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)
Last week we looked primarily at verse 6, and this morning we will return there and continue on with some thoughts through that. It is such a pivotal verse in this section we have been looking at over the last few weeks. Jesus speaks to us in verse 6 about desires. This is a big deal, desires, the desires we have deep within our hearts and minds. Jesus speaks to us about our longings. His words, if we take them to heart and understand them correctly, they force us to answer the question, “What do I really want?” What we really want may be things we spend our time thinking and dreaming about. We say things like, “If I had a million dollars, I would…” and you fill in the blank. Or, “If I had more hours in my day, I would…” “If I just didn’t have to work or to school, I would…” “If only my spouse would understand me, or love me, or even just like me, I would…” “If only my boss would see all that he has in me as a worker…” Our responses to all of these statements may give us a window into our own hearts, into our desires, into what we really want in life.
We may think about questions such as these and our minds can be so creative, our minds can wander into what we would call dreaming. We can begin to imagine all kinds of things. We can create a world in our imaginations where everything is right for us, right in the sense that all of our desires are met, no matter what they may be. Our dream world becomes a world of met desires – not just any desires, but my desires. Everything is ordered around me the way that I want. Desires can take us to places, imagined places that don’t really exist, but places that we may try to create, try to make a reality.
Desires can be good or they can lead to disaster. Desiring what is right in God’s eyes is a beautiful thing, if we desire what He desires. Desiring what is not ours to have can lead to terrible consequences, to depression, despair, and gone unchecked they can lead to a lifelong pursuit of chasing what cannot be had.
We are in a sense a walking, living being that is often desire driven. We want what we want, so we go after that. We want and we live in misery at times because we cannot have. God made us as we are that we would have desire. We are made to desire things, to have an ability to desire. What we want, what we desire, is of utmost importance because it will drive us to sin and shame or it will drive us to be satisfied in Christ.
What do you want more than anything else? If you could write the script, what would it be? What is it you are really wanting? I mean really wanting. Not just what you would be willing to stand and say in front of all of us this morning. I mean in your heart, in the depths of who you are, what is it you want? Maybe something you would not even share with those around you. Simply in your own mind, just between you and no one else, what do you want? What drives you? Because the answers to these things expresses our desires.
Jesus knows about desire, He created us to be a people with an ability to desire, and Jesus knows also what will satisfy desires. Jesus is talking about desire when He says in verse 6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” As we discussed last week, hunger and thirst is about desire, very strong desire. God is interested in satisfying our desires.
We see strong desire stated all throughout Scripture in various ways. In David the Psalmist…
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God. (Psalm 42:2)
We see strong desire discussed like this in another gospel, Jesus’ words from John 6:35. We see strong desire, and strong desire met or satisfied.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
And from John 4, where Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman…
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Jesus promises satisfaction to those who were hungry and thirsty for the right things.
When we are hungry we want food, when we are thirsty we want something to drink. The hungrier and thirstier we are, the greater satisfaction we will experience when we receive the food and drink. For what do we hunger, for what do we thirst? What is it we really want?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There a a large numbers of people in the Christian church who seem to spend the whole of their life seeking something which they can never find, seeking for some kind of happiness and blessedness. They go around from meeting to meeting, and convention to convention, always hoping they are going to get this wonderful thing, this experience that is going to fill them with joy, and flood them with some ecstasy. They see that other people have it, but they themselves do not seem to get it…Now that is not surprising. We are not meant to hunger and thirst after experience; we are not meant to hunger and thirst after blessedness. If we want to be truly happy and blessed we must hunger and thirst after righteousness. We must not put our blessedness or happiness or experience in first place.”
Do we put righteousness first, over all other desires?
Last week we talked about righteousness that we received at the point of our justification as Christians. When faith is exercised in the Lord Jesus Christ, and when we believed in the finished work of Christ for us, having recognized our sin and repented from it, we are justified and a miraculous rebirth takes place – we are given the righteousness of Christ at that moment. That means we are covered by His good works, covered by His perfections, we become accepted by the Father because we are covered by the righteousness of Christ, the work of Christ. Righteousness is then imputed to us, given to us. It is a gift; it is not of works, it is a gift. We don’t deserve it, we did not earn it, it is a gift, we simply receive it.
