Righteous in Christ

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)

As we continue through the Beatitudes this morning, it is interesting to think about the order of how Jesus has given this instruction to us. We have not talked a whole lot about the order, but the order is important. Not only are all the words we find in the Bible inspired, breathed by God, infallible in their original content, but so is the order in which those words are put together. Jesus began with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in spirit are those who have come to an understanding of their total inability to achieve real meaning and purpose in life outside of God Himself. Those who begin to see themselves for who they really are, that they are wrecked apart from the work of God in them. They understand that they are needy, helpless on their own, in need of rescue, in need of a savior. Whatever they have believed about their own good, their own worth has been brought into the light of truth, and what they see is not their good works but their wretchedness. Poor in spirit.

Jesus goes from that thought, that teaching, to, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Those who mourn, cry out, have real sorrow over their sin. They understand how sinful they really are, how poor in spirit they are, and they’re moved by what they see to a place of mourning and sorrow. They are like David who confessed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4).

And then meekness, “Blessed are the meek.” Who are the meek? Those who have seen their poverty of spirit, who have mourned over their sin. The meek see who they are and who God is and know that everything about them that’s good at all is from God. They see that God is in control, He is King. We can say, “I am no longer some kind of pretend king trying to rule my own world and the world of others.” No, meekness is seeing that I am a subject to God. My place is to submit to the real King’s rule and authority. It’s to understand, “My King loves me and is taking care of me, so I will bow low before Him and trust His every move, whether I understand it or not.” Meekness. And I can live this way not just with God, but with other people because God has got that too. I don’t have to worry or fret over what others may or may not do because God is taking care of me even in their presence. We can say with Jesus, agree with Jesus “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). Meekness is toward God and our neighbors.

And so from meekness we get to righteousness.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

Who are those who will be satisfied? Only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The meek are those who are hungry and thirsty! Those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Blessed are those who are hungry. Happy or joyful are those who are hungry and thirsty.

Hunger and thirst. Physical hunger and thirst tend to have an opposite effect on me. Most men probably, and growing young men for sure, are that way. Not too happy if we are hungry! Thirst is even worse. There is not a much worse, very uncomfortable, even miserable feeling than to be really, really thirsty. Even just talking about that can make you thirsty. But Jesus said, “Blessed [happy, joyful, or at peace] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

You know, if you sit down for dinner as usual, and there is a glass of water in front of you and a plate of food, and leading up to that meal if you have been well hydrated and had plenty to eat throughout the day, then eating and drinking is not that big of a deal. But if you had not eaten or had anything to drink for days, then there is something different about the satisfaction you receive from food and drink. If we are really hungry – and I don’t mean like three times a day when the kids say, “I’m starving!” – no, really hungry and really thirsty, then food and water takes on all new significance.

The longest I have gone without food or water was six days. I was in the hospital with complications associated with a gallbladder removal and was not allowed food or drink for six days. They wouldn’t even let me turn the TV on because they didn’t want me to see pictures of food or water when I couldn’t have any. I was so hungry and thirsty, mostly thirsty, that all other desires were really insignificant to me. My desire was to eat and drink. When I got to eat and drink after six days, eating and drinking took on all new significance for me. Even a little bit brought a great deal of physical satisfaction. God gave us bodies that are made to eat and drink and to be satisfied.

What does Jesus mean by hunger and thirst for righteousness? Hunger and thirst speak of appetite, strong appetite. Or you could say hunger and thirst speak of desire, strong desire. If an analogy is going to be used for strong desire, what is more powerful than hunger and thirst? 

We are talking about spiritual hunger, spiritual thirst where the soul, the inner man pants after what he sees as most desired. It springs from a sense of want, desire, appetite.

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. (Isaiah 26:9)

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Both in Isaiah and in Psalm 42 we see this longing, this desire, an appetite for the Lord who is righteous. 

If a person, you or me, if we understand our true poverty of spirit, our sin nature that keeps us from God. Our sin that serves as an impenetrable wall from our side that keeps us from our loving Savior. If we see unrighteousness on our part as what keeps us from all that will satisfy us, from the living God who created us to live, from being who God created us to be, and seeing this we feel deep grief and sorrow, we mourn over our sin, and in meekness we see God as able to save us, able to create in us what we are unable to create in ourselves, we see all of this tied to righteousness, and we see a desperate need for righteousness so we can enter into God’s family, be right with Him, be His child, then our appetite, our desire should grow strong for righteousness. That is what is missing, that is what we need, and if we don’t have it we will forever live to pay for our sins in eternal hell. We need righteousness, we need to be changed. We need it or we are without hope, we are eternally doomed to live in misery both today and for eternity.

There is only one way out, only one solution, and that solution is righteousness. It is the way out. That righteousness is Christ. I’m not talking about our own righteousness; we need perfect righteousness! We need the imputed righteousness of Christ. We need Christ’s righteousness in us.

There are two types of righteousness that we can talk about. First there is imputed righteousness, which is that we are given the righteousness of Christ. It is a gift, we simply receive it. It is lawfully Christ’s righteousness, He earned it, He lived it and He gives it to us. This is what happens the moment we are justified, the moment we become Christians, we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. Without this there is no salvation, there is no peace with God, there is no heaven for people, you or me, there is no paradise to be enjoyed apart from the righteousness of Christ given to us, imputed to us. Because we are sinful, we are lowly, we are undeserving, but as sinful people we can receive what is His, that is His righteousness. It is a gift, and it is perfect.

Just to be sure we all understand, you are not righteous on your own and neither am I. We see this in places like Romans 3…

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

As we read that, if we understand that, I don’t know what to say except that we are doomed on our own, we are lost on our own, we have no hope on our own. No matter what good we think we’ve done, we are hopeless and helpless in our own righteousness. We must have the righteousness of another to see God, and that only comes through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Apart from the righteousness, perfection of another, we are lost forever. The poor in spirit, those who mourn over sin, those who are meek understand this, and understanding this they will hunger and thirst for what is needed to be in relationship with God, hunger and thirst for righteousness. Their desire will be for God.

