20th August 2023

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteous

Passage: Matthew 5:1-6, Genesis 1:25-31, 2:15-27, 3:6-19, Exodus 33:14-23
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Automatically Generated Transcript

We've been going through the Beatitudes, those blessed, and there's a lot of characteristics. And we're on to verse 6. It is not the sixth Beatitude, but it is actually—I think it's the fourth—is that correct? Anyway, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after, or for, righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. The Sermon on the Mount, of which this is the beginning, is often regarded as a very important distillation of the Christian doctrines that Jesus preached. And we've got through to this one, which says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. And it's a bit of a mystery exactly, some of these Beatitudes, as to what is defined by the thing that it is saying you're blessed for. And we've been going through this, and this time it's about righteousness that I wish to speak.

And we're coming to a term which has a very rich history in the Old Testament, and which is central to the teaching of the gospel. And it isn't only Old Testament, it is also the theme of the New Testament that God has worked his righteousness. Not only in the fact of the blessing of the Holy Spirit helping us to be righteous people, not only in us having the New Covenant that Jesus introduced, analogous to how Moses introduced the Old Covenant, Jesus has introduced a New Covenant.

And let me add one little correction, I hope our announcer won't mind my saying this, but when we talk about the New Covenant, it's not a case of us getting into Israel's Old Covenant. There is a sense in which we're getting into the Covenant that was for Israel. That's the New Covenant they were promised one day that there would be a New Covenant. But as the book of Ephesians teaches us, in the New Covenant, God has made one body out of what was two. The Jews and the Gentiles are no longer a division that applies anymore because in the New Covenant, the Jews have to get in the same way as we Gentiles. And just because they were God's people in the Old Covenant doesn't mean that they automatically find a place in the New Covenant, unless they're prepared to come as Peter proclaimed in the day of Pentecost, to repent of their sin and to put their trust, belief in Jesus Christ. Show that the biblical way of showing is through baptism. And then they receive the Holy Spirit.

Now, the Holy Spirit was about during the Old Covenant, and in the Old Testament, he was the power that spoke through the prophets. He was the one that even the kings, in fact, the prophets, the priests, and the kings, all were spirit-enabled. And King Saul, although he failed as a king, nonetheless in his beginning days, was known to have prophetic powers and spoke ecstatically amongst the prophets. But he failed God and got kicked out. And that's a possibility of the Old Testament of having the power of the Holy Spirit and then losing it, is a characteristic of how the Holy Spirit related to God's people under the Old Covenant. But it's not the same as under the New Covenant.

And under the New Covenant that Jesus introduced, that Peter first gave opportunity for people to enter at the day of Pentecost, this New Covenant offers the gift of the Holy Spirit in a permanent way as an outcome of your coming to Christ to be your Saviour. You may follow through all that the Old Testament teaches in terms of righteousness and do it well, and I encourage you so to do. We don't have the Old Testament and the Old Covenant, it contains just to be a monument to something of the past, but its application to what is God's truth and what is God's righteousness is accurate today. He hasn't changed, and there is application of the Old Testament to our Christian lives as Jesus was for often pointing out.

But to get into the New Covenant is to receive the Holy Spirit in a way that was brand new, because he would come and never leave. He would be the seal of us who are Christians getting into glory in heaven. And if you have the Holy Spirit, the Bible says you are one of His. If you don't have the Holy Spirit, you are none of His. It is the acid point of which the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, it is seen to be a step forward. And it is that when you've received the Holy Spirit, he comes to stay.

And the Bible in the New Testament teaches us that that Holy Spirit in our hearts, it's like a wedding ring or an engagement ring. It's like having a seal. Your belongingness to Christ is not going to change. You may be up and down and you may fail, but He's not going to fail you. And the gift of the Holy Spirit is permanently given as we sit here today of those of you who have come to Christ, genuinely come in repentance, and put your trust and faith in Him. You receive the Holy Spirit.

