“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” -Matthew 5:6
For they shall be filled.
In acknowledging my own struggle with my flesh, and the loathing and hatred of my sin, this verse hit me hard. Conviction by the Holy Spirit, of my own sinful nature, brings even the sins that may have even seemed harmless or good/expected at the time, to light (e.g. a display of indignation at another’s wrongdoing, upon which the Holy Spirit convicts me of pride). But focusing on ‘self’ instead casting our eyes to Jesus, can easily cause conviction to morph into disabling guilt. In Romans 7:15 Paul describes this struggle like this: ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.’ From verse 21-24, he expands by saying: ‘this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s Law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!.‘ We see further clarity about this struggle in Galatians 5:16-17 :
‘Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.’
The beauty of Paul’s acknowledgment of his own sinful nature, is the opportunity to understand and fully accept Christ’s saving grace. We see the terrible tension within every believer, where the spirit of God within us is at war with the flesh. ‘So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.’ Similarly, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the heart of man as ‘desperately wicked/deceitful above all things.’
Praise God that through all this we see the incredible hope we have in Jesus Christ, and the value of the price He paid for us through his death and resurrection. In one of those moments where I started to feel the ‘disabling guilt’ settle over me, I turned to God’s word to consider why. Why do I still desire at times, the things that displease my Lord and Saviour? Shouldn’t the war be over? Is it even possible to be completely pure and holy at every point in time? And in torrents I came across numerous verses that I’ve condensed below, as the 7 steps to understanding our righteousness in Jesus:
- Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, will be filled (Matthew 5:6). A hunger and thirst for righteousness is a hunger and thirst for God. The more we seek him, the more we begin to look like him. When we seek Him and meditate on his word, we walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:6). And so, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh and we must hold on to the promise that we will be filled with righteousness.
- God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This reminder comes immediately after the declaration that God makes all things beautiful in its time. There is something huge that the Lord deposits in us once we become believers. It’s a work that He begins, to transform us into the image of Christ- and this will come into completion on the day of Jesus’ return (Phil. 1:6).
- Because we keep believing, we get what we are looking forward to: total salvation. (1 Peter 1:3-9). The journey to being Christ-like is impossible without faith. The devil comes as an accuser in order to introduce guilt and doubt. But Hebrews 11:6 says that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’ We must renew our minds and hold on to what God says about us, in order to keep believing.
- Afflictions and temptations will come. Psalm 34:19 says that many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. So we must understand our weaknesses, but we must also understand the strength we have in God. Jesus himself understands our weaknesses having gone through every temptation we face (Hebrews 4:15-16). He has commanded that we draw near to the throne of grace with confidence to receive grace and find mercy in the time of need. When we do, his power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- God’s love endures forever. Romans 8:31-38 beautifully explains God’s unending love for us and His faithfulness, even in our filth and even when we face the Accuser: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.‘
- Salvation is a gift and we have been saved by grace. Ephesians 2:8-10 puts it aptly: ‘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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’
- Whatever God does, it shall be forever (Ecclesiastes 3:14). This includes the work He began in us when we became believers. As long as we continue to chase after Him and yield to Him and His word, we will continually be transfigured into His image. And one day, we will meet our Lord and be with him for eternity (John 3:16). This cannot be taken away from us. ‘For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6).
I hope this knowledge gives us understanding and peace. And I pray ‘that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 1:9). Amen.