Last week we thought a great deal about Meekness and contrasted it with Pride. We saw how some words that are used in the Bible are used very differently in society today and that can make it hard for us to understand the message of Jesus. But sometimes it goes beyond words as society begins to redefine what is right and wrong. We asked if it is ever acceptable to be proud as a means of lifting up the downtrodden and found it challenging to fully accept Jesus’ call on us to be meek. This week, we consider another misunderstood concept – the concept of Righteousness.
There is a growing trend among Christians to hunger and thirst for permissiveness – to actively encourage the acceptance of sin within the Church in the genuine belief that this is a demonstration of God’s grace and a declaration of our faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the Cross (cf. Rom 6:1-7). Meanwhile others opt for hungering and thirsting for legalism, in the belief that holding each other to rules would guarantee adherence to God’s commands, which are a reflection of His holiness (Galatians 3:24). But here Jesus calls us to hunger for neither Permissiveness nor Legalism, but to hunger and thirst for Righteousness.
We’re all repulsed by self-righteous people, but why is self-righteousness so unattractive?
Both Permissiveness and Legalism are off-track because they define righteousness differently than scripture – so they are forms of self-righteousness.
Are you more naturally attracted towards permissiveness or legalism?
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Like many of the other words in the Bible, Righteousness is often misunderstood. To understand it properly, we need to recognise that it takes different forms:
- There is our righteousness in God’s sight. This is sometimes called Legal Righteousness. Because Jesus’ death and resurrection has paid for our sin – anyone who has saving faith in Christ is considered righteous in God’s sight. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
- Then there is the righteousness of our heart. God is always more concerned about our motives than He is about our actions. (1 Corinthians 13:3) This is sometimes called Moral Righteousness.
- As we read the Bible we see that God is also concerned about the righteousness of the whole People of God as they love their neighbours in His name. This is because they individually and collectively represent Him on Earth. This is called Social Righteousness. (Micah 6:6-8)
Watch together this video about this verse to help you discuss it.
Jesus is calling us to continually hunger and thirst for righteousness – showing us that our righteousness will never be fully realised until we reach “the New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:6) – but what sort of righteousness is He wanting us to thirst for?
Q 1- If we interpret this as righteousness given to us by faith, how might this distort our understanding of our right standing before God?
Thanks be to God, our righteousness in His sight (Legal Righteousness) is complete – Hallelujah! If we are believers, we can never be more righteous in God’s sight than we are when we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. So, it’s impossible for us to keep hungering and thirsting for this sort of righteousness.
Q2- If we interpret this as righteousness of our hearts and of our witness lived-out, how would that effect the way we live?
Over this week let’s spend time recognising our hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Read Micah 6:6-8
Ask yourself, in what area of society am I hungering to see more righteousness? Likewise, ask yourself, in what area of my life and character, do I thirst for more righteousness?
If you have time to do this in the group – why not? Otherwise perhaps if you have time this week, you may wish to carry on studying God’s word around this subject.
There is no better sign of growth in Christ than an ever-increasing, insatiable appetite for righteousness. But hungering and thirsting for Moral and Social Righteousness are meaningless without a firm faith in our complete Legal Righteousness that is credited to us by Christ freely through faith. Any hint that our salvation might be earned is a sure sign that we have not yet grasped the gospel of salvation.
Read through Romans 9:30–10:4, which describes so eloquently our Legal Righteousness that is attained by faith.
Q1- How is pursuing righteousness by “works”, through obedience to the “law”, different from hungering and thirsting for righteousness?
Q2- How can we guard ourselves from becoming self-righteous, establishing our own righteousness, either through legalism, as the “Jews” did in this passage – or permissiveness as the gentiles were inclined to do (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)?
Spend some time each day this week praising God for His Righteousness, which He has clothed you with freely by His grace.
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