27th August 2023

Only God’s Righteousness will do

Passage: 2 Timothy 2:8, Genesis 18:25, Romans 3:21-26, 1:17, Exodus 33:14-23
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Automatically Generated Transcript

Blessed are those, verse six, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled, the older versions used to read, or satisfied. Now when we listen in to people who comment on the Beatitudes and tell us what they think it's about, and probably if you took a survey of popular opinion, the general consensus is that the truth that's there is that God is the one who satisfies the basic needs of human living. And that there is a sense in which hungering and thirsting is a very common experience for people, and by coming to God, we find an answer to it. And even some of the most learned of people writing up in history have said things like that. And Augustine, for example, said, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. And that's how he opened up his writing, which was called Confessions.

And it's a general truth that is there in the Beatitudes, behind all the statements that are made, that the human experience is only really fulfilled in God. And I'm not wanting to lessen that understanding, but do wish this morning to point out that there's a particularity as to how God does that. There's a way that he has in mind to bring this about that this verse is actually talking of. And we'll get to that when we really bring to the surface what sort of hunger and thirst for righteousness is being talked about. For the ones who have that hunger are the ones who will be satisfied. Tonight I do want to speak in the evening service for those of you who come, on the fact that there are many people who will report their experience of Christianity as one that didn't really work. It was something that really staggered me in talking to people when I was in training as a young person at the tertiary level. I'd get talking to someone about Christianity, or they'd ask me about different things, and then they'd say, well, I tried the church and didn't work.

And it raises the question, how is it some people do try to come to God through the church, and it doesn't satisfy? And in the face of this statement, it really brings to our attention that there is a particular meaning to this verse, which may not be fulfilled by someone who's simply coming to church, or someone who's just seeking to find their way in life. And we need to understand the meaning of this verse more particularly. And that's my purpose to continue on from last week, to bring out some truths here that will have us walk away knowing more carefully what the Bible is saying. Now, when we look at this verse, it's talking about hungering and thirsting. And we could get to that later on, but for the moment, the important thing to notice is that the Sermon on the Mount is actually all about righteousness. In fact, the Bible itself is all about righteousness from beginning to the end, Old Testament and New. And Jesus gave many stories and many parables to emphasise the idea that righteousness was a particular type of righteousness. And he would give a story such as last week we were talking on the Pharisee and the tax collector, both in the temple. And both were displaying a style of believing in righteousness or not, or possessing it or not. And one went home not having touched God.

And the other went home, and the Bible said that he was one who got right with God. And so there must be a different style of righteousness that people think they have or reach for that is the difference between why some find God and some don't. And on tonight, I'll be elaborating a bit more on that. But for now, what is meant by this text and how it's worded? Well, the thing we need to understand is something that comes out of understanding language. And there isn't any easy way for me to make this bare and visible for you to see without having to teach you a little bit about languages and the translations from one to another. And there are some languages which are called inflected languages. And for just my curiosity, I want to know how many of you are familiar with talking about inflected languages. If you do know what an inflected language is, put your hand up. I'm not expecting many. And I was right. One person by a little bit of a hand. An inflected language, and there's quite a few of them, Finnish is inflected, Greek is inflected, including the classical Greek or the New Testament Greek.

Do you know that French is inflected? And what it means is that they have some words that get little bits added to it on the end or in the middle. So that the meaning of what the sentence is is conveyed not only by the actual words like we have in English, but also these little extra endings, they call them inflections, that get added on. And they're very important to understand the actual meaning more precisely of what is being said. Now, you're going out to tables of nine. That's next year. And you have amongst you someone who's come from France. And so you, being knowing a little bit of French, decide to speak a bit of French and you try out on them. And you're someone that's got some bread on the table and you want them to pass you the bread. You say, Passez-moi le bread. You don't know the word for bread, but it's pan, anyway. And you say, Passez-moi the bread, or le bread. And the person who's French goes like this.

Because they know you made a very bad and very basic mistake. Because when you speak in French, it's an inflected language. And also, it carries with it little prepositions that tell you what inflections to put on the word that is inflected. And when you're asking a French person at tables of nine to pass the bread, you don't say the bread. We say that in English, but you say, Passez-moi du pain. Pass me of the bread. Because as a polite person, you're not asking for the lot. You're really saying in their language, pass me of the bread. I want some. And if you've been trained in polite society in France, you don't demand too much. You sort of allow the other person to give of their wealth and their provisions to pass you some bread. And various requests that you make dictate as to how you spell it out, whether it's inflections of the word or something to do with a little word in between. They have some extra words. And in the case of pass the bread, the word for of is the word you want. Passez-moi du pain. And you say, pass me of the bread.

