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Faith Imagined: Righteous Hunger

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

March 20, 2011

Righteous Hunger

Jesus told His disciples, "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom heaven" (Matthew 5.20 NAS).

Jesus just started His ministry. He chose His disciples and began to heal the afflicted. He brought His disciples to the top of the mountain and told them that they needed to be more righteous than the Pharisees. I'm sure these fishermen were pretty overwhelmed. They just began their ministry with Jesus, and already He expected too much from these average men. How could they be more righteous than the religious leaders?

The disciples probably became more bewildered when later on in the Book of Matthew, Jesus told them to be on their guard against the Pharisees' influence (16.6) and when He called the religious leaders white-washed tombs (23.27). Jesus overlooked all kinds of sin with His grace, but the religious leaders were the main source of His righteous anger because of their hypocrisy (Matthew 23.1-8). Jesus went so far as to give the religious leaders Seven Woes (Matthew 23.13-37).

The highest level of righteousness was based on the Laws of Moses made on Mount Sinai. The laws were a standard for a Hebrew nation thousands of years ago in love with their God -- the laws were supposed to be an outward show of an inward heart. However, as time passed the rigorous laws became an outward show of self-righteousness, instead of God-righteousness. Soon the heart of God was replaced by hypocrisy and pretense, which left the masses confused and spiritually lost.

The understanding of righteousness becomes the primary internal conflict of the New Testament. The standard of righteousness was set by religious leaders, but Jesus made it clear that this standard was not His divine standard. The word righteousness that is found in Matthew 6.33 and Matthew 5.6 is the Greek word, dikaiosynē, which means "condition acceptable to God" or "a state approved of God." The religious leaders were deceived. Their righteousness was based on acceptance and approval of people, not God.

So how can we gain acceptance and approval from God?

"And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith" (Philippians 3.9 NIV).

No matter how good we think we are, we will never gain right-standing with God on our own. We are covered with Jesus' righteousness when we accept His sacrifice by faith. Jesus is God in the flesh who freely took our sins on the cross over two thousand years ago, so we might have right-standing with God and live with Him for eternity. But our righteousness doesn't end there.

If all we had to do was gain Jesus' righteousness by faith, there will be no reason to stay on this earth. God not only wants to cover us with His righteousness; He wants to fill us with His righteousness. Once we are saved, God places His Spirit inside of us, in order to transform us into His likeness: "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3.18 NIV).

God allows us to stay in this broken world, so that we may become like Him. I believe that many Christians -- either out of fear or ignorance -- stay clear of spiritual transformation. They sit content in their wedding clothes but never bother to get to know their King (Parable of the Wedding Banquet: Matthew 22.1-14). I was once such a Christian. I allowed myself to be too busy, too distracted and too self-focused to get to know my Creator. He had to break me, so He could get my attention. And I'm glad He did.

Our righteousness starts out as a spiritual seed, but that seed should manifest itself into physical fruits. People should see a difference in us. They should notice that we have more "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5.22-23 NLT). People should see us walking on Paths of Righteousness (Psalm 23). We should be gaining the Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2.16) and be filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.8). However, this transformation will not happen overnight nor without sacrifice (Philippians 3.8).

But how do we start this transformation journey?

We seek it: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6.33 NIV).

We hunger for it: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5.6 NIV).

"We live in order that our souls may grow. The development of the soul is the purpose of our existence." - John G. Lake (Amazing man of God).



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18 Comments:

Blogger Sonia said...

Amen Sister!! Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

God bless and keep you,
Sonia

10:09 PM  
Blogger The Unknowngnome said...

Yes, we seek it, we hunger for it, we thirst for it, from milk to meat, a lifetime's journey of transformation.

What a gift!

Well done, Alisa!

3:25 AM  
Blogger Leah @ Point Ministries said...

A great reminder of the basics of our faith.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

Were you at church with me last night?? ha! My husband preached this message! Well, not this exact message...

We must HUNGER after the things of God!

8:22 AM  
Blogger Missie said...

"God allows us to stay in this broken world, so that we may become like Him"
Wow! This line just hit me! So so true!

11:22 AM  
Blogger Deborah Ann said...

Well amen to that! A lot of christians don't seek to go deeper with God. They're content to just keep the status quo. That's religion. The relationship will take us into a real friendship with God. How can we love Him if we don't really know Him?

12:24 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

Beautifully explained!

1:09 PM  
Blogger Connie Arnold said...

Thanks for sharing the inspiring post! May we always hunger after God and feed others as well through sharing the fruits we receive.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Karen Lange said...

Blessings to you and your readers! He does feed His sheep. Thanks for sharing. :)

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Ginger said...

Another beautiful reason to celebrate the Cross! :)

Thank you,
Ginger

(Love the pic for this post.)

10:45 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Living under God's grace is truely amazing - tho at times easy to slip back

9:43 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Beautiful post. So encouraging!
I am really glad i found your blog!
Check out mine:
http://imlivingforchrist.blogspot.com
In HIS service,
Rebecca

10:20 PM  
Blogger Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Alisa -

Amen! Love your devotionals.

BTW, you have an award at my blog. (See the 3/18 Friday Round-Up post.)

Blessings,
Susan :)

9:16 PM  
Blogger Toyin O. said...

Amen, I always say if you are not changing, what you have is religion. Relationship with Christ transforms our lives, religion holds us in bondage:)

7:17 PM  
Blogger Wanda Metcalf said...

Beautiful post. I love knowing that Jesus there right along with me and that I don't have to do it all on my own.

Thank you for taking time to leave me a sweet comment on my post. I find when I post about my Savior and not so much about white linens and crafty projects, I don't get as many people leaving me comments. Is it because if they do others will see their name and know they love my Jesus too or is it worse they don't love my Lord?

I am following you and reading Sitting with God: A 40 Day Meditation

Your sister through Him

4:29 PM  
Blogger Sharon Kirby said...

Alisa - A great word.

I was reminded of these verses from Deuteronomy (NLT):

"And now...what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love and serve him with all your heart and soul."

That is what I hunger for - that is what I'm seeking.

GOD BLESS!

5:00 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

I love the book of Matthew. So clear and to the point.
Thank you for your thoughts here.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous stephanie said...

This was such a blessing and so well written. I need more lessons like this so that I can understand what God requires of me.

6:14 PM  

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