Actually, the first coming of the Holy Spirit to you is also described with the language of baptism. And baptism in the Spirit is what you got as an inheritance of coming down, putting faith in Christ. When we baptise people, as we've been doing in recent days, in water, a part of what that picture is of the baptism in water is a drama, a drama which somehow shows the coming of the Holy Spirit to baptise you in spirit.

Our Christian denominations have got very mixed up somehow about all of this language. And a part of what I'm going to do in this first part of my message, and so when I give the second half I haven't quite decided, but I want to say that I'm getting all the language clear is how and understanding the terms as the Bible means them is the first big need we have to get over the confusion that the Christian Church in this era has all mixed up.

Because you can go to Kurong and get books and get books about the Holy Spirit. One will teach the meaning of that baptism in the spirit is this, and another will teach is that. You can go to different churches, even within our Baptist denomination, and you'll get a different definition of what is the baptism of the spirit. But there's only one real understanding as to how it relates to the coming of the new king, new covenants, and that was the one that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost, where he gave that Pentecostal sermon.

Interestingly, Pentecostal not in terms of our modern generation modern denominations, but Pentecostal in terms of the 50th day from when Jesus had his marvellous action in bringing about our salvation. On the 50th day, the coming of the new era began, and the availability for people to get into the new covenant was started. And Peter's first Pentecostal sermon was a gospel sermon in which he defined what the baptism of the spirit is. It is your initial experience of becoming a Christian. And that's how the Bible teaches. Part of the confusion is that the language of baptism is one which means a very general thing of a coming of the Spirit over you and blessing you. And but it becomes technical in the sense if you make it understand it is the beginning of your being a Christian.

There is no second blessing in terms of God having one blessing through Calvary and another blessing through the Holy Spirit subsequent. It is true that when people make their address of Christ, when people make their seeking to become Christians, that the actual business they do with God and the way His Spirit operates in them as an outcome of that, it can be shaped across time. The biggest example in the New Testament is the Apostle Paul, whose conversion took three days. One when, I don't know whether he's on a camel or a horse, but when the bright light struck him and he falls to the ground and Christ speaks to him from heaven and tells him to go to the street called straight where Ananias comes along to bless him.

Three days later, he's actually filled with a spirit or baptised with a spirit and immediately rushes out in obedience, not only to preach the gospel in the synagogues but to get baptised. And so the beginning of Christianity for us, if you follow the pattern of the New Testament, is to come to Christ for your salvation, receive Him as your Saviour, confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You, in the olden days, you probably did that in the middle of the Jordan River and the confession of God, Christ is your Saviour, some of the scholars think is what is captured by that Romans passage. It says about Jesus being Lord because the picture they have is of the candidates coming down to the Jordan River. And this is not just John the Baptist, this is a Christian Church baptise them and before they push them under the water they say, 'Do you confess Jesus is your Saviour?' And they say, 'Jesus is Lord.' And when you confess Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, the Book of Romans says you shall be saved.

And salvation and the new covenant begin with your coming to Christ and your taking Him as your Saviour, making a confession of it. I don't think a lot of people actually get in the door when they try and be a secret disciple. I think a lot of them are waiting for their conversion to be made complete by coming out into an open confession. And there isn't any one way that you have to do it. And some people get converted in the counselling room just after the message is given.

And they come and ask, 'What can I do?' and you say, 'I'm gonna lead you.' You show them some Bible verses, and you lead them in a prayer. And the prayer is to confess Christ as their Saviour, or to receive Jesus as your Saviour, or to believe in Jesus as your Saviour, because they're all different languages the Gospels use of that initial moment when you place your faith in Jesus to be the one who makes you righteous. And so the gospel has right at the heart of it the use of this word righteousness as what you get because you've come to Christ. And it's not a righteousness that you have worked up, it's not a record of your behaviour that you've ticked a lot of boxes, it's not a participation in church whereby you've been involved in doing things for Jesus.