Because you're not demanding a lot. If you wondered, and you were someone who was the matriarch of the house and the wrong type of bread was put out, and you were trying to sketch it back so you could send it back to the kitchen and have the proper bread that you specially bought for the visitors brought out, you would say, passez-moi, I don't know whether it's masculine or feminine, but la bread or le bread, if you're a French speaker, you're already realising I'm just a bit of one. But anyway, you don't use the normal the, meaning the lot. But you'd use, well, you would use if you wanted to take the bad stuff back to the kitchen. You would want the lot. And so there's a different word that's used. And you might say, passez-moi ace pain, or prose pain. They're words that mean, with the way they understand it, the lot. Now do you know that getting thirsting and getting hungering, and hungering for something, and we say for in English, you would likewise use the do word if you were French. You'd say, pass me, present blessed are those who hunger for some righteousness, or who thirst for a better lifestyle. If you're meaning by it, that some of it will help you. But if you use the word ace, which is what you mean when you want the lot, then you're doing what the Bible says here. If you're speaking French, you'd say, those who, I can't do the accent, but hunger and thirst.

And you'd use the word ace, righteousness. And they'd all understand that you're saying that you want the lot. Not only the lot, you want the perfect righteousness. And when you're dealing with biblical matters, there's only one person who is perfectly righteous, it's God. And you're actually saying, you want the righteousness of God. And a lot of people understand the way that you approach Christianity is that you tidy yourself up a bit. My son won't mind my quoting, he has a good voice and he has songs on the internet. One of them is, To Be a Better Man. And Kieran likes the song, so he often plays it around our house, it's Callum singing, To Be a Better Man is the aim. But that's how some people mistake what this verse is saying. Callum has other reasons for that song, but the idea that God is saying, blessed are those who get themselves more righteous, somewhat. Or those who add to the way that they live their lives. They tidy up, they go to church, they make it a point to make sure they go to church at an appropriate amount of times.

And I've been in churches where it also included you come to church on time to get there early enough to say a little prayer. And there's other churches you can go to all around the world where the Christians understand that you've got to have the service done a certain way in order for it to be truly righteous. But this is not talking about you, it's not talking about how you get your life in order. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, as the previous Beatitudes have said, you've got an emptiness that you know you don't have it. That's why the previous one's talking about those who mourn. Blessed are those who, and then it goes on now and say, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God's righteousness, for the righteousness, for the perfect righteousness, which we are mourning because we know we can't get there. And there's a sense of a recognition of the sheer failure of the human race ever to live up to God's righteousness and the entire Old Testament law was given by God, so the New Testament tells us, to show us our failures.

And you don't even need the New Testament to tell you that if you actually survey the Old Testament as to how often the children of Israel, given the law of God, given the opportunity to have a righteousness that God would give them through the law, it wasn't that the law was weak or the law was inadequate or that God made a mistake, it was they just couldn't do it. They failed and the way they got judged and taken off to captivity and again and again there were kings who, some were good and some were bad, the whole record of the Old Testament and the giving of the law is to demonstrate that we have no righteousness. That the human nature that's been bequeathed to us from the fall of the human race is behind even our best deeds and that little tinge of pride and bad motives and even in Christian ministry when you know you've come to God and you know you're right with God yet you can find yourself doing good things but for bad reasons or mixed motives. We're all capable of that and when you realise it it brings an ache to your heart that you really wish you weren't like that and if there's someone here this morning as I talk I'm describing you, you're a lucky person because it might make you hunger and thirst for that perfect righteousness of God. That's what the text is talking about.

Some of the commentaries you read when you have to preach on a topic and you come to the Beatitudes and I'll come up, probably a good half of them understand it's a difficult thing to translate that word blessed but I think their best guess or choice or closest is to say happy. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. And that choice of happy is not totally wrong. It's just as a very shallow picture of what it is to be blessed when what you get is the righteousness of God. The righteousness of God goes beyond feeling sad or happy. It is a total thing of complete satisfaction that you have because you know you're right. Do you know one of the ways to tell, to discern, to test whether a person has actually gotten in the door with God, there's lots of people who attempt to be a Christian but somehow they're not, here's a test.

