Have you ever considered the wording of the fourth Beatitude? It reads like this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). We would probably agree that it goes almost without saying that those who are righteous are blessed. But the pronouncement here from Christ says something a little different. Yes, it is beyond question a blessing to find oneself in a standing of righteousness before God. Nothing else is of any import until that issue is settled, until we know that our sins have been placed under the blood of Jesus Christ, until we have been forgiven and redeemed, and we know that God has imputed the righteousness of Christ to us.
But what the Lord appears to be saying in our text is that what has just been described in the preceding paragraph is just the beginning of blessing. A real believer can never be fully satisfied having had his sins forgiven. Salvation creates in the believer new appetites. Whereas once we were content with not getting caught in our sin, with staying out of trouble with the various authorities in our lives and avoiding the unpleasant consequences of our sins, or with being thought to be a pretty good person by those who knew us—if that conception didn’t cause us too much effort—when we were delivered from sin through Christ, we discovered a new desire, a longing for righteousness. Righteousness ceased to be an unachievable goal or an inconvenient imposition on our true ambitions; instead it became an attractive goal to be enthusiastically pursued. And like physical hunger and thirst, which can be satisfied only with genuine nutrition, nothing satisfies that spiritual longing but living in thought, word, and deed in a manner that pleases God.
One of the defining characteristics of anyone who is saved will be a continuing desire for righteousness, a desire that will never be fully assuaged until we are glorified. The more we exercise righteousness, the more we will desire it. Just as physical exercise creates an appetite for food and more exercise creates a greater appetite, so it is in the spiritual realm: believers experience an increasing desire for righteousness.
Paul described the phenomenon this way: “Not that I . . . have already become perfect, but I press on [compare: “hunger and thirst”] so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). Christ had “laid hold” of Paul for the purpose of delivering him from sin and making him righteous as Christ is righteous. Paul desired to be ready to meet the Lord whenever He returned: “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize [compare: “blessed”] of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 13, 14).
And just prior to these remarks Paul had prayed, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (v. 10). Paul had an insatiable desire to do what pleased His Savior and Lord. And what pleases the Lord is a very good working definition of practical righteousness. In similar fashion, the writer of Hebrews offers this benediction: “Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (13:20, 21).
So how is your appetite, believer? Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? If you were to make a list of the primary objectives in your life, would living righteously head the list? Would it make the list? We who have known the saving grace of God should cultivate hunger for righteousness. Not only is it right to do so, not only have we been saved for that purpose, not only will it honor the Lord, but the Lord promises that the desire for righteousness will be satisfied. And He further pronounces that the person who has such a desire is blessed of the Lord.
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