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Study in Matthew’s Gospel

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  1. Study in Matthew’s Gospel Presentation 12

  2. Sermon On The Mount Hunger And Thirst After Righteousness Chap 5 v1-12 Presentation 12

  3. Introduction Our study has introduced the beatitudes by employing themes from the world of art. The beatitudes should not be viewed as eight separate pictures but as a series of transparent overlays each building up a fuller, richer picture. We begin this study by commenting on the design of the architect for the Burrell Museum in Glasgow. His design concept was to draw the visitor’s gaze in two quite different directions. He wanted them to see the man made objects in the museum while at the same time to appreciate the beauty of the natural setting in which his building was located. Presentation 12

  4. Introduction His solution was to replace large areas of wall with glass so that those inside would look out beyond the object of their immediate interest to the beauty of Pollock Estate in which the building was sited. This is what the beatitudes are designed to do. Not only to cause us to look within to find evidence of the fine qualities listed in our lives but to look out of ourselves and beyond ourselves and to focus upon the beauty of God. The beatitude before now points in this direction; ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled’. Presentation 12

  5. What Is Righteousness? What do we understand by ‘righteousness’ a term that occurs frequently in the Sermon on the Mount [5v10, 20, 6v1,33]? It had a prominent place in the religious vocabulary of Jesus hearers. It comes from the Hebrew ‘tsedeq’ which means ‘straight’. It came do describe conduct that conformed to the requirements of the law. To be right or to be straight described someone who did not deviate from the demands of the law. This idea has also found a measure of acceptance in English usage - we describe someone whose behaviour seems to be above suspicion as ‘straight’ while a lawbreaker is described as ‘bent’. The word is used in scripture in relation to God himself, to nations and to individuals. Presentation 12

  6. What Is Righteousness? When Jesus speaks of ‘righteousness’ what has he in mind? Some argue that Jesus’ primary concern was with social righteousness, i.e. with social justice, civil rights and opposition to any ideology or rule that deprived men of their God given dignity. Others say that it is the justice of a nation’s legal system or the integrity of a nations business dealings that are uppermost in Jesus’ concern. Now while all these things are vitally important, it is however, possible to express a passion for social justice while displaying a lack of personal righteousness. Personal-heart- righteousness is foundational and from it everything else is intended to flow. Jesus’ initial concern here is with a man’s personal righteousness. Presentation 12

  7. What Is Righteousness? The happiness experienced in fellowship with God is built on the possession of ‘perfect righteousness’. This creates an immediate difficulty. Isaiah writes, ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’Isa. 64v4. That is God’s estimation of human righteousness. The Pharisees were considered the great examples of righteousness in Jesus’ day. They meticulously kept over 600 laws daily. Imagine the shock waves created by Jesus’ words, ‘unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of God’ v20. What is this ‘righteousness’ that clearly lay beyond the reach of those who tried hardest to produce it? The one righteousness that commends itself to God - ‘perfect righteousness’ and only he possesses that! Presentation 12

  8. The Righteousness Of God How does a man come to possess this perfect righteousness? First, l can never possess it if he tries to produce it! As long as a man believes that God’s righteousness is within the grasp of his own ability, given the right environment and the right instruction he is doomed to failure. The scribes and Pharisees tried to produce it by law-keeping but failed. A religious group in Jesus’ day known as the Essenes cut themselves off from the world, they led a monastic existence, in their quest for this righteousness! If perfect righteousness is not something we are capable of producing how do we acquire it? Presentation 12

  9. The Righteousness Of God The answer the Bible gives is that it comes through faith in Jesus. In the opening chapter of his epistle to the Romans, Paul describes a courtroom scene in which one group of men after another are shown to have failed to reach God’s standard of righteousness; the pagan, the moral man and finally the religious man, the Jew. No one could satisfy God’s standard. No one had any persuasive argument to bring before God, ‘every mouth was silenced’’ Rom.3v19. Then into that courtroom and against this pall of utter despair Paul says, God has provided his own righteousness - a righteousness made available to men through the death of Jesus upon the cross. v21ff Presentation 12

  10. The Righteousness Of God God’s righteousness becomes man’s property and expresses itself in three ways. First, it sorts out his relationship with God; ‘God made Christ who had no sin to become sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ 2 Cor. 5v21.This has been paraphrased; ‘Christ bore our unrighteousness and its penalty that we might receive his righteousness and its blessing.’ To receive Christ’s righteousness is to be ‘justified’ a courtroom term which means that God declares and treats us as righteous. The justification which Jesus’ death on the cross brings does not make a man sinless but enables God to treat him as sinless because he sees him clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness. Presentation 12