The test is if you come to this verse and then have it explained like I am, that it's God's righteousness and you have a tremendous sense of thankfulness and blessing, a result of which is that even though you might have a backlog of sins that you would rather not talk about, you are totally at peace because God gave you the one and only working thing for people whose consciences are about their sins. It's when he gives you as a gift the righteousness that comes from heaven. And this book has a gospel, it's central message that that is what God is about, the righteousness of God is revealed from heaven through the message of the gospel. And it's not a kick in the pants to pull your act together. It's not an encouragement that if you try a bit harder you'll make it. It is God telling you that you never can make it but he has allowed your heart to burn with a desire, with a hunger and a thirst to somehow have a righteousness that's his righteousness and good news, he wants to give it to you. And when you have the righteousness of God and you've done business with God, I don't know what wording to use, but you've come in seriousness to God and cried out to him that he would answer your sinnerhood.

That he'd answer the fact of your broken record. That he'd come to you and give you his righteousness. The way when you understand that verse, this will become one of your most favourite verses in the Bible because it gives you a sense of total peace. They shall be satisfied about the issue that the having or the not having of righteousness brings to the surface, whether you are at peace with God. You know, the Apostle Paul, writer of the most amount of books in the New Testament, in the Book of Romans his central treatise is talking pretty well all the way through it about this righteousness and about the cry that he had at one stage of saying, oh wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me from this body of death? But then he goes on to speak about the sheer joy of having this knowledge that you are forgiven and you're right with God. And he could get around and face kings. He could speak to crowds and the fact that he was himself a sinner, he knew he was, he called himself the least of the apostles because of how badly he had persecuted the church. But he was totally aware that he was right with God and God was with him. If you're a person who's made an attempt to come to God but you still have a whole host of guilt, then this verse is telling you to go back to the foundations and check that you've ever really understood and appropriately come to God for his righteousness.

For no matter how deep your sins, no matter how much you are like people who've been slave traders, like the one who wrote Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. Saved, a wretch like me, even people like him, I reckon if I'd been a slave trader, I'd have guilt the rest of my life. But because he came to Christ and was given the righteousness of God, he could pen that hymn. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. And how this verse lands on you is actually speaking as to whether you really are a Christian. But if your attempts at a little bit of righteousness hasn't worked and you still feel that lack of the righteousness of God, then if you get really, because of my dress, nice and hungry and thirsty, oh praise God. If you recognize that there is a gift of heaven that comes to you and makes you righteous and you know you are despite your background, despite your being a part of a human race that is evil, that can do any sin in the book and because our culture might help us and because our family life background may help us, it doesn't stop us being people who can end up doing any sin in the book. Oh, do a study sometime about some of the most evil people or people who've done some terrible things and discover how many of them came from church backgrounds.

Sometimes I bring up the fact that Karl Marx wrote an essay on justification and it's a good essay. You could teach the young people with it and you wouldn't take them astray unless they found out Karl Marx wrote it and changed his opinion later. Because you see, it's only the righteousness of God, the righteousness, and so the writer of the scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit, he changed the usual practice for how you talk if you were at a tables of 10, maybe that's in heaven. And an angel came along and said, how'd you get in here? And you look at him and say, well, you know, don't you? You know who I used to be. But then you say, I realised in Matthew five and verse six, he was talking about the righteousness of God and I wanted it and I stuck to seeking it until the day came when I knew God had made me righteous from him, not me, and I've been happy ever since. And even though the devil comes along and tries to make me feel bad like happened to Martin Luther when he was in jail, put there by his friends to keep him from being caught by the ones that wanted to kill him, and the devil turned up, he wasn't stopped by the four walls and he accused him, look what you've done to the world, turned it upside down.

Martin Luther picked up an inkwell and threw it at the appearance of the devil. That was how real was this happening for him. But he knew in the end he was righteous. He knew because he'd found the righteousness that comes by faith. And when you believe God for that righteousness, it removes the guilt, it wipes the slate, it makes irrelevant whether you were brought up a nicey-nicey person or whether you were running the streets and throwing bombs in windows because the gift of righteousness from God, it satisfies that deepest hunger there is. And my job, I know, is to tell people that you can be righteous. Now there are some people who are not sure what to believe or just what's that I'm putting on my message. Let's put up John 3.16, I'll show you something. Put up John 3.16 through to 18. And this is the verse most commonly known as the gospel in a nutshell. I don't like the idea of it being in a nutshell because then it's ripe for monkeys only. But it's the gospel trying to be understood simply. But there's a deep truth in here. Just because it's deep doesn't mean it can't also have a simple application.