But the righteousness is something that comes as a gift from heaven. And so, the gospel, Romans—I was gonna call it a gospel, but the book of Romans, written by Paul in his beginning stages, talks about the righteousness that comes from heaven when you confess Christ as your Saviour. There's a righteousness that you didn't work up, that you don't deserve, and you never will. But Jesus gives you a righteousness that comes from God. It's a gift, the righteousness, the gift of God. And a part of the book of Romans is to teach that God is righteous in letting you become righteous, though you don't deserve it, as a gift from heaven, because the righteous one, Jesus the Saviour, he has paid the debt for your sins.

And so the verse that always moves me in the book of Romans, in Romans, I think it's 6 verse 23, and it says, 'The wages of sin is death.' The finality of our wages was death. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. And just as we can never get righteous in relationship with God of our good doing. In fact, the Bible teaches that all our attempts to be righteous of our own doing in God's book are counted as dead works because they sprang out of a human nature that he condemned back at the beginning of time when he kicked our forefather and mother out of the Garden of Eden and put an angel there of a flaming sword lest they get back in and take of the tree of life and live forever in the rotten state. In other words, no, the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God—I think it's only one word, but our translations make it a free gift, which is a bit of it saying the same thing twice—the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And until you come to the place of abandoning all your thought of righteousness and receiving the free gift of righteousness from heaven, the book of Romans is talking about, and confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you haven't got it yet. And if that's your story and you understand, you come to a grasp of that, you'd be like Charles Finney, the lawyer, a church-going man. In fact, his best friend was the local Presbyterian minister; I think he was Presbyterian who understood his status and no doubt was praying for him. One day broke in on Finney; he hadn't ever been born again, he hadn't even gotten in the door. He went out into the woods. You've heard this story from me before, some of you, and he prayed. He did, he determined to pray the whole day long until it happens. And so he's praying in the woods, and he's praying in a spot where he could concentrate, and the day was going by. And he found somehow or other through his mind came Bible verses, and he nodded his head. He'd agree. I didn't see whether he nodded his head, but I'm picturing him accepting the truth of the verses, but not understanding. Maybe even this one came through his mind; he just believed it, and he couldn't pray anymore. He thought he must have run out of puff. Sometimes it's hard when you set yourself to pray, and you, when everything said, you say, "Well, I've got nothing left to say." He found the motivation somehow, or the burden to pray for his salvation seemed to have disappeared. He didn't understand it. He eventually gave up and went back to his office, his law office.

While he was in there, with just him, Jesus appeared to him, and the Holy Spirit came over him, and the gift of God, which the Holy Spirit brings to you, came on him. And he went out from there a converted man, he went out from there a burdened man with a message to tell people that the way you get eternal life is to receive a free gift. Stop trying to pay for what He's already been paid by the only person who ever qualified by His sinlessness to be able to do when Jesus went to the cross by what He did. He bought your salvation. You don't have to add anything to it. It is such a free gift. But even to offer 35 cents out of your pocket or whatever little money you think you have or whatever little righteousness you think you have is a slight on how the sinless Saviour came and paid the worst of all costs in His death on the cross. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. None of us who don't have assurance are ever but one prayer of faith away from finding it by simply resting your cause in the generosity of God to give righteousness to you and quit trying to earn it yourself. Well, as we've been talking about righteousness, this is the righteousness that I think is being talked about in the Beatitudes. And this is the righteousness that those who get really moved to want to have it. That verse 6 that says blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the hungering and thirsting is what comes to us when at last you realise that you and what you are and what you have is not making it. Well, at last you give in, but you still want it.

And sometimes people cast around to find the way that they can somehow get over this sense that they're not making it in the Christian life, but somehow or other, they just aren't cutting the grade. There's various ways people express this, but you often see with people who have come and confessed Christ and know that, yes, they are saved, but then they go out to try and be a Christian, and they find it difficult. And the reason why they find it difficult is that the Bible's offer of righteousness is first of all the righteousness that Jesus gives you from heaven when you put your trust in Him.

