Monthly Archives: November 2013

Example: Solomon

Examples of Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness: Solomon

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” [1 Kings 3:9-14 ESV]

If there is a single spiritual discipline Scripture tells us to seek it is wisdom. For it is wisdom which first acknowledges God and His work and then finally defines the life of a godly person. Wisdom is the confluence of knowledge and understanding with a righteous relationship with God. Wisdom defines our love for God, our decisions, the people with whom we are friends, how we invest our time, how we speak.  Our integrity is shown through wisdom.

Solomon, when asked by God in a dream what He could give him, asked for an “understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” and this pleased God. Read about Solomon in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. It is obvious Solomon knew God and how God worked. He knew God’s commands and statutes. But, he also knew God’s world, the creation which surrounded him, for he studied many things. He knew what pleased God and what would bring God’s wrath. Examine his prayers. He prayed about the blessings and curses also found in the Law of Moses. Under his rule the people of Israel had peace and prosperity which Solomon acknowledged was a blessing of God.

He was a student and a teacher probing the depths of every subject and seeing its relationship with other facets of life. “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt” [1 Kings 4:29-30 ESV]. He was a thinker, writer, musician and poet, giving 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. He was a scientist studying biology, botany and zoology. He was a judge and arbiter. He was sought after and listened to. People would come from other nations to hear him speak and see his works.

Solomon hungered and thirsted after righteousness. This does not mean he was a perfect man following God in every detail. For as surely as you are reading this he sinned like us. There is no new sin under the sun. You cannot read Ecclesiastes and come to any other conclusion. Solomon knew the precariousness of his life in this world before God. He reasoned that knowing about the world, about people, even knowing himself, would give him a better understanding of his God. He recognized sin and realized its consequences, both immediate and long-term. He knew wisdom and folly, testing his will with pleasure and work, giving in to every whim or denying himself as a discipline. Not content with simply having he wanted to know why he had, how it worked, when it worked or failed, and what the final results. Confident he would come through every experience with a greater understanding of God, with more wisdom, he delved into the abyss of sin and then rose to the heights of his understanding of righteousness.

Solomon feared God but was unafraid of Him.

He had power and strength, money and control. He listened to God and had God’s ear. But he tempted God and himself. Like David before him God promised to establish him if he would follow Him. He was explicitly told to not turn from God’s statutes and laws to follow other gods. God is God and there is no other. He will not abide anyone worshiping anything other than Himself. Worshiping another god brings God’s wrath. He not only knew the wisdom of God but also of the world and knew the difference. Solomon was a politician, shrewd and capable and pragmatic. While God overlooks some sin, for Christ died for the sin of the whole world, He does not overlook the consequences of sin, especially when He spells out those consequences.

God prohibited His people from marrying anyone who was not a worshiper of God, for the unbelieving spouse would lead their partner away from worshiping the true God (see Ex.34:16 and Deut.7:3). Solomon not only married Pharaoh’s daughter (see 1 Kings 3:1) but he married other daughters of other kings. He met, even embraced, the consequences of his sin which is more sin and the wrath and judgment of God.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice [1 Kings 11:1-9 ESV]

Solomon was a sex addict. He was not driven by a compulsion for sex but by a desire for it, a desire which dulled his heart and conscience. By the end of his life he did not care what the consequences of his sin were. I have an opinion why this happened. During his life Solomon gave himself permission to sin so he might increase his “wisdom.” Such is the actions of those who know the truth because God has told them and those who compromise the truth with the lies of the world. It was not Solomon’s sex addiction which caused his fall and God’s displeasure but that he worshiped other gods in order to feed the addiction.

There is a danger facing those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is like every other danger facing us because of sin. It is the danger of explaining away  sin or excusing it through faulty reasoning. We want to justify our sin. Teachers tend to ignore their limitations, unaware of the blind spots which develop as they teach. Teachers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, often fall victim to worshiping false gods. It is not enough to hunger and thirst for wisdom or knowledge or understanding. These will lead astray. Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst for His righteousness, so we will be filled with Him.

Enoch

Examples of Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness: Enoch

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [Matthew 5:6 ESV]

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. [Genesis 5:21-24 ESV]

Enoch walked with God. We know little about this man. He is mentioned in five places in Scripture. Three places give the genealogy of Adam (see Gen 5:18-24; 1 Chronicles 1:3; Luke 3:37). Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, was descended from Enoch. In Genesis he is described as one who “walked with God,” an adjective which describes no other person in the descendants from Adam to Noah. Enoch lived in a way which pleased God.

He walked with God. He did not hide from God like Adam and Eve in the garden after rebelling against a specific command. He did not argue with God, trying to justify his sin like Cain after killing his brother. He was not like everyone else who lived at that time. “That the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” [Genesis 6:5 ESV]. Although born in sin, carrying the condemnation faced by every person who has every lived descended from Adam, Enoch sought God.

Enoch had a relationship with God in spite of the internal bent to corruption which would drive every other person away from their Creator. Hindsight, and Scripture, tells us God was drawing Enoch to Himself. We can also say, from the implications of Scripture, God draws all people to Himself, but they ignored Him seeking their own satisfaction, building their own moral codes and placing their own unreasonable expectations others.

All people were closely related by birth. Because of man’s wickedness, the breakdown of everyone’s relationship with God was apparent. However, God drew Enoch to Himself and Enoch obeyed. Perhaps he fought with God, struggling in his mind and heart with knowing and trusting Him. We know Enoch had a intimate relationship with God. Walking with God is not a simple physical activity. Walking with God involves the whole person.

Enoch did not taste death. He was “not, for God took him.” Every other person mentioned died, for God specifically states of them, “and he died.” Every person died because of the sentence of death of Adam. Not Enoch. Hebrews gives us more about Enoch.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [Hebrews 11:5-6 ESV]

Death is the universal sentence for rebelling against God. When God placed Adam in the garden He gave one prohibition on pain of death, “dying, you will die” if you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This prohibition was for Adam and everyone descended from Adam. When Adam sinned everyone sinned in him. Even Enoch sinned in Adam. But Enoch did not see death. He was commended by God for having faith, which pleases God. Nothing we do can please God. However, using faith and the tools He has given through the gift of faith pleases Him. Enoch pleased God, not because he worked and did stuff for God but because he used the gift God gave him for Him.

There is only one reason why a person would not taste death who had been sentenced to death. Another took his place and died for him. God’s justice is nor arbitrary but certain. One other person in Scripture did not taste death. Elijah was taken up (2 Kings 2:11) then appears with Jesus at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3-4; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30). Elijah was a man of faith. Jesus who has died for us also died for him. That God decided Enoch and Elijah would not taste death does not mean God set aside the sentence of death for them. They were not perfect, but born in sin and rebellion. They pleased God because of what He gave them, not because of anything they did.

Enoch was a man who pursued righteousness. He loved God and hated sin. He submitted himself to God as His servant, using the tools God gave to live in a world which hated God. He willfully acted according to what he knew was truth. He pursued righteousness with his whole person. Jude sites an unnamed source when he gives the words of a prophecy of Enoch which shows his disdain for everything ungodly.

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” [Jude 14-15 ESV]

Enoch hungered and thirsted for righteousness and was eternally filled.

Sanctification, part three

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. [Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV]

When God gave Moses and all who are Israel the written moral law, with a foundation of the ten commandments, it was to hold them accountable by showing them their rebellion. In Deuteronomy 5, after 40 years of wandering in the desert because of disobedience, God inspired Moses to repeat the ten statements He gave at the beginning of Israel’s exodus from Egyptian slavery. At the beginning of their sojourn in the desert, while God was inscribing the stone tablets with His law, His people were actively sinning. They never stopped sinning. He knew having a written law without a changed heart, a heart which hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is futile.

He also gave instructions about the law and how to study it. They were to hunger and thirst after Him by intimately knowing His law. Jesus builds on the characteristics needed to obey God’s moