Martyn Lloyd Jones – “This Beatitude again follows logically from the previous ones; it is a statement to which all the others lead. It is the logical conclusion to which they come, and it is something for which we should all be profoundly thankful and grateful to God. I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian. If it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again.”
This is our focus today, and may God gives us eyes to see, and ears to hear. What are the foundations which MLJ was speaking of?
Let us tread carefully here. What is the righteousness that Jesus is referring to, for which the blessed person is hungering and thirsting for? It is nothing less, than the desire to be free from sin in all its forms. It is sin which separates us from God. It is our thoughts and words, and behaviour that puts us out of step with the Lord. Righteousness puts us in step with God. It is the righteous person who walks with God. As Jesus said, “if you love Me, keep my commandments.” Just as Noah & Abraham & Jacob & Joseph & Moses walked with God – and they could not do so, unless they desired to be righteous.
To h & th for righteousness, is essentially the desire to be right with God. All the trouble in the world today is due to the fact that men & women are not right with God; and because that is so, they have gone wrong everywhere else. That is the teaching of the Bible. So the desire for righteousness – is the desire – the hunger and the thirsting to be right with God. It is the desire to be rid of sin. That is righteousness.
It was said of Cornelius of whom we read in our Bible reading – “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” This man was hungering and thirsting for righteousness. He was meticulous in how he lived. He respected the Jews and their ways of worship. He gave gifts. He feared God and did all he could to live a righteous life – but it was not enough to take away the guilt of his sins.
So he kept hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and seeking to be right with God. Like Martin Luther, who beat himself to be righteous; he allowed himself to be trampled in doorways to be humble; he wore sake cloth to afflict himself to remove all his comforts; but there was nothing he could do to take away the guilt of his sin & to feel right with God.
But then one day, God opened his eyes to receive the word of God. He saw in the book of Romans “the just shall live by faith” – he read Rom.4:5 “to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” And he understood that the righteousness for which he longed could never be earned. It could only be received by faith. And suddenly, his hungering and thirsting to be free from the guilt of his sin was over. And thereafter, he preached ‘justification by faith alone.’
Cornelius needed to hear the same thing – and the angel told him to send for Peter. You notice the angel did not preach the gospel. God’s method is that the gospel must go forth from your mouth and my mouth. If it was through angels, there would be evangelistic campaigns all over the world. There would be angels preaching on every corner. But no. This greatest of all messages is saved for weaklings such as you and I; to take it forth & preach it.
And when Peter arrived, he preached to Cornelius and his household, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. … but they killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead … and He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the One …appointed as judge of the living and the dead. And all the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” At that moment everything was different to Cornelius. The moment he heard those words, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” – “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” Cornelius believed. His hungering and thirsting to be free from the guilt of his sin was over. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.”
The world loves to talk about righteousness, providing they are not the ones being examined. Lance Armstrong has copped his fair share of examination. He has not been righteous, and the world has said so. In the midst of the whirlwind of accusations is there anyone hungering & thirsting after righteousness. They all have their own agendas & vested interests. The sponsors who a threatening to sue Lance for the return of their money are not interested in righteousness. They are probably lying more than Lance. They certainly would not be willing to pay back all the additional profits generated while they used Lance’s name in the sale of their products.
The sports media are not interested in righteousness. They were happy to gloat over Lance while he was successful – it was money to them. They are equally happy to gloat over his demise, because it is more money for them.
Perhaps the only one who is remotely interested in righteousness is Lance himself. When he saw his 13 year old son was defending him to his school mates, he knew it was time to stop lying. It was at least a step in the right direction. Only the day of judgment will reveal all.
But one thing is for sure – the only ones truly hungering and thirsting for the righteousness to be free from the power of sin are Christians. Only the Christian is poor in spirit, and mourns because of sin within him.
