A Passion For Righteousness

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.. . . . The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” —  Proverbs 10:7, 11 (ESV)

With each beatitude that makes up the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues to prove that He is concerned with the position of our hearts. The fourth beatitude, says, “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”

If we want to understand the Fourth Beatitude, we need to know what Jesus means by the term righteousness. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those whose goal is righteousness, for they shall attain their goal.” Nor did He say, “Blessed are those who have a desire for righteousness, for they will have their heart’s desire.” Rather, He spoke in everyday terms regarding intense hunger. We are not simply to seek righteousness or have righteousness as a goal; we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. He pronounced a blessing on the ones who are hungry for it. Blessed are those whose thirst for righteousness is a consuming passion.

Sometimes athletes that have signed huge contracts lose some of their passion and are content to rest on their laurels. When pundits see this happening they usually comment by saying, “they’re not hungry like they were before they were established.” As always Jesus is the example in which to follow. The New Testament talks a great deal about how the zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him: “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” (John 2:17). This language means that Jesus’ passion for the affairs of His heavenly Father consumed Him.   

Jesus promises in this beatitude that if we strive for righteousness, we will be filled and satisfied. This is the distinguishing factor between Christianity and so many other religions. Jesus wants to know us, and He wants us to draw near to Him and seek His presence. Jesus tells us that if we truly desire a right relationship with Him, then that is exactly what we will have.

In the final analysis, we want the approval of God—but the applause of men can be deafening, and it can cause us to turn our attention toward achieving everything else apart from what Christ set as the priority for His people: to be righteous. Being righteous is not all that complicated; it means having a passion to do what is right.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you define righteousness?  
  2. What are some advantages of righteousness? 

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger And Thirst

“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” –  Matthew 5:6.

The word “blessed” is tossed around on a regular basis. Often the word “blessed” is associated with earthly prosperity and happiness. But what does it biblically mean to be blessed?

Many think that if they had abundant wealth, an absence of regret and suffering, excellent health, good employment, unending gratification of their desires, and kind treatment of everyone, this would mean they are blessed. But in the Beatitudes, Jesus turns this kind of thinking upside down. In this passage (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus sets forth characteristics of the ideal person of His kingdom: being poor, mourning, humility, hunger, thirst, rejection, and persecution, all qualities that were present in the life and character of the Man who spoke them. Through these experiences, Jesus says that the disciple would be blessed. To be blessed means that we receive God’s favor. We receive His endorsement and approval.

In verse 6, Jesus speaks these words, “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” Hunger and thirst represent the deepest desires we have. What is your deepest desire? What do you hunger and thirst for? Is it control? Maybe it’s comfort? But here’s the thing, none of these things bring blessings to our lives. We are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

But have we ever had a hunger and a thirst for God? The answer is yes when we face a health crisis when nothing else mattered but experiencing His peace. There are other times that I’ve clearly needed the Lord in huge ways and hungered for His presence.  But how often have I really hungered and really thirsted for righteousness?

The hunger and thirst described by Jesus in this beatitude are not some kind of hunger that could be satisfied with a mid-morning snack or a cup of coffee. This is the hunger and thirst of one who is desperate, one who will risk everything to be satisfied. How much do you hunger after God? Do you want it as much as a starving man wants food and as much as a man dying of thirst wants water?” In the 63rd Psalm, David expressed his desire for God: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

When we’re thirsty, we crave water. Our daily need for water acts as our reminder to drink deeply of Jesus every day. He doesn’t have what we need. He is what we need. Knowing this, we can also rejoice in the fact that Jesus doesn’t just give us a drink to satisfy us at the moment, but He gives us an eternal fountain of living water. We will never run out of His grace, His love, and His freedom.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you felt distant from God because of something you did (sin, busyness, etc.)? How did it impact your relationship with God? 
  2. What can we do this week to thirst after God?  

The Attributes Of God – God Is Righteous

What are God’s attributes? When we talk about the attributes of God, we are trying to answer questions like, who is God, what is God like, and what kind of God is He? An attribute of God is something true about Him. Each Friday we will look at the attributes of God. This week, God is righteous.

“The LORD is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.” – Psalm 145:17 (NIV).

The righteousness of God, one of the most prominent attributes of God in the Scriptures, is also one of the most elusive. Initially, distinguishing the righteousness of God from His holiness or His goodness seems difficult. God always acts righteously; His every action is consistent with His character. God is always consistently “Godly.” God is not defined by the term “righteous” as much as the term “righteous” is defined by God. Righteousness is part of God’s character. Since He is righteous, that means that there is no other way for Him to act because He must remain true to who He is. 

We live in an age when the distinction between right and wrong is becoming increasingly blurred. Our culture believes that what is morally right varies from person to person and situation to situation. Yet God’s standards do not change; they are timeless. God’s laws are a reflection of His own righteous nature. Through faith in Christ, we are given His righteousness. He bore our sin at the cross, then blesses us with the gift of His righteousness when we come to faith in Him.

