This sermon is number 6 in a series of 10
The Beatitudes - Part 6
"Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst After Righteousness"
by David Legge | Copyright © 1999 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Matthew chapter 5 and we begin to read at verse one to refresh our minds with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ -- and that's important to remember, that these words are no ordinary words. Not only are they the word of God, as from Genesis to Revelation all the words are, but they are actually the words of the Lord Jesus Christ also.
"And seeing the multitudes" - verse one - "He went up into a mountain: and when He was set," - or sat down - "His disciples came unto Him: And He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that do mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and shall persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." - to fill up - "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Let us pray together: Lord we worship Thee at this time, as the great God of eternity, the great God of Thy word, the great God of truth; and we bow before Thee in reverence and and in fear. And we ask that through Thy word, Thou wouldst speak to Thy children -- for Lord, we need Thee, we need to be satisfied with Thee, we need to be filled by the Bread of heaven, the Bread of God -- the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray, as we have sung already, that Thou would fill us with Thy Spirit, hearts that full surrender know, that the streams of living water, from our inner man may flow. For Christ's sake, Amen.
The nutritionists tell us that we are what we eat. Now I don't know how literally you want to take that, or interpret it, but literally it could mean that if you eat a fish supper, well, you are a fish supper. And if you eat a steak, well, walking down the road you're a steak. But scientifically speaking, and medically speaking, what you are is what you eat. For what we eat and what we take into our body and inwardly digest, it becomes part of us. One of the best illustrations of that is water, that we drink water for many reasons, but our body is made up of water in the majority, but also our blood is comprised of water. So we need to drink water because that water becomes part of us, it becomes part of our body. We are what we eat.
But sadly many people have seen this within the natural realm and they have failed to see it within the spiritual realm. They have failed to see that in our world, whether they're saved or unsaved, that if they feed continually upon violence, upon excitement, upon erotica, upon all that the world has to offer, materialism and money -- eventually those things that they feed on will personify them, they will become those things. They will become what they eat. A great scholar on one occasion said, "As you think, you are". The things you think, you become. The things you inwardly digest, you personify them.
The great singer Elvis Presley, he never ever understood this. If any of you can remember Elvis Presley's life (I can't - I have to read about it), but if you can remember it, you will read in his biography that his life was a pitiful pursuit of materialism. It is noted that he followed after, not only materials, but sensuality of all kind. And in his hey-day it is said that $5 million was his yearly income. Five million dollars, now that was a wee while ago. And in his first two years of stardom he had an overturn of $100 million. It is said of him that he had three jets, he had two Cadillacs, he had a Rolls-Royce, he had a Lincoln Continental, a Buick and a Chrysler station wagon, a Jeep, a dune buggy, a converted bus and three motorbikes. His most favourite car was the famous 1960 Cadillac Limousine model. The top of it was veneered and covered in pearl, literal pearl, white veneer. The body all around it was sprayed with forty coats of specially prepared paint that included within it crushed diamonds and fish-scales. Nearly all the metal trimmings around that car were plated in 18-carat gold. Inside the car there were two gold covered telephones; a gold vanity case containing a gold electric razor, gold hair-clippers, electric shoe-buffer; a gold-plated television; a record player; an amplifier; air-conditioning and a refrigerator that was capable of making ice in two minutes solid. He had everything, didn't he? Didn't he? He had everything in this world's terms. This world that we live in, in all their philosophies, in all their religious beliefs, materially speaking and sensually speaking -- and we wouldn't even have time, and it would probably be immoral for us even to talk about what he went into in a sensual, sexual way. But in many people's terms, this man had everything! But do you know what he failed to recognise? That what you eat, you are. And if you know anything about that man's life, you will know this: that he died in his death as a victim of his appetites.
