praise. Hear the Word of God preached. You might find yourself getting hungry again. Second, read the Bible in small chunks. Focus on a few verses or even one verse. Think about it. Memorize it. Make every effort to apply it to your life today. When you read the Bible and start to live it out, you see once again that these eternal laws are what make life work. If you don t have a Bible you can read and understand, see me after the service. I ll give you one before you go home. Third, pray often throughout the day. Don t think you have to spend long periods in prayer. That may come later. Send God text messages of thanks, praise, and requests for help all day long. Get used to talking to him again. Fourth, get off the couch and start doing something for God. Volunteer to help in the nursery, PowerHouse, or VBS. Join the Welcome Team as an usher or greeter. Make a meal, or visit a shut-in. When you see an opportunity to serve God, don t wait to be asked. Step up! If you do all of the above for six months and you still don t hunger and thirst after righteousness, then you might need to confront a tough question: Am I a child of God? Have I ever sincerely confessed and repented of my sins and invited Jesus Christ to come into my heart as my Savior and Lord? Conclusion I close with an invitation by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before Christ to a people who had lost their hunger and thirst for God: "Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk it's all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Isaiah 55:1-2 (NLT)

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