But then there is a second phase of your salvation. Not only is there that you are saved because you've trusted Christ and it's completed, but there's an ongoing salvation which is otherwise worded your sanctification, which can only really get going once you're saved. The first way, when you're saved by trusting Jesus and resting in His righteousness, the next step is where the Holy Spirit, who lives in you because He came the moment of your conversion and He's never going away, He's the seal of your salvation. But this Holy Spirit in you is now moving you that you become more and more righteous. The righteousness that's new is going to grow in you and take over. It's going to dispel all the habits that were there because of what you were in the flesh, what you were before being converted.

Bit by bit, he's going to somehow begin to cleanse you from things that are still wrong in your life. And if you went and talked to people who've become a Christian a long time ago, they'll tell you that they needed to have an awful lot done to help them to become the person that God wanted them to be. I always remember my dad, he's a Scottish bad, my dad. Now, you know, my wife is Irish, and they have their bad reputations for what Irish people are like temperament wise, but so do Scottish ones.

And my dad had quite a so he tells me. Right, told me, he's in heaven now. But he told me that he had a fiery temper, and he told me stories playing basketball, and there was a missionary lady who was with them, and somehow she got in the way, and he got angry with her and kicked her in the shins. I was ashamed of my dad in the dad that I knew would never have done that. But in the years that passed, he had to learn. He got into trouble in his home church, and his minister wouldn't give him any recommendation to go to college and become a pastor because he used to make fun of everybody, including the minister. And he was rather sharp at his inventing jokes.

And so when the other young men who were keen for ministry things got a recommendation to go to Malden College, this is down in Sydney, the pastor wouldn't give one to him. Character wasn't any good. It's what the pastor thought. And my dad's mother, who I don't think was converted, but she heard about his son, her youngest child, not being given a recommendation, and she called that pastor around and ripped shreds of him and became my dad's greatest ally from that moment on. God all could use anything for good. And but eventually, he got to college, and he had to learn through a number of godly preachers and friends how to grow as a person who has that sanctification change.

And all of I knew of my dad, the idea of him kicking a missionary in the shins. I could never imagine that because there's a righteousness that came over him. God intends your righteousness. It's not just something of how you get in the door. That's it. It's something that is the goal of God that he has for your Christian life. In fact, even more important than what he may get you to do, more important than the role you play in the church, is the role he plays in your life by the Holy Spirit resident in you to further your righteousness.

Now, as we begin to talk about righteousness, we have to find some way to understand the meaning of the very word we read in the Bible because it's right through both Testaments. This word. And one way that we can understand it is to try to go back to the actual derivation of the word in the Greek language. The only trouble is that the meanings of the word righteous come from pre-Christian eras. I'll give you a little bit of an example, not a long one, but a little bit of an example of what righteousness meant.

Righteousness is a concept of somehow or other, there being conformity to a given set of legal standards. In different cultures, what those standards were, how legal they were, might vary. Behaviour that was conforming to the relationship the person has with his community, with his community, is how the Greeks saw righteousness. He was being obedient to the beliefs and the standards of the code of the community. There's only one trouble with that definition of righteousness because community standards change.

We're living in an era in Australia where our government thinks that they can define what is acceptable and what is not in certain things where we, the Christian Church, disagree. But there is a sense in which you get pressure to go along with a crowd. It's actually not the righteousness the Bible talks about. For there's only one authority in heaven and earth. And the authority, as He reveals Himself through the Scriptures, is the ultimate.

And it's not the same as what our government now does. It's not the same as that informal attitudes and climate of culture that you have when you go to work or amongst your peers if you're a student at school or university. I hear from my young ones when they get involved in things like the various things that they do. I'm talking about the call to participate in sports, I'm talking about at UQ. I know it's the case that there are ways that you can get into the debating teams, and then what you suddenly realise is coming out of the mouths of the other debaters is a definition of what it is to be included in the crowd. And I know that some of my kids have had to face up to the fact that they had to get offside from the crowd.