Romans 3:21-22 (ESV) says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction.” Romans 5: 17 says, “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 adds, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Isn’t it amazing that our God would make that kind of trade? It seems beyond comprehension to imagine that a holy, righteous God would take our sin upon Himself so that He could cover us with His righteousness. But if He didn’t do so, we would have no hope. God could have chosen to remain unknown to us, but He didn’t. Instead, He offers us the righteousness of Christ.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you hear the word righteousness, what do you think of? 
  2. From your perspective, how does a person become righteous or unrighteous?
  3. Do you struggle with trying to measure your righteousness against that of others? What about that of Jesus? 

What If Today Is It?

“Resolved never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life or before the last trumpet blew.” – Jonathan Edwards, 5th Resolution

Every decade or so, people predict that the world is going to end. For example, some people said that the world was going to end on December 21, 2012, at least according to the Mayan calendar.  Going back further, it was forecasted that computers would fail to handle the three zeros in the number 2000, and thus there would be a catastrophic meltdown of civilization. Again, the day came and went, and here we are in the year 2022.

The Lord Jesus Christ told us that the world will end one day. He said, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) However, Jesus made it clear that the precise date of this apocalyptic end is a secret that only the Father knows: Mark 13:32 says, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

But what if today is our last day? We do not know when we will come to the last days of our lives, but one day, you will wake up in the morning, and it will be your last day on earth. How must you live so that you will not regret it when that day comes? The Bible makes it very clear that this earth is not our forever home.  We are merely passing through until our day comes to meet our Lord and Savior.

We should strive to live each day as though it is our last. According to James, we don’t even know what our life will be like tomorrow.  “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:13-14) There is nothing wrong with making plans and filling our calendars but we must not be so obsessed with our plan that we miss God’s plan.

Paul knew that his life was near the end and that he had fought the good fight of faith: “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.” (2 Timothy 4:6)  He looked ahead to the crown of righteousness, which the Lord had waiting for him, but this crown wasn’t only for him but for all who had a deep, abiding longing for Jesus’ return. “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8). He could reflect on his life with the satisfaction of knowing that he had given it everything he had and faithfully kept the faith until the very end. 2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” What about us? Can we say that we are fighting the good fight of faith today and every day and living like today could be the last day of our lives?

It may not be the last day you live here on earth, but it may become a great day for you and those you care about.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you do if today were the last day of your life? 
  2. What would you not do if this was the last day of your life? 

Do The Right Thing

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis

Sailboating looks like a whole lot of fun to me. A day on the open water sailing out to Shell island or other places around Panama City accompanied by mild winds and calm seas seems like a wonderful experience. On the other hand, because battling with nature is not high on my list of sailing preferences, taking the right steps at the right time to pilot the boat to your destination is critical in good and bad weather. The ability to predetermine what is right, doing it consistently and with grace was the core of the message on Sunday.

As Christians, we also need to do the right things at the right time. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Doing the right things will change your steps in life and how you choose to walk in them. So the questions are: “Am I doing the right things? How can I be sure I am doing the right things? And how do I do them with grace?”

In the story of the Fiery furnace and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three men predetermined what was the right response ahead of time. They didn’t wait until the moment of truth to decide what their course of action was. And even more importantly, they chose to trust and follow God no matter what the circumstances were, which in this case was being burned alive. We too need to predetermine our response. This is done by remembering the attributes of God: perfect holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness and truthfulness. If we base our actions on these attributes we will make better decisions. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

The goal is to do right all of the time. Doing what is right even when everybody else is doing something different and even when nobody is looking. You can do the right thing when you focus on the greatness of God and remind yourself for who you are living for. We need to learn to sort through and decide what input we will allow to influence our decisions and reject or disallow those sources that cause us to choose to do wrong. Think and reflect upon any tendency to make bad choices over and over again. Find that reason, source, or input and use that as a lesson for the future. Begin to review your decisions before you make them and then make the right decisions.

And when you do the right thing, do it with grace and love. We spend a lot of time on what grace is, but not as much on what grace does. Grace changes us in so many ways. It is more than being forgiven and going to heaven. Grace is also the changes in our hearts and attitudes. Grace is the voice that calls us to change, and then gives us the power to pull it off. And that includes doing the right things the right way. We can show grace because God is with and in us. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can always control how we choose to respond. In those moments, we need to do the right things with grace. And we need to choose to keep a positive attitude and thankful heart regardless of what we’re going through. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define “Integrity?” Are there degrees of doing what is right? How does doing what is right affect the way you feel about yourself?
  2. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong? Is it hard to predetermine what is the right thing to do? Why or why not?
  3. In what area do you need to make better decisions? How does grace enter into the decision making process?
  4. In what ways does grace play a role in doing what is right? Does grace change the way we look at what is right?
  5. Random acts of kindness go a long way. You can make a difference in someone’s life today. Share kind random acts with others. Do it in love. Be a blessing to someone.