What does the Lord Jesus Christ say? "Blessed", verse six, "are they which do hunger and thirst". But the verse doesn't stop there, because all of us hunger and thirst. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled". I want to ask you five questions this morning. And the first question I want to pose to you, and I want you to honestly try to answer these within your own heart and soul, is this: What are you hungry for? It doesn't matter whether you are saved or unsaved: What are you hungry for? What is it that drives your life, that motivates you for living, getting up in the morning, taking your breakfast, feeding yourself, living? What are you living for? Is it the material or is it the spiritual? Are you like the pagan, that is engrossed in the pursuit of possessions; everything you can get, bring to yourself, put into your body; everything that you can do that will make you feel - in this world's terms - more worthwhile? Or is it as the Lord Jesus said in Matthew chapter 6 and verse 33, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will follow after that'.
What is this righteousness that the Lord Jesus talks of? What are you hungry for? Are you hungry for the world's goods or are you hungry for the righteousness that the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of in this verse, verse six? What is it? Well, to some people in our world, and sadly our church, it is a form of Victorian prudishness. It's a narrow-mindedness, it may even be seen as a violent legalism. And within the church, and within some Christians -- even now among them -- it is seen as something that is totally unnecessary, and it's certainly not popular.
Ask yourself, Christian: we're prepared to hunger and thirst after anything, aren't we? We can hunger and thirst after spiritual maturity, and that's good. We can hunger and thirst after real happiness, real joy, deep down in our hearts. We even hunger after the Spirit's power, and if we're not there's something wrong with that. We can hunger after witnessing skills, and ways in which to cleverly win others to Christ. Others run after preachers, to one preacher, to another preacher; from conference to conference; from meeting to meeting -- some out every night of the week -- seeking a blessing from God. And they may even have a hunger after a spiritual experience -- but is that a hunger after righteousness? Is it?
I would like to suggest to you all this morning that it's not. It's not a hunger after righteousness, because there is a progression here within the Beatitudes that we have seen week after week. What was the first Beatitude? "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". What was that? Intellectual knowledge of the sin that is in your heart. Beatitude number two: "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted". What is that? That is emotional knowledge, emotional feeling of what you are like in the sight of God. Three Beatitude: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth". What was that? Being willing not only to know in your head, to feel in your heart, but to be seen for what you are to those around. Social knowledge of your sinfulness. You see, it's step-by-step. Verse three is the first step, verse two is the second -- or sorry, verse three, verse four is the second -- verse five is the third and verse six is the fourth and you can't jump from one to four, you can't do it. You have to come all the way one, two, three and then four. Why do you have to do that? Because it's a progression. You see, having the righteousness of God and Christ, and being filled by it, it's not bringing to yourself things -- but do you know what it is? It's emptying yourself of things! It's getting all the rot and the dirt and the sin, the self-righteousness, even your selfish goodness that is within you that you think is great -- it's getting it all out. And all you can do is make yourself empty. Why? Because it's a progression, it's not optional. Dr Lloyd-Jones said this, "If this verse blesses you, if this verse speaks to you, you can be certain that you are a Christian. But if you don't know what this verse means, if it even makes you feel squeamish when you think of the implications of it and the consequences in your life, you can be almost sure -- and I do not say this lightly -- that you are not a Christian".
This righteousness, what is it? Well, there are three types of righteousness within the word of God. The first type is legal righteousness -- that is the righteousness we read of in the book of Romans and the book of Galatians. That we are justified by faith, we have been made righteous, the slate has been made clean -- the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, that means His goodness, His holiness, His ability to keep the law and holy rules of God -- it has been credited, imputed, imparted to our account, into our life. That's how you get saved. And if you are here this morning and you're not saved, you may forget about it, because you'll never get saved if you're trying to get saved by yourself, if you're trying to work works of righteousness, if you're trying to climb your way to heaven, if you're doing anything -- going to church, being religious, trying even to be a good citizen in the community -- forget about it! For the only way a man is justified before God, is if God the Father gives to you by His Spirit the righteousness of Jesus Christ. It's like God writing a cheque for you with Christ's righteousness -- you taking it to your bank account of your soul and life and cashing it in. My friend, if you're relying on anything else this morning you'll be doomed and you'll be damned, because there's nothing else that saves but Christ.