  11. The Righteousness Of God But Christ’s death is a part of God’s plan not only to treat people of faith as righteous but to make them righteous. This is the second dimension of righteousness. Some people mistakenly view salvation as something that begins and ends with forgiveness. God’s righteousness is seen merely as a ticket for heaven. But Jesus is more than a free pardon he is a new source of power. For not only is the Christian’s standing before God changed but his nature has been transformed. He possesses a new nature and as it is nurtured a glorious transformation of character is worked out in his life. God’s righteousness becomes increasingly evident in the lives of his people. Presentation 12

  12. The Righteousness Of God Jesus is at work in us to make us live out our right relationship with God. When Paul says, ‘God’s grace reigns in our lives through righteousness’ [Rom. 5v21]he is pointing to more than pardon but to the reign of King Jesus in our hearts. Grace reigns through righteousness and never apart from righteousness. So that a hunger for right living is a part of the true Christian’s appetite. If that hunger does not exist we have good grounds for suspecting that any hopes we entertain of being in a right relationship with God are false. We cannot take Christ’s gift of forgiveness and neglect his demands of right living. Many people are content with a Saviour who leaves them where they are, instead of actually saving them from their sin. Presentation 12

  13. The Righteousness Of God A third important aspect of God’s righteousness flows from the other two; and that involves the promotion of right relationships and moral integrity in the world in which we live. This includes both a commitment to evangelism and to the reformation of the society of which we are a part. Mission and social reformation are not alternative routes, they belong together. For each is an application of our desire to see righteousness prevail in God’s world. This change is not instant but progressive and is something that can be hindered by disobedience or by a lack of understanding. Presentation 12

  14. How is Righteousness Sought? Why does Jesus say this blessing comes to those who hunger and thirst for it? First, he is saying that this blessing comes to the man who has an appetite for it. Throughout scripture we find that promises made to those with spiritual appetites. ‘God satisfies him who is thirsty and fills the hungry with good things’ Ps 107v9. Again, it is a contrasting biblical principle that the blessing of God is denied to those who have no appetite for it. Note the words of Mary’s magnificat, ‘He has filled the hungry with good things but the rich he has sent empty away’ Lk. 1v53. What is the hunger of which Jesus speaks? Presentation 12

  15. How is Righteousness Sought? The language Jesus uses expresses an intensity of desire. Picture the pleading expressions and outstretched hands of the famine victims in Africa. Imagine a painful gnawing in the pit of your stomach a craving for satisfaction that refuses to go away. Now, says Jesus, transfer that intensity of desire into a longing for God’s righteousness and you will be satisfied. This appetite is not exhausted at conversion. It should be the controlling passion of the Christian’s life to become more like Jesus. It was the consuming passion in Paul’s life cfPhil. 3v7 ff. Now that is the appetite which Jesus is describing here. Presentation 12

  16. How is Righteousness Sought? Secondly, Jesus language suggests a determined effort. Some people admit that they cannot produce the righteousness that God requires, they know that they need Christ’s righteousness but then sit back to see what will happen. That response is too passive. What does a thirsty man in a desert do? Does he sit down and hope that a well of water will spring up at his feet? No! He will trek for days if need be in search of water. To hunger and thirst after righteousness means to make a determined effort in order to obtain it. How determined are we not only to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness but to see it outworked in our lives? Presentation 12

  17. How is Righteousness Sought? A final characteristic of the truly hungry - thirsty man is single-mindedness. Such a person is not easily distracted. Approach a man who has not eaten for weeks or who has been out in the desert sun for several days without any water and ask if you could interest him in a business deal that would double his investment in six months. He will not be interested. Why? Because it is food and water that are uppermost in his mind. So focussed is he that nothing else is as important as satisfying his hunger or his thirst. Presentation 12

  18. How is Righteousness Sought? John Bunyan reveals this single-mindedness in Pilgrim’s Progress . As Pilgrim left the City of Destruction and set out for the Celestial City, many obstacles were placed in his way. But nothing could distract him from his course of action. Why? He had an appetite for a right relationship for God that needed to be satisfied. Do we have this kind of single-mindedness or, are we too easily distracted? Later in this sermon Jesus says, ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you’ Matt6v33. How easy it is to loose our sense of spiritual priority and for our appetites for Jesus, his righteousness and his kingdom to be dulled! Presentation 12

  19. Conclusion The first three beatitudes make us look within that we might see our poverty of spirit and mourn over the sin that has offended God’s holiness, and cause us to resign the crown of self-assertiveness. This fourth beatitude now turn us out of ourselves. Having discovered the depths of our need we now look beyond ourselves for the source of our help. We cannot meet God’s righteous demands and so we look to Christ. We have no resources that can equip us to lead a righteous life and so we look to Christ. We have little concern for the welfare of others and so we look to Christ. This change, from a heart that self-absorbed to one that reaches out to God and to others marks a turning point from immaturity to maturity in Christian experience. Presentation 12