DUNCAN/The citizens of the kingdom, Part II
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 5:6-7. As we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us what it means to live as Christians in the world where He has placed us. The Beatitudes assume two questions and give us two answers to those two questions. Everybody asks the question, “What is it to be blessed?” In the Beatitudes, the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the heavenly answer to that question. It means to have a right relationship with God and enjoyment of Him. That’s what true happiness is. The second question that the Beatitudes deal with is the question of “Who are the blessed ones?” Last week, we learned that the one who is grieved over sin and lives in meekness is truly blessed. This week, we learn two additional things about those who are truly blessed. First, those who are truly blessed long for righteousness, and they are called to a life seeking after it. Secondly, those who are truly blessed are merciful, and they are called to a life of compassion.
I. Christians Long for Righteousness, and They Are Called to a Life of Seeking After It.
In verse 6, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” This beatitude entails at least two things. First, notice that there is a genuine desire for righteousness. In other words, the Lord Jesus says that those are blessed are those who realize that they lack righteousness and long for it. The road to spiritual riches begins when we say, “Lord, nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Secondly, notice that it is righteousness which is desired. What is righteousness? Righteousness means perfect conformity to God’s will and to God’s character.
This beatitude also encourages us to ask ourselves, “What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?” Firstly, it means to long for a right relationship with God. Secondly, it means to long to be accounted righteous before God. Thirdly, it means to long to live rightly before God. Fourthly, it means to long to see right relationships restored with others. All these things are involved in longing and hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
There are also three dimensions to the righteousness that every believer seeks. Firstly, we seek a justifying righteousness. Every sinner seeks for a declared righteousness which causes us to be considered and forgiven and spared a punishment we know is due for our sin. And that is found only in Jesus Christ. The second aspect of the righteousness that we seek is the sanctifying aspect of righteousness. The believer seeks that righteousness that is entailed in right living. For we not only desire the forgiveness of sins, we desire conformity to Christ. And so the one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, hungers and thirsts not only for justification but for sanctification, not only to be accounted righteous before God, but eventually one day to be made right and to be stood before Him in glorified righteousness. And then third, the person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness not only desires justifying and sanctifying righteousness but they desire to see that righteousness established everywhere, not just in their own relationships. They desire to see that righteousness flowing forth in the lives of other men and women who don’t know Christ, those who are under the bondage of sin and its condemnation.
Lastly, we must ask, “What is the blessing which attends this hungering and thirsting?” The sworn promise of God that if we hunger and thirst for righteousness is that we will be satisfied. Is there any other promise that can be given to men and women in the world that comes with that guarantee from God Almighty? It’s only those who have embraced Christ by faith who know what it means to be satisfied in this life, and only they will know what it is to be fully satisfied in the day to come. If you want satisfaction, it is found in Christ. If you desire satisfaction, you must embrace Jesus.
II. Christians Are Merciful, and They Are Called to a Life of Compassion.
In verse 7, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Christians not only long for righteousness, but Christians are merciful and they are called to a life of compassion. In the first four beatitudes, Christ describes the initial works that the Holy Spirit does in our heart. The Spirit causes the Christian to be spiritually humble, to be poor in spirit, to recognize that we have a need that cannot be fulfilled by ourselves or our activities. The Spirit also causes that person to mourn over sin. No longer can sin be taken flippantly as something dismissed, as something actually reveled in. It becomes a vexation to our souls and we mourn over that sin. The Spirit changes our hearts so that we are no longer prideful, but we are humbled. No longer do we revel in sin; we hate sin. We hate sin not simply for its consequences and its misery, but we hate it for what it is. And then we see in the fourth beatitude that the Lord implants in that person a longing for righteousness and that they know those longings.
We see in this fifth beatitude that we have been forgiven much and so we become merciful people. The Lord says that those who are blessed are not those who have no trouble in this life. Those who are blessed are not those who know no one without trouble in this life but are merciful to those in the midst of trouble. Christians are merciful because we know what it is to have mercy shown to us. Those who love little have been not in the realization of the forgiveness of Christ, but those who have been forgiven much, love much. What is Christian mercy? Mercy is love for those in misery and having a forgiving spirit toward the sinner. It embraces both kindly feelings and kindly actions. The great example of mercy which our Lord gave us was the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. The good Samaritan was one who sought to relieve the consequences of sin upon that poor traveler who had been beaten and left for dead. The early church taught that the good Samaritan was Jesus because He is extremely compassionate, and He comes and ministers to us in the midst of our needs. Has God given you a thirst for righteousness and a merciful heart? Then praise God who has done a spiritual work of grace in you. But if righteousness is not your great hunger, and if Christian mercy is not your heart, then go to God and embrace Him and trust in Jesus Christ today. May God work righteousness and mercy in us by His Spirit and may He receive all the glory.