That's legal righteousness. Then there is moral righteousness, and I don't believe that what the Lord Jesus is speaking of here was legal righteousness. But I believe it was moral righteousness, and we'll learn in a minute what that is. But out of moral righteousness, flows social righteousness. What is that? Good works, doing good deeds, deeds of love, deeds of kindness, deeds of Christian society -- out of moral righteousness flows social righteousness, because faith without works is absolutely dead. If you look at verse 10 and verse 20 you see that the word righteousness is used again, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". Verse 20, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees", that cannot mean legal righteousness, because if you have the righteousness of Christ in your heart, your righteousness can never exceed another's righteousness -- because they're both the righteousness of Christ, and nobody can top that.
So this is moral righteousness that we're talking about. And indeed throughout the whole of the Sermon on the Mount this is the righteousness that is talked about seven times. You know what it is? It is the desire for righteousness to prevail, goodness to prevail in my life and in my heart and in the world. It is a thirst, an increasing, amplified thirst after the sense and the need of God in my life. It is seeking, it is following hard after God's will in your life, for God to be the centre of your life, the centre of your motives, your activities, your purposes, your family, your work, everything. For God to have everything and be in everything. What is it? That great Scottish preacher put it like this, Murray McCheyne, "Lord, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be". That's what is. To hunger and thirst after this righteousness, asking God.
What are you hungry for? I'm asking you: what are you hungry for? But secondly, how hungry are you for it? Maybe you say, 'David, of course I want that. I'm a Christian, what else would I want?' But let me say: how hungry are you? Not just feeling something that is missing in your life as a Christian, not even simply an earnest yearning in your heart, that's not what it is. It's not even a relentless pursuit. This is something that is all-inspiring, this is something that is, humanly speaking, all-consuming. It is the pursuit after God's will in the most extreme terms. You know we can't really enter into this morning, because in the days of Palestine, you know, thirst was serious and hunger was serious. If we're thirsty now we go to the tap. If we're hungry now we go to the fridge, or go to McDonald's. Fast food, the food's smothering us now -- but in those days to be hungry or to be thirsty was a desperate situation and there was nothing could be done but to seek hard after drink and food, because people were never far from dehydration or from starvation -- this isn't a comfortable picture. This is an awful picture. It's a picture of intense, a desperate hunger, not wishy-washy desire for spiritual growth or maturity -- but a starvation within your heart and your soul for God and to see God in the midst of your life. How hungry are you for God? How hungry are you for God in your life? And this is a continual hunger, the word of God tells us this. For in verse six the tense of what the Lord Jesus Christ said is this: those who are hungering and thirsting continually, day after day. This, let me tell you, is the secret to Christian success. A hearty spiritual appetite where you can get never enough of God.
Do you remember the days when you were first saved? Do you? I know what Christians mean when they say: 'well, those days suddenly peter out and the joy that you had and the satisfaction that you had -- well, you have to be mature and you have to face certain things'. And in a measure that's true, and sometimes not all of that joy stays, but I think the devil has hoodwinked us, you know. Because the Lord says here that there is a joy after hungering for God and it's continual, it's to last the rest of your Christian days. And if you don't have the thirst after God that you had when you were saved, an insatiable desire to know God, ask yourself today: what has happened? Is it job, is it family, is it studies, is it position? Whatever it is, something has taken over, and taken that place. Let me quote Mr Darby for a minute, "To be hungry is not enough", he says, "I must be really starving to know what is God's heart toward me. When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed on the husks of the pigs, but when he was starving he went to his father". Let me say this: the church of Jesus Christ at large is feeding on the husks of the pigs. We are like children -- and like someone said, when a child, a toddler, is crawling across the floor and there's something dirty on the floor, it doesn't know any better and it picks it up and puts it in its mouth. And the church of Jesus Christ at large are babes putting everything into their mouth, doing all the things that seem right in their own eyes. Even we ourselves, in our Christian lives, and we have forgotten because we have not been starving after God -- we've only been hungry. Jesus said: 'Blessed are they who are desperately hungry and thirsty for righteousness'.
Thirdly, third question: what motivates your hunger? Not just what are you hungry for, or how hungry are you, but what motivates your hunger? The Lord Jesus said, 'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled'. Is that what motivates your hunger after God -- so that you will be filled? But let me ask you: filled with what? We're all hungry here. We all sense a hunger, we mightn't all be starving after God, but we're all in some way hungry. But many of us watch more murders and adulteries on television in one week than our grandparents read about in their whole lifetime. Many of us fill our lives with filth and dirt even now unconsciously, without a twinge of conscience about it. And what we are doing is making a judgement of tacit approval upon the evil that is in this world -- and the pollsters tell us today that the gap, ethically speaking, morally speaking, between the world and the church is narrowing.
Friends this morning, some of us are as unconcerned about the lost as they are about themselves. If you have a holy discontent in your life, the Lord Jesus says you are blessed. What does that mean? I'll tell you what this means: it means being fanatical about Christ! Being, if I can say it reverently, 'bananas' about the Gospel! Are you approved of God in that way? We learnt that 'approved of God' means His smile, being blessed is to have Christ smile on you -- if you're not content with your Christian life, praise the Lord, for you shouldn't be!
But fourthly, I want to say this to you, not just ask you a question of what you're hungry for, and how hungry are you, and what motivates your hunger: but do you want to be filled? Do you? Well listen, let me give you a warning, because being filled is an 'insatiable satisfaction'. What does that mean? Well, to be satisfied is to be filled. But to be insatiable is to be continually unfilled. This filling of the Lord Jesus Christ, with righteousness is something that once you are filled, you need to be continually filled by it because the more you get the more you hunger after, and although we're filled we never are truly satisfied. We always seek more of God, of Christ and of His righteousness. This righteousness is so wonderful that you always want more. Lensky (sp?) translated it and put it like this, "This hungering and thirsting continues and in fact", listen, "increases in the very act of being satisfied". The more you're satisfied, the more you get of Christ, the more you get of the word, the more you get of the Holy Ghost, the more you get of prayer the more and more you want! It's like Pringles -- 'once you pop, you can't stop'. And it's 'moreish', the more of Christ you get, the more of Christ you want.
Let me illustrate it with two characters from the word of God. Moses: Moses was standing, looking after those sheep and what did he see? A burning bush -- can you imagine if this week you saw a burning bush when you were walking through a forest park? You would write a book on it, you would shoot a video on it and you would live the rest of your Christian life upon it, wouldn't you? That's what I would do. Then what did he do? He delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt! He, through God. He raised his hand and the Red Sea opened, what would we think if that happened within our lives. Think of the mighty things he did, he was trusted with the plans of the tabernacle of God, he saw God guide the Israelites through the wilderness with the pillar, the Shekinah glory of God. He saw water come from a rock, he saw manna come from heaven. But do you know what Moses said? 'I know I've seen all that Lord, I know that. But Lord, show me Thy glory'. I would have said, 'Moses, now hold on a minute, I think you've seen quite a bit. I think you've seen enough, haven't you? I think you've done well for a man of God in your lifespan'. But Moses wanted more, because it's an insatiable satisfaction, it's continual. Think about Paul. In Acts 9, he saw the Lord Jesus Christ -- he saw Him in conversion -- then again in the book of Acts further on, in the city of Corinth it says, that he saw Him again! And then we read further on in, in Corinthians, that he was actually translated to heaven itself and he had seen things that were unspeakable to utter for any man, and he said in Timothy 'I know whom I have believed'. Yet he could say this, 'that I might know Him'. Paul couldn't get enough. Can you get enough? My friend, if you are content where you're sitting listen to the words of Bernard of Clairvoux, when he said in the hymn, 'We taste Thee Oh Thou Living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still. We drink of Thee, the Fountain Head and thirst our souls from Thee to fill'.