If you are a Christian this righteousness is yours now, it is yours because of Christ. In Ephesians we are reminded there is no boasting, no boasting because we didn’t earn it or deserve it. We see this summarized in places like Philippians 3:9…
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)
It is not our righteousness, not something earned; it is righteousness imparted, given to us. If you are unsure of that truth, how that works, or what I mean by that, this truth of Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us or given to us, then I would encourage you to listen to last week’s message. We are righteous in Christ, positionally righteous in Christ.
But practically, you and I know that we still sin. Or, I hope we all know that we still sin! So here we are: righteous before God because of Christ, and yet still sinning daily before God. There’s a tension there. Our account is paid in Christ, we owe no debt for salvation, yet we are keenly aware that we are not perfect.
Both of these descriptions are being righteous in Christ. One is of position, of who we are in Christ, the other having to do with our daily living, how we live life. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied When He said that, what kind of righteousness was He speaking of? The imputed righteousness given to us at the point of justification, or the righteousness that results in practical living? I think both. I don’t think He is speaking exclusively of our position in Christ, but also of a desire that we are to have to live in obedience to our Lord.
If we have been given new life in Christ, received the righteousness of Christ, then what impact should that transforming act by God begin to have on us as Christians in our daily living? Should it just be life as usual, like before salvation, like all others on this earth, following the status quo, or a life that reflects the change that has taken place in our hearts, a life that reflects that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ?
Is this righteousness which Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst after one that also includes how we live today? I think the answer to that is yes. Christianity is not just a future in heaven, it’s a life to live. It’s a life to live imaging our Lord, being like Christ in this world, walking with Christ in holiness in our families, our communities, our homes.
In other words, it is not likely that Jesus was just talking about positional righteousness or justification when speaking of hungering and thirsting for it. Let me give you some reasons why I say this. If we go down to verse 10 in chapter 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Righteousness in that case does not make sense if we think of it only from a justification standpoint, or only of positional righteousness. In verse 10 He is speaking of those who are living out their faith, living our their righteousness, and we know that because they are being persecuted for it. They are going against the grain, living differently than those around them. Not because they have to in order to get to heaven – that is taken care of – but because it is consistent with the new life given to them.
Also, just in Matthew’s gospel when we see the word “righteousness” it almost always refers to actual, personal righteousness, speaking of how we live. All throughout this gospel God is moving His people toward living a certain way having become a part of His kingdom, having become a part of His family. For instance…
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Here Matthew is not describing what a person has become, but what he does, what he practices, how he lives. Jesus’ disciples long, or should long, to literally and truly live righteously, that is to live for the Lord, live out His work. Christians are then to be those who are grateful that God has forgiven them, saved them, and though sin remains, so does a great desire to aspire to holy or righteous living.
In verse 6, hunger and thirst are present participles and imply a constant, perpetual longing that will not end until we are in full possession of the righteous character that God desires for us.
The word “satisfied” or maybe “filled” in your translation is in passive voice. This means that the righteousness which we should desire is not something that we achieve on our own, but it is an act of God. God and God alone gives righteousness for which we are to hunger. In other words, to whatever degree that we are righteous in our living, it is a gift from God. He deserves credit for every act of righteousness on our part, for anything good we do; it is to His glory. Just as our justification is to His credit, so is our sanctification to His credit. He saves us, keeps us, and grows us.
I want us to think very practically for a few minutes. First of all, some might say, maybe you would say, “You know, I believe I am a Christian, but honestly it’s not really righteous living that I hunger and thirst for. I mean, I have all kinds of desires, and many seem okay, but I know some of them are not pleasing to God. I want things in life, I want certain feelings, and I want life to be a certain way, but it’s not really righteousness that I am wanting or going after.” We may say, “Why is this?” And, “If righteousness is a gift of God, then what can I do about it besides sit here and wait for God to give it to me? Do I really play any part in this at all?” If you find yourself there, this is not something you’re hungering and thirsting after, then I would say first of all I totally understand that. I know what it is like to not desire righteousness. I think we can all confess that our desire is not always for righteousness, it is not always a red hot desire for righteousness. So what do we do, if anything at all?