For God so loved the world. Now who did God love? And what was he gonna do? Who is the world? It's the world of humanity. It's not just the world of the Jews. It's not just the people who are keeping the law. It's not just those who've become Christians, leave out all the ones that are gonna go to hell. The world here is everybody. That he gave his only son, that whoever, some versions have whosoever, believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. The verses go on to say about people perishing. But if you believe, then you won't. So though God loves the whole world, yet only some get to have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him. Salvation was offered to all the world through Christ's death. Maybe some didn't hear it. But whoever, verse 18, whoever believes in him. The very fact that it uses whoever means though God might love the world, you have to believe in Jesus. Now what's interesting about this verse is that the same little talk about the French and the Finnish and the Greeks and the different languages that are inflected and feel the need to add little bits to a lot of the words so you don't get the wrong idea.

The same thing has happened to the idea of believing has happened in the idea of hunger and thirst after something. That if you just want to say someone believed a person and accepted the ideas, so you mean by the belief mental assent, then you put the thing you gave the mental assent in, in a different case. The word you put, whatever it is you believe in and inflection at the end, it's different. And that is normally called the dative case. There's actually a list of them when you teach people how to speak, how to translate Greek. You've got to teach them that there's a nominative when it's the subject, there's a vocative when you're addressing someone that you're talking to. There's an accusative when you're talking about things being done to the person. There's a genitive that means of, and I've already talked about that when we talked about passe moi du pain, pass of the bread. Or if you're hungry and thirst of righteousness is the way the language would be, then you mean some of it. But here it's talking about believing. And in the case of believing, meaning that you believe what's said, you trust the truthfulness of what's said, they use another of those endings, inflections, it's called the dative.

But when the Bible was written and these verses about believing in Jesus were put there, and here's one right now, whoever believes in him, normally with little prepositions in, you take a dative following, but the writer changed it and put an ace, which is the word into. And so he made it believe into Jesus. There are some versions of the Amplified Bible which seeks to bring out these truths for English readers, and depending on which version you get, you'll find verse 18, whoever believes in him is not condemned. In the Amplified version, they amplify the word believe, so you get the point that I'm making. And it reads to rely on, trust in, adhere to, I might have the order wrong now, but, commit oneself to, has a list of four or five, and if you look through all the places in the New Testament where it talks about believing in Jesus in the Amplified Bible, it often uses a string of things. Because those translators didn't think they could capture the truth that the writer has put a believe into Jesus. Because it's got not only the mental ascent, but the sense of conviction, and the sense of trust, and the sense of commitment.

So it's not just believe in Jesus, but to commit yourself, and trust in him, and rely on him, abandon yourself to him. It's what you do when you've tried everything else, and you know that they didn't work. And you come to Jesus and say, Lord, if you save me, I won't be saved. And you trust him to do what you can't do. Apply the same thing, it's the same happening with language, it's what I'm quoting from our text that says, ones who hunger and thirst into righteousness. The same phenomenon of language has got the deeper meaning. And so when I meet people who have tried out church, often the gospel that they were trying out was being good, or being nice, or being reformed. There's no reformation that you could make that will make you saved. Might make you a better citizen, might make you a better husband. But with God, it's only his righteousness that will satisfy the need that made you hunger and thirst for righteousness. But that's what the gospel is offering. And the Bible in the New Testament says the righteousness of God has come down from heaven. It's not found in church. It's not found in your good things.

It's not found by being a better man. It's not found by your being reformed enough to be a good upstanding citizen of God. He'll make you that, and when he's done it, he takes away the past. Which is why that verse in blessed is those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be satisfied. If you discover in practice what I'm talking about, it'll become your most favourite verse in the Bible. And even though you might have a bad backlog of things that could make you feel really sick if you dwell on them, it won't change the fact that God has given you the peace of God that passes all understanding, and it's an acid test. Do you have the peace of God? Because if you've been given the righteousness of God, you will be satisfied, filled. And your assurance question that you might have hidden from others, am I really saved, will be answered. What a fantastic thing, whoever believes into him, it's a little Greek word, ace, it means into, is not condemned, but whoever does not so believe is condemned already because he has not believed into the name of the only son of God. Our righteousness is what God gives us, and he alone can bring that satisfaction with his righteousness. That's my message this morning, let's pray.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the opportunity to go slowly in these beatitudes, because Lord, it'd be so easy to run over the top of them and not realise that we didn't get it all. Lord, I pray for any person sitting here who needs the righteousness of God, would you make a really thirsty, hungry father, and then would you help them to believe Jesus for his gift of righteousness to begin their Christian life, to satisfy their Christian heart. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.

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