Let me ask you, fifthly and finally: how's your appetite? How is it? You see, today the world is what it eats. It's hungry after sex, it's hungry after wealth, it's hungry after violence and excitement. But the tragedy is that many Christians have this hunger in their own soul and they're feeding it. They're seeking the same things as the world are, and they find that they are as empty and pathetic as the world themselves!
How do you know if you're hungering and thirsting after righteousness? One: are you satisfied with yourself? For Christian friend, if you are, you're in trouble. The old puritan said, 'He has most need of righteousness who least wants it'. And the person in here that is not saved and doesn't even consider or want to get saved, you're in need of it more. Do you think of everyone else as worse than yourself? Or that you're right and everyone else is wrong? Do externals in the Christian life satisfy you? The way the person is dressed, the version of the Bible they read -- I'm not saying that's unimportant, but is that what satisfies you? Do you fill your appetite with the wrong stuff? Do materials influence the way you feel in life? Is the word of God sweet to your taste? Or do you say: 'I want Christ, but I want my sin as well. I want Christ, but I want my money. I want Christ, but I want my pride -- just keep a little bit of it Lord, just a wee fix for myself. I want Christ, but I want to keep my lust'. Listen, think of the hungry man crawling through the desert, crying 'Water! Water!', looking for that oasis. Does he want water and a car? Does he want water and a house? Does he want water and a new suit? He wants water, and water alone! For only water can satisfy. Christian, it's only the Lord Jesus Christ that can fill that gap in your life. Sinner, it's only His righteousness that can save you and can give you peace and can give your heart joy! That's all, He alone can make those waters spring within your soul.
Let me finish with this story. It is Remembrance Sunday today and there is a famous military leader, by the name of Major B. Gilbert. And he tells in his book entitled "The Last Crusade" of the thirst that he and his men suffered in the Palestinian desert in World War I. Listen, now I'm going to quote what he said: 'Our heads ached, our eyes became bloodshot and dim in the blinding glare of the sun. Our tongues began to swell over our lips, our lips turned to purplish black and eventually burst. Those who dropped out of the column were never seen again. But the desperate force battled on to Sherijah (sp?), and there were wells at Sherijah and they had been cooled in the concrete that they were built with. And these men did fight, they did fight for their lives and when we came to the station in Sherijah we left our heels behind running after that water. I believe that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on that trip from Beersheba to Sherijah. If such were our thirst for God and for His righteousness, for His will in our lives, a consuming, all-embracing, pre-occupying desire. How rich we would be in the fruit of the Spirit".
In Luke chapter 16 and verse 24, the rich man was in hell -- and some of you will be in hell if you don't trust Christ -- but he was in hell, and what did he ask for? Just a drop of water, just a drop of water on my tongue. Christian, that's the kind of thirst that you ought to have for God. May God bless His word to our hearts.
Our Father, we are so preoccupied at times with ourselves and with this world, Lord, that we fail to be hungry and thirsty in a desperate way for Thy righteousness, and Thy power, and Thy presence in our lives. Lord, give us an insatiable satisfaction, a thirst that cannot be quenched with Christ alone, but more of Christ, and more of Christ, and more of Christ -- until that day when we see Christ, and we are as He is. Lord speak, and help us in the stillness after this meeting not to be preoccupied with those things again of this world, not to be engaged in foolish conversation -- but Lord, for once, help us like the deer that pants after the water brook, that our soul would pant after Thee our God. For Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth tape in his Beatitudes series, titled "Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst After Righteousness" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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