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Longing for Righteousness

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As a child, I struggled to finish my dinner. Not that I was given too much food, I just disliked one or more of the items on my plate. Often my mom would remind me of the starving child in Africa who would love to have my food. Fortunately, international adoptions were not common back then, else I might have foolishly suggested we procure one. That would not have gone over well. The problem was not an inefficient allocation of food. It was my aversion to what my mom had prepared for me. I had no appetite for it. In the Beatitudes, Christ reveals a key indicator of a heart gripped by the gospel; it has a longing for righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). In this case, hunger and thirst are a sign of good health.

The Beatitudes

Hunger Imparted

Nevertheless, many believe they are good enough. They have no hunger or thirst for righteousness because they have met their own standard. However, God is not satisfied with their righteousness. They spurn the substitutionary sacrifice of his Son. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Conversely, we who trust in Christ are counted as righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. We have an imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:4). Yet, the gospel goes further and promises a transformation in us. Not only do we have righteousness imputed to us, but we have a hunger and thirst for righteousness imparted to us:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24)

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:29)

Craving Christlikeness

Specifically, the hunger for righteousness is a hunger for Christlikeness. It is a longing that is true to our calling, “to be conformed to the image of Christ” (Rom. 8:29). It is a consequence of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:5-11). Christlikeness is the ultimate aim for which God’s messengers have labored “in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal. 4:19). It is the test of our maturity, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). We experience it increasingly by degrees as we behold the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). Similarly, our suffering for Christ reveals our desire to be like Christ (2 Cor. 4:11).

Our Longing Satisfied

Just as we trust in Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death to satisfy our need of righteousness before God, so we hope in Christ’s promised return to bring to complete fruition our longing for righteousness. We look to heaven, “and from it await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Contemplation of the glories of heaven overwhelm and confound our feeble minds, yet one thing we know, “that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Come, Lord Jesus!

see also A Resurrection Mindset

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