************ Sermon on Matthew 5:6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 1, 1999
"Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness"
I Solution to World's Problems
A This past week we heard the news that Cary Stayner, a motel handyman, has admitted to killing and beheading a naturalist in Yosemite and the three Yosemite sightseers because voices in his head told him to do this. You all have heard of Mark Barton, the amateur stock trader, who killed 9 people in Atlanta, Georgia this past week – a couple of days after he beat to death his second wife and two children. Our public school superintendent, Linda Gonzales, said that the Visalia Unified School District has SAT scores that are 10 to 20 points too low. A recent study shows that hate crimes are on the rise in our country and hate sites are proliferating on the World Wide Web. In a major reversal in environmental policy the government has decided that it was wrong when it ordered the replacement of lead in gasoline with the additive, MTBE. And, during the past year a number of HMOs have stopped serving patients in Tulare and Kings Counties.
A glimpse at these and other recent headlines tells the story: in this country and around the world there are real problems.
Are there any solutions? As politicians position themselves before next year's primaries we hear many different solutions:
-more money on school buildings and programs
-stronger gun-control laws
-a patient bill-of-rights
-increased training and funding for the police
-heavier fines for polluters
-a national education exam for pupils and teachers
Unfortunately, none of these proposals really work as long-term solutions. They end up being but a waste of time and money. I say this because the proposals all deal with symptoms rather than problems.
Topic: SinIn the same way, the proposed solutions to our world's problems are but temporary because they avoid the real problem. You see, the real problem of our world is sin and its symptoms are murder, ignorance, hate-crimes, air and water pollution, and the like. Any real solution must deal with this problem of sin.
Title: The Real Problem of the World
Think, for a moment, of a cancer patient filled with pain. His doctor can deal with the symptom by prescribing pain-killers but that is no solution to the real problem of cancer; it is but a temporary solution with no long-term cure. If that is all that the doctor did, he wouldn't be much of a doctor.
B There is only one solution to the problems of the world. We find it in our text:
(Mt 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.If every human being would only hunger and thirst for righteousness, all of this world's problems will be solved. If you want to do something about the state of the world or nation, if you want to make a difference when it comes to murder, ignorance, hate-crimes, air and water pollution, there is only one solution: a hunger and thirst for righteousness.
C One of the greatest tragedies in the life of the church today is the way in which she proposes political or economic solutions to the real problems of the world. She makes vague pronouncements about war and peace, nuclear weapons, apartheid, human rights, economic justice, child care, and the like. In other words, she joins the world in offering useless solutions to enormous problems. The church, of all organizations, should know better. She knows the only solution lies in the words of Christ:
(Mt 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. The job of the church is to be the church. Her calling is to preach the Gospel in all its simplicity and purity.
Topic: GospelThe church can learn from Domino's. Her mission is not politics or economics. Her mission is the Gospel and she must concentrate all of her efforts on that.
One of the most successful companies in the fast food industry is Domino's Pizza. It is no surprise that the founder of the company had a clearly defined statement of mission: "Domino's has a single goal. Its mission: to deliver a high-quality pizza, hot, within 30 minutes at a fair price." Everything they do at Domino's is centered on that goal.
A "Blessed," says Jesus, "Happy, many many times over," says Jesus, "are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." Now the whole world is seeking for happiness; there is no question about that. Everybody wants to be happy. That is the great motive behind every act and ambition, behind all work and all striving and all effort. Everything is designed for happiness. We even find it in our Constitution which guarantees to all the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The great tragedy of the world is that, though it seeks for happiness, it never seems to find it. It searches for happiness in its leisure activities of sports, camping, golf, fishing; in pre-marital or extra-marital sex; in drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; in work and business; in money and possessions.
The world searches for happiness, it hungers and thirsts after happiness, but it never finds it. It can't find it because happiness is one thing we can never find. According to the Scriptures happiness is never something we should look for, go for, aim for, or pursue; rather, it is always the result of seeking something else. According to the beatitudes, happiness is ours when we trust in God (poor in spirit), weep over our sinful human condition (mourn), refuse to assert ourselves (meek), and hunger and thirst for righteousness. The world has made happiness its goal, its objective. But whenever you put happiness before righteousness or meekness or dependence upon God, you are doomed to misery. To be happy you can't seek happiness; to be happy you must seek righteousness. That is the great message of the Bible from beginning to end.
B I'm afraid that there are many within the church who have never learned this lesson either. Some make the mistake of seeking for happiness in the things of this world. Others make the mistake of seeking for happiness by going from meeting to meeting, retreat to retreat, convention to convention, church to church. They are always going, searching, seeking for some wonderful thing, some experience, that is going to fill them with great joy and flood them with some ecstasy. They see other people filled with this inner joy, but they themselves do not seem to have it. So they seek it and covet it, always hungering and thirsting; but they never get it.
I repeat what I already said: when we seek for happiness we will never find it. We are not meant to hunger and thirst for experience; we are not meant to hunger and thirst after blessedness. If we want to be happy and blessed, we must hunger and thirst after righteousness.
(Mt 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. What is this righteousness Jesus tells us to seek after? In the Bible the word "righteousness" has a variety of meanings. They are all closely connected. Yet they differ.