Happy are those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, enlightened by truth, because they will be satisfied.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:22)

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21)

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:9)

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)

We as sinners are covered with, clothed in, have put on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our righteousness, this is what satisfies and pleases the Father, this is what makes us children of God. God has said of Jesus, when Jesus was baptized, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” If we are in Him, in Christ, then God looks down upon us and sees what has been imputed to us: the righteousness of Christ. He sees the perfect work of His Son, and He is pleased by that. We are imputed with His righteousness.

Colossians 2:10 says it this way, speaking to believers, “For in Him [in Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” All of the fullness of God dwells within Christ, in all of His perfection, all that He is, it all dwells in Christ, and we are covered in Christ. So where does that put us before the Father? As righteous. This is it for us, this is the great exchange that took place: our rags for His righteousness! This is true for the very least of all the saints, the least among us.

So when we speak of imputed righteousness, righteousness of Christ given to us, imputed to us, there is no work on our part, no effort.

We can see that we are blessed and we are satisfied. Think of it this way: if you have hungered and thirsted to receive from God an ability to be in His family, and have by faith trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you have received fully what you have craved. You’ve got it, you’ve gotten Him, He is yours, and we should be satisfied in that! What you have longed for is yours. Heaven is yours, paradise is yours, peace with God is yours, your future is secure, the Holy Spirit has been given to you as a guarantee of your inheritance, you have been filled with Christ. What you do tomorrow, as you go through your week, if you are a believer in Christ and His righteousness has been imputed to you, then what you do tomorrow does not change that, doesn’t change the fact that you are His. How you treat your neighbor or your spouse or your child tomorrow does not take away your imputed righteousness. If it doesn’t take it away, then you don’t have to earn it back.

Listen to some examples of being satisfied with righteousness, the righteousness of Christ.

8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:8-9)

God satisfies the longing of the person’s soul who is hungry for Him, who hungers for what he cannot have on his own, hungers for righteousness in Christ.

9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:9-10)

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:1,5)

I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
and my people will be filled with my bounty,”
declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:14)

but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This is a righteousness worth hungering after, and I hope you have, and I hope you have been satisfied in it!

As believers we have, in a sense, been restored to the place where Adam was in the Garden before his Fall. What I mean by that is we are at peace with God. Adam walked in the cool of the day with the Father, he was at peace with God, they had communion together. God was pleased with Adam and they enjoyed each other immensely. 

We have sinned, yes, and yet God sees Christ in us: perfection. 

Have you been satisfied in Christ? 

Our problem is that we say, “Thank you Lord for saving me and rescuing me from myself, giving me heaven, paradise, peace with you, but how about some earthly treasures to go along with eternal life? Can I have something in addition to peace with you, like a bunch of money? How about along with what you have done, how about an easy life also? Plenty of things to make me comfortable here, and other stuff, and relationship to give me pleasure here.” And we can begin to focus on the here and now and make it most important, or way too important, and then begin grumbling because we want more than what God has promised. We want paradise with Christ some day, yes, but how about more now, how about peace with all people around us and more stuff!

Can you relate to that? God has given us peace with Him, no fear of death, security for all eternity, fellowship with Him, comfort, love, and we say it’s not enough! If we say that, then maybe we should take a step back and look at ourselves. Maybe it wasn’t righteousness we were hungering and thirsting for. Maybe it wasn’t – or isn’t – really peace with God that we were wanting. Maybe we have not yet been poor in spirit, really mourned over sin, truly experienced meekness at all. Hungering and thirsting is about desire. What is most important to us in our inner man? What are we hungering and thirsting after? What do we believe to be our greatest need? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Are you not satisfied? You should examine what you’re hungering and thirsting for.

Have you gotten to that place in life? Do we want what God wants for us, or is it something else?

There is another type of righteousness. It can be called an imparted righteousness. So we have an imputed righteousness, Christ’s righteousness given to us, what makes us right before God, but there is also an imparted righteousness as well. Imputed has to do with the point of justification, the moment we are saved, it is a one-time event, it is when you believed. Imparted righteousness has more to do with our ongoing progressive sanctification. It has to do with how we live each day, what we do, how we think, how we function in life as we go on in this life before we get to our glorified state in heaven with Christ. 

We are righteous before God in Christ. But I look at myself and I see what I do, I consider how I think, and I conclude, “Me, righteous? Really? Because I’m not seeing a lot of that.” I hope each of us can see the disconnect between how God sees us in Christ and how we see ourselves, or how we see other people who profess Christ. If you can’t see that disconnect in your own life, then you can probably recognize it in the person sitting next to you this morning. We can look at other people and say, “I know he belongs to Christ, but I’m pretty sure he is not perfect. He doesn’t look all that righteous.”

What do we do with that? Should that even concern us at all? If we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, and God sees us as righteous, should we even concern ourselves with how we live, what we do, how we respond to God or other people? Having received an imputed righteousness through Christ, are we now hungering and thirsting to live a life of righteousness in Christ, to be more like Christ on this earth? Do we want our walk to be more in line with what we understand our position to be before God in Christ? Should our walk, how we live, somehow reflect who we are in Christ? The short answer is yes, but that’s primarily what we are going to talk about next week, Lord willing. That is, having received the righteousness of Christ, in our standing now before God, how then should we live? I’m pretty excited about getting into that with you next week. For this week we can glory in knowing, for all who have believed, that we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, that God is satisfied with us because He is satisfied with His Son. I hope each of you have hungered and thirsted for that.