Does anyone know what this is? Antiques Road Show. Recently on Antiques Road Show a lady arrived with an array of crockery. She fastidiously lifted it out of its packaging and carefully set it out with a delicate touch. Finally she pulled out a glass paper weight holding a couple of pansies and pushed it to one side. The moment arrived for the valuation and the Antique Dealer looked casually over the collection then said, generally speaking there is nothing of great value here, except for one item. This is an item I have never seen on our show ever. In fact the value of it is quite staggering. Do you know what item I am talking about. She said – I have no idea. He said – there are probably only 5 of these in the world and no one knows where they all are – except for this one now. I will tell you what I am talking about – he picked up the glass weight. Do you know what this is worth? And all ears where bent inwards. Probably in the vicinity of £22,000.
She had in her reach a precious valuable treasure, and she did not know it’s worth. And you & I are not much different. We have in our grasp the most precious treasure in the whole world. We are the only ones who have access to it; but sadly, so often we let the opportunity slip. What is it? It is righteousness. It is the ability to walk with God. This is what is given to us through Jesus Christ, through the forgiveness of sins. This is what the Bible teaches us.
Rom.5:1-2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” No one else has access to God, except Christians. Jesus said, “no one comes to the Father but by Me.” And friends, we have access to God for one reason – we need His grace each day. We need grace to overcome the power of sin.
In one sense, the power of sin is broken for the Christian, because he can see it. He is not dead to it, as he once was. But having seen it, we need grace to fight it. This is called sanctification. God works it in us. And He does so, through our desire to hunger & thirst for righteousness. Is that your will & desire at the moment? “God works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Is He working that in you at this moment? Are you making excuses for your sins? Are you covering your sin with false reasoning? Are you hungering & thirsting for righteousness; for a more consistent walk with God?
Let me put it to you in the specific words of Scripture. This is how the Apostle Paul described his hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
“I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. (justification by faith)
That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Sanctification)
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Phi.3:8-17
So you can see – anyone who hears the word of God can have no excuse, if they are not counted among those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. What Paul calls “the power of His resurrection – the power to overcome sin – the power to be conformed to His death – the power to press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God.”
Paul was not content to simply say – I am thankful that Christ has laid hold of me, and leave it at that. Because the effect of Christ laying hold of us, is that we in turn seek to lay hold of that, for which Christ laid hold of us – which is righteousness.
Friends, let us not try to imagine, that Christianity is anything other than this. I say that, because many; many have the idea that it is something else. Perhaps some of us. Do you imagine you are a Christian, and yet you are not h & th for righteousness. Is such a thing possible? Let Jesus answer that. “Many will come to Me in that day – and say ‘Lord Lord …..!” – “Why call me Lord…?
“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Do you think we can read in the Bible, the words of the Psalmist – Psa 17:3 “I have [purposed] that my mouth shall not transgress.” And feel we should be exempt from that?
Can we know of Daniel and his friends (Dan 1:8), that he “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies.” And feel it has no bearing on us?
Can we read about Ruth who said, “The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.” And not feel that we have an obligation to show the same spirit?
Can we read about Esther on the front page of our church bulletin today – “I will go to the king, which is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Don’t wait until you are on your death bed before you make this resolve, or the words of William Secker, which are also in our Bulletin will apply to you – “Many think not of living any holier, till they can live no longer.”
Let us finish the sermon with prayer. Lord save us from a hard heart, and from a divided heart. Preserve us from all worldliness, from strife & envy & lust. Make us holy. You have given us access into Your Presence, and that is what we ask. Make us holy. Work in us to will & do the things that please You. Cleanse the inside of our lives from all filthiness of the spirit. Give us strength to go through our hearts and lives, and tear down the altars to false gods.
Let the outside of our lives be clean too. We come back to this. Make us holy O God. Do this for Christ sake. But we are not hoping Lord, that by our holiness we can make ourselves acceptable – because we know our righteousnesses will always be as filthy rags – but we pray; we hunger and thirst, that You will not leave us as we are.
Lord keep us from stumbling. If some of us have stumbled and fallen heavily, restore them according to Your great grace & mercy. If any among us have been overtaken in some trespass, then enable us to work together in love, to gently restore them.
Save us from that deadly of all temptations, to cover our sins and think we can prosper by so doing. We will not cover our sins but confess them in order that the blood of Christ would cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We lay claim to the same promise that uplifted David – “I said I will confess my sins and my iniquities I have not hid, and You forgave the iniquity of his sin.” Father help us all, and bless us now for Jesus sake. Amen.