If you're a person who gets on really well with your scene that you're in, you may not be doing righteousness according to God. You'll be doing what is popular righteousness. A certain limited amount of swearing will make you even better according to Australian culture. A certain amount of things that they count as right and other things that if you do, which the Bible would teach you to do, they'll count as terrible. So righteousness, as the Greeks understood, though not exactly picked up by our culture today, but nonetheless the fact that it's a conformity to the standards of the crowd is not righteousness at all. In many cases, it's just being a chicken to stand out as different. I don't think you can be a Christian and be sanctified and keep happy with all the opinions of the crowd.

And part of what it is to be righteous is different. But what is true from the Greeks is that they did define righteousness as some conformity to something. It varied from state to state. It varies in our culture depending on what is the culture. There was a time in Australia where the conservative side of the church didn't believe in drinking. But if you went and took a trip across to Europe and you went to church there and they had their coffee equivalent, they might offer you a beer. And that would be a bit of a surprise if you're a travelling person in Germany. We still have the same phenomenon happening because the world doesn't have any absolute crown to which righteousness is attached.

But the Bible makes the righteousness that is the one and only righteousness, the righteousness that is attached to the character of God. And how that's expressed in the Scriptures is that God makes covenants. When God makes a covenant, and there is a lot to—I won't go into the details just now this morning—but there's a lot of the Old Testament that points out that God's righteousness is a covenant-keeping righteousness. And one of the words that we've been on about in church before, 'chesed,' in the Hebrew, is a word that is God's willingness to keep loving you because of His covenants. And if you get welcomed into the covenant of God, but you slip up and fall, He doesn't kick you out because of His covenant-keeping guarantee that He'll always keep you as His. That's righteous. Righteous is covenant-keeping.

And because of God's covenant-keeping, this about you, you may have failed, but He still loves you because covenant-keeping love is how God is. And the righteousness that He wants you to learn to be is just like that too. I'm not going to elaborate anymore because it's such a big topic, and I want to do it thoroughly when eventually I do. But this righteousness, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied," is when you realise that God has given you a method whereby you can be righteous within His covenant. And His Holy Spirit will help you, like my dad, to gradually grow to be able to keep it more and more.

Here, I, my opinion was someone who always did what were His covenants to keep, and I admired him for the example that he sets. I remember going to speak at a convention in South Australia, and there's a big businessman who was also a Baptist leader came up to me afterwards. He told me he wished his sons would speak of him like that. What a beautiful thing it is when you're brought up to understand the righteousness of God. Not that I was good doing it myself, but I want to tell you it's a wonderful thing to see deeper into what is the righteousness of God. It's not listen, it's not a legalism.

And I always admired my dad about Sunday because back then you had to wear your little suit. I had a suit coat and short trousers. And the things that you were allowed to do and not allowed to do were really ridiculous. I could kick the football over the big Rose Garden and in the college down there in Adelaide, but I couldn't go down the park. And you weren't allowed to buy food on Sunday, which made for a hungry time sometimes. Now, these days, what the crowd believes has changed, and what the church believes sometimes changes. But there is a righteousness that's connected to keeping the covenant of God. The new covenant is the one that you're called into by coming to Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And we're going to say that what this verse is pointing out is that if a person really wants that righteousness, God will see to it that He grows you into it, that He shows you how it's done.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" or filled. He respects the desire to be righteous like Him, and He'll help you to get there. Keep hungering, keep thirsting, keep praying, and He will grow you there. I want to leave that there now for now because that's half of my sermon, and we have another input this morning coming after the coffees are given out, and you'll understand if you've been reading "He Connected." You'll know why we're doing this. But, um, okay. So, let me finish in a prayer, and I'll hand back to Kieran, and the day will continue on.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this series on righteousness, this series on blessed, more than just happy and fortunate, but greatly blessed of God. This series that represents the distillation of the teaching of Jesus that He gave many times to the crowds and which is at the heart of our Christianity. Help us to qualify to be those, Father, I pray, who hunger and thirst after righteousness and know what it is to be filled. We prayed in Jesus' name. Amen.

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