“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied”
(Matt. 5:6 ESV)
I made a very rare visit to a department store in the USA a while back and found something called “True Religion.”
Yes, true religion.
The true religion I found was a line of fragrances, cologne, I think, for men. I picked up a card beside this pungent product and sure enough it says “True Religion” and then “fragrances.” Then, under these words is a character that looks somewhat like a religious holy man or guru, holding a guitar in one hand and making a happy gesture with the other. What a combination of words and images to sell something to help you smell a particular way!
Now, I mention this product because it illustrates for me what a touch of religion actually does, it just does something to the outside of you. It is external. It is surface. It doesn’t impact your life at an internal or deep level. It doesn’t touch the real you. It doesn’t grab your soul.
And my prayer for you as I share this message is that you will not live a surface kind of life, that you will not live a shallow superficial kind of life with a touch of religion, but by God’s grace and in following Christ, you will experience a real dynamic exciting relationship with God that impacts you from the inside out.
Don’t settle for less!
You see, the real thing, true religion, is found in Jesus Christ and the life that He calls us to live. And the verse we are going to look at together is an important aspect of that life that Jesus calls us to live.
To experience the blessedness that Jesus talks about:
Why do we need to be radically committed to Christ?
Because following Jesus Christ will often be completely opposite to what many other people are doing. A true disciple in our day will need to be radically committed to Christ, because Christ is calling us to a different life than the life that is lived outside of Christ.
These words in the verse above are the words of the Lord Jesus found in Matthew 5, in what is often called the “Sermon on the Mount.” And these words present basic truths for Jesus’ disciples. But, these basic truths challenge us to the core of our beings. These are radical words.
So, who is this that speaks in this manner? What gives Him (This One speaking) the authority to say such things?
These are not just the words of a religious leader or a motivational speaker. Matthew’s gospel has already identified Jesus as the one born King of the Jews. He is the one who came to save His people from their sins. He is the promised Messiah who has come to fulfill God’s Word, He came to fulfill all righteousness. More than that, Jesus is the very Son of God, Immanuel “God with Us.” So, Matthew has clearly identified who this person is - who is speaking in our verse. And, Matthew has already shown Him in action as well in the previous two chapters.
Just before these words in Matthew 5, we see Jesus in action. Jesus defeats the temptations of Satan, the evil one. He comes on the public scene calling for “Change” – repentance, and declares the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is not only preaching and teaching, though, he is healing diseases and dealing with demon-possessed people. Multitudes are following this extraordinary Man, particularly those desperate for help, either physically or spiritually. Something is happening. A new movement is taking place. This Man, this miracle worker is none other than the Son of God who has come to announce the Kingdom of God. And these people who are following Jesus around are caught up in God’s new thing, true religion, you might say.
Seeing all these people, Jesus finds a place to start teaching. And as he sits down to teach, His disciples come to Him. This ragged group of people listening to Jesus were witnessing something special, unique, and dynamic. As I noted, the Scripture specifically says at the beginning of this chapter that “when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” They came closer to hear what he would say. They did not stay on the fringe, they did not keep their distance. They came close as disciples to hear what the Master would say.
At another time, Jesus would say:
“Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Coming to Jesus is a life-changing decision and experience.
These verses (Matthew 11:28-30) and these words are the words of the very Son of God who came to live a perfect life, to teach the way of righteousness, to experience suffering and rejection at the hands of sinful people like you and me, to die on a cross for the sins of the world, to be raised from the dead, and is now ascended on high and calling us to Himself and to be His radical disciples. He invites us to join with Him, to learn from Him, and to find the real road to satisfaction. He is the one who gives rest for our souls and in whom we can find rest for our souls. Why do I start here? Because you need to base your life upon the Lord Jesus, not only as your Savior from sin, but the one who will teach you and lead you in right living that provides rest and satisfaction. Matthew 5:6 is part of His yoke that we can take and learn.
So, it is Jesus who says, “Blessed are those that (who) hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” And these words are part of His teaching in the “sermon on the mount” that calls for allegiance and obedience. Later, as Jesus comes to the end of this section of teaching, he identifies the wise person as the one who hears and does what he says (7:24). So, as we study this statement of Jesus, we need to see these words as the words of the Messiah, the Son of God, who calls for radical commitment to who He is and what He says. So, we listen to these words as His disciples, committed to Him and what He has to say.
Looking at this verse, you will see that the first word is “Blessed.” What a great word!