First, righteousness has a legal meaning. In the divine court of law we are pronounced "not guilty" because of the blood of Christ. This righteousness means a right relationship with God. Don't forget, we are sinners. Our sin separates us from God. But when God through Christ or because of Christ declares us righteous, when He forgives us our sin, our relationship with Him is restored. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for this righteousness, for a right relationship with God in and through Christ.
B Second, righteousness has an ethical/moral meaning. In both the Old and New Testaments the word characterizes people who live in obedience to the law. We think here of what is said of Zechariah and Elizabeth:
(Lk 1:6) Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. Other such people are Noah (Gen 6:9), Joseph (Mt 1:19), and Simeon (Lk 2:25).
Those with this kind of righteousness want to be free from the power of sin. They don't want to be prisoners of their appetites, servants of their desires, slaves of Satan. But more than that, those with this kind of righteousness also want to be free from the very desire for sin. Furthermore, those with this kind of righteousness long to be positively holy. They want to show the fruit of the Spirit in their every action. They want to make God their lifetime companion. Their supreme desire is to be like Christ in every way: loving, sacrificial, giving, kind, compassionate, patient, obedient. Jesus pronounces blessed those who hunger and thirst for this kind of righteousness, who want to get rid of sin on the outside and on the inside, who want to live holy lives, who want to be like Christ.
C Third, righteousness has a future meaning. This is the righteousness God will reveal one day when He will set all things straight. On that day He will punish all evildoers and reward the elect. He will unmask all injustice and praise all faithfulness. On that day wrong will be overthrown and right will triumph. Sin and death will be banished and joy and life will be exalted. Jesus pronounces blessed those who hunger and thirst for this future righteousness too.
IV Hunger and Thirst
(Mt 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. What does it mean to hunger and thirst? It does NOT mean we can attain righteousness by our own efforts. It is only God through Christ Who can make us legally righteous. It is only God through the Spirit Who can make us morally righteous. And It is only God Who brings about the final righteousness of the new heaven and new earth.
B Well, what does it mean to hunger and thirst after righteousness? In the Greek the words "hunger" and "thirst" means to eagerly long for something, to ardently crave something. Hunger and thirst recognizes a deep and profound need that continues until it is satisfied. It is not a passing desire, a fleeting emotion. It is not like the righteousness of Israel during the days of Hosea; a righteousness, says the prophet, that is like "a morning cloud" – it is here one minute and gone the next (Hosea 6:4). To hunger and thirst after righteousness means to long for it as much as a beggar hungers for a crust of bread. You want it so much that you are filled with pain until you get it.
C If we really hunger and thirst for righteousness, then we will involve ourselves in God's process and make use of His tools. One of God's chief instruments for bringing about righteousness is the Word. We listen to that Word as it is preached; and need I remind you that we have two preaching services a Sunday. We listen to that Word as it is read around the supper table. We study that Word with fellow believers. Another instrument used of God is prayer. We are to pray for righteousness. We confess our sin and ask God for forgiveness. We ask for deliverance from evil and triumph over temptation. We pray for the full coming of the Kingdom.
A Lastly, let us look briefly at Christ's promise. Jesus says,
(Mt 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. This is one of the most gracious, glorious statements to be found in the Bible. God promises that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness "will be filled."
Those who come to God to fill their greatest need, those who look to God for righteousness, will never be disappointed. They will be filled. They will be blessed. They will be happy. "Filled" here means satisfied. This doesn't mean they have every good thing in life. It does mean that they have God and His Christ, His Kingdom and His righteousness. And when you have God and Christ what more can you possibly need? It is the Psalmist who best expresses this thought:
(Ps 73:25) Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Those who come to God will be satisfied, they will be blessed, they will be filled. But those who look elsewhere, they are bound to be disappointed.
In the June 14, 1968 issue of "Life" magazine appeared a picture of David Kennedy sitting by a pond outside the White House. The picture had been taken by Aunt Jacqueline and was inscribed by his uncle with the words, "A future president inspects his property -- John Kennedy." Though he had name, status, wealth, and all that money could buy he was found dead by his own hand at age 28. Money can buy the things of this world but cannot satisfy man's inner longings.
B There is a puzzle here. On this earth, in this life, we are already filled by God in Christ. Yet, Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst for more. In other words, we are pronounced perfect, yet not perfect; filled, yet longing for more; fully satisfied in Him, yet wanting more of Him. You see, on this earth and in this life our hunger will never be fully satisfied, nor our thirst fully quenched.
There is a warning here. Beware, those of you who are satisfied with the present, thinking you have attained all there is to attain. Beware, those of you who are satisfied with the past, thinking nothing can beat the good old days. For, we must hunger and thirst for a righteousness that is better than the past's and the present's. The Scribes and Pharisees thought they had it made, that they had attained all there is to attain. But Jesus bursts their bubble when He says,
(Mt 5:20) For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
On this earth, in this life, then, there is a tension. There is a tension between being filled/satisfied on the one hand, and hungering and thirsting on the other hand.
C This tension will exist until that final righteousness of God is revealed. As John writes in Revelation:
(Rev 7:16) Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.In the new heaven and new earth those who have come to God to fill their greatest need will be finally filled, they will be fully satisfied.
(Mt 5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Are you filled? Are you one of the happy, blessed ones? Are you hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Those are the questions. What are your answers?
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