God never leaves us to sit around and do nothing. We have many commands to follow, much we are to do, that we get to do. We get to be involved with Him and even take initiative in the process of sanctification, becoming practically more like Christ. I’m thankful that we get to participate in that. But remember that the battle is often in the mind. I would ask, what are you setting your thoughts on? What do we spend our time dreaming about? What are we feeding into our minds? How are we spending our mental energy, what are we investing in with our thoughts? Whatever those things are, they are probably beginning to shape and even strengthen our desires.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, right at the end of a lengthy discussion on a common mental battle we may have regarding worry and fear, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” “Seek first,” Jesus said. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” There is something we can do.
If we are going after what is displeasing to God, that is not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. If we are spending much of our mental energy dreaming about sinful things, or dreaming about what is not promised by God, dreaming about a world where all our selfish desires are met and everyone cooperates with us, then we are not seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
Can we add to our righteousness, can we grow ourselves into Christ-likeness? I don’t think so. It is a gift, but we can seek after God and trust that He will do the growing in us.
“Seek” there is to strive after, to search for and to find. Is that what we are spending our time and energy doing? Seeking God in His word, meditating on His perfections, grace, mercy, and goodness. Are we striving for Him? If not, why would we expect to be righteous or even to have an increased desire for it?
Another thing I want to mention by way of answering the question, “Why are my desires not for righteousness? Why are my desires for a million other things but not really righteousness of God?” We can ask, what are we setting our minds on? Again, it is this idea of mental energy, and how we are using it. We are to seek the kingdom and righteousness, but what else?
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
We could sum up Paul’s words here by saying, “Set your mind on righteousness, set your mind on what is righteous, what is pleasing to God, what is holy.” I wonder, if this is where our efforts were in our minds, I wonder if we would lean more to righteous living or to sinful living?
Some might argue, “I am faithful to daily read my Bible and have prayer time, I have a Bible memory program and I listen to praise music, I’m doing all these things and I still am not having a significant desire or hunger for righteousness. It’s just not working for me.” But you know, we can do all of that consistently every day, and it might comprise 5% of our day. Maybe 5%. What about the rest of the time? Where is our focus the rest of the time, like when the boss calls to rant, or the kids are out of control, or when our minds are free to take us to sinful thoughts of lust, greed, sinful anger, or something else? How about when we are tempted to think badly of others and focus on their negative traits? Are we living Philippians 4:8-9 and Matthew 6:33 during all of those times? Where is our thought life throughout the day? Because our thoughts can really drive and feed our desires.
A while back I really wanted to get a bow for hunting. I even had a way that I could get one at practically no cost. I began researching bows, looking at reviews online. I would think about where I would use it and how I would practice with it. If we got a Cabela’s flyer or a Bass Pro Shop flyer in the mail, I’d go directly to the page that had the bows. I’d never had one before, never been bow hunting, but I now had a growing desire, what was becoming a very strong desire in me to get one. Eventually in my research, looking and considering various aspects of getting one, I concluded sort of reluctantly that now was not the time to get into a new hobby like bow hunting. It just wasn’t good timing, so I just settled that. And you know what happened? As soon as I quit looking at those ads, stopped the online research, and moved on to other things, that desire all but disappeared. It pretty much went away. I find that interesting. I began focusing on other things, and I moved on.
These minds that God has given us are so very powerful. How we choose to use them is really important; it often drives our behavior.
All I am saying is that Jesus said blessed, happy, are those who hunger and thirst for the right thing, for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
If our hunger and thirst – our desires – are out of control and are not for righteousness, then practically we need to ask what is going on in the inner part of our minds. Because to live out Philippians 4:8-9 is to focus on what is true about God and what He has done and is doing for us. If we are not there, then sure, our desires will follow those other things on which we meditate.
God is good to see to it that we will not be satisfied with what is displeasing to Him. He is good at times to give us what we want to demonstrate to us practically that it won’t give us lasting satisfaction. Satisfaction, Jesus says, comes to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Don’t be deceived, there is no other way.
This week, what will you choose to think on? How will you choose to use your mind? How will you direct your desires, your thought life? Will our focus be on our Lord, and all that He says is good?
“Blessed [happy] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)