God’s blessing, God’s favor that brings joy is what Jesus is announcing. Well, as we have seen, it must be people who come to Christ as His radical disciples who are candidates for this blessedness. But let’s go further. Jesus states nine of these “blessings” in the surrounding verses. He is revealing the character of those who are candidates for such blessings. And in the midst of these powerful proclamations Jesus says,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6 ESV).
Here, Jesus is identifying, labeling His true disciples as those who have a deep desire for something. Not for food and drink, which would be real longings on the part of the poor people he is addressing. No, they have a deeper desire for something for their own lives and for this world. They want to be right with God and they want God to make things right. They recognize that their own lives are in need of God, and that this world is in need of the invasion of God’s righteousness and salvation. These people, these disciples are candidates to receive complete satisfaction, just like a hungry man would feel after the best of meals. Where or how will this satisfaction take place? Jesus doesn’t spell it out here, but to answer the question, satisfaction takes place as we follow Jesus and then experience the life, the salvation, and the righteousness that he offers. It comes in following Jesus, and experiencing the righteous work of God in our lives and in our world, and the ultimate salvation that He came to provide. But, for us to really go forward in this walk with Jesus, we must be genuine in our desire.
What does that mean?
It means having a genuine desire for the righteousness that Christ presents right here in this sermon.
Jesus is describing a real heartfelt longing for something. As a starving person, a desperately thirsty person, would seek relief and refreshment. He is not talking about people who want to put on “true Religion” as an external fragrance. He is pronouncing that His disciples, His blessed ones are those who are honest and genuine in their desire for God and His ways. They are those who passionately are going after God and His righteousness. It’s a deep thing, not a surface thing.
One of the greatest temptations you will face is to settle for less, rather than having a real heart after the Lord. Jesus is wanting “hungry and thirsty” people, not people who are full of themselves or other passions. Jesus is addressing the core of our beings in these words. He is looking for people who want God, they want to be right with God initially and continually, they want God to clean up this world and to see right and righteousness. Are these our passions? Notice, Jesus doesn’t say anything here about hungering or thirsting after a steak or sushi, or any other food. He is not speaking about wanting money, a college education, a better job, a new house, etc. He is talking about something much deeper, more fundamental.
Jesus is looking into our hearts and wanting disciples who have a heart for what He longs for: “the will of the Father,” “right living!” People who meaningfully pray “Your Kingdome Come, O God, Your will be done in my life as it is in heaven.”
We live in a shallow world. People are preoccupied with things that very often are really not that important. They get excited about things that help them look better, make more money or make daily life easier. There is more to life than a new phone, the latest movie, getting a new look or make-over, or a vacation in Hawaii, as good as these things may be.
We need to Go Deeper with God and go after the things of God. Don’t settle for less. God wants real people, real disciples, whose hearts are really after Him. They realize that without God they are lost. They are poor in spirit, they weep over the sinfulness of their own hearts and the sinfulness of our world. They open their lives up to God meekly, and seek the righteousness that God requires, and Christ presents in his teachings right here. This is the righteousness that Christ lived, and taught. Christ died not only to provide forgiveness for our sins, but also to make it possible for us to pursue righteousness under His Lordship and with His enabling grace.
(Study Matthew 5:17-7:12 to get a sense of the righteousness that Christ proclaimed.)
This leads to our final challenge:
What does it mean to be a righteousness seeker?
These original listeners were longing for God to break into their lives and into the life of their nation and to bring righteousness and justice. They wanted God to show up with His righteous power in our world. But, I believe that Jesus is going even deeper than that. He is teaching that His disciples - are those who long for righteousness in their own lives as well as the communities around them. They want to be right with God. They want to be right with their neighbors. They want things to be made right in their communities, they want, they long for true “rightness” in our world. In short, they want to “get right” with God and with others, and they want things to “get right” in this world. Let me ask you something, have you ever longed for things to get right after you’ve watched a few minutes of the evening news, or when you’ve tasted injustice, or when you’ve seen even people who name the name of Jesus doing insanely sinful things?! I hope so, because we do live in an upside-down world. It is so sad, and we need God to break in and change things. But, God will start with us. Our real passion for “rightness” needs to start with our own lives.
We know that to be right with a holy God, we need a righteousness that is beyond us. So, as born-again believers in Jesus we understand that we have accepted the death of Christ for our sins in our place, and received His righteousness on our behalf. Also, we know that we are to grow, by God’s grace, in this life of righteousness. Praise God that we now have the Holy Spirit indwelling those “in Christ” and enabling us to pursue “rightness” in the Spirit, and not in the flesh. But, I want to apply this in another way that is in keeping with what Jesus is saying right here.
Jesus is talking about a level of righteousness that should be our passion and goal as well. It is a life’s pursuit. He is talking about a righteousness that shows itself in real life, and I want to address this issue as we wrap up. When Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” he was speaking specifically of God’s kind of righteousness. And He left us in no doubt concerning the type of righteousness that we must long for. It is not an external superficial kind of religious righteousness. No, it’s God’s kind of righteousness that results in righteous living that flows from a pure heart and mind. He gives all sorts of examples in this Sermon on the Mount.
It is not enough to avoid murder, we are called to right relationships. It is not enough to avoid adultery, or sexual sin, our minds are to be pure and our actions. We are to be faithful in marriage totally. We are to be truthful in our speech, not to retaliate for evils and insults, but to love our enemies. Ultimately we are to do all things for the pleasure and glory of God, and not just to impress people.
Jesus is referring to the reign of God in people’s lives and the resulting lifestyle of His followers. And longing for God’s kind of righteousness will be accompanied by a passion to do the will of God from the inside out.
God knows you through and through, and He is on a mission to make you more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. This means that you are called to “take the high road” not the “low road” in this life. We are called to a higher and deeper righteousness that impacts your heart attitudes, your thoughts, your emotions, and of course, your actions.
Jesus had the strongest and harshest words for people who wanted to look righteous before others, but they would not admit that deep inside they were in desperate need of God’s forgiveness, and help. Jesus has already said,
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Blessed are those who mourn,
Blessed are the meek.
These are the people who are truly open to God, and want His righteousness to rule and reign in their lives and in this world.
It was the religious “legalists” that couldn’t stand Jesus, but those sensing their need of Him flocked to Him, and to this group, He proclaimed the Kingdom of God. And Jesus is saying, “if you desperately want to be made right and to see right done, you are on the right track, this is right-side living, and don’t settle for less.”
We are living in a world that really is messy and mixed up when it comes to “right and wrong.” To be concerned about Christ’s righteousness will get you labeled a hypocrite or worse. Jesus is calling for is a real heartfelt passion for right attitudes, right relationships, right practices, and the very righteousness of God invading our lives. Radical and real followers of Jesus want to show forth His loving righteousness in all we do.
We need to be ready to get right at all times. We need to “take the high road.” Don’t settle for less. Don’t tolerate things in your own life. Seek the Lord’s forgiveness and His power to live a right-side-up life. I heard a commentator the other day talking about sexual activity and the bottom line was basically that teens do what teens do. In other words, to the commentator, this is normal behavior. This is expected.
Now, I know that there is forgiveness and healing found wonderfully in this same loving righteous Lord Jesus, and He is the Lord of mercy and grace. And that is a truth that gives us hope and the key for moving forward. But my concern right now, as I apply these words of Jesus to our lives, is that we don’t settle for the norm, what the people around us expect.
Let me ask you, what are people hungering and thirsting for these days?
Besides their favorite food, besides the latest technology, besides the approval of others. People are certainly hungering and thirsting for circumstances impacting their lives negatively to change. We as disciples of Jesus need to take the high road and seek what is on the heart of Jesus. Aim higher in life. Jesus calls His disciples to a higher purpose, not to become arrogant, not to become weird, but to know the joy of right attitudes, right relationships, right actions, and right living. We can only move in this direction humbly and authentically by following Jesus and seeking His work in our lives to become more like Him. And Jesus continues His work in our lives by His Holy Spirit. Pray for this work to purify our thoughts, our passions, and actions according to righteousness.
This commitment, this desire, and this goal lead to the blessedness that Jesus talks about. It is the one who follows Jesus obediently with heartfelt passion for the will of God in their lives who will be truly satisfied.
They will find Jesus to be their satisfaction as they go through life’s journeys, and they will experience the life of the Kingdom of God now and eternally.
Don’t Settle for Less.
Do you want to be satisfied deep in your heart and soul? This world offers a lot of good things. Jesus presents as an alternative. He is the alternative. He is the Savior and Lord who ultimately is the source of our satisfaction.
But, we have learned today that there is a pathway to such satisfaction and fulfillment. It is found in a radical commitment to, a deep desire for, and a genuine pursuit of Christ and the righteousness. Those who abide by these words of Jesus will find their hunger and thirst satisfied even now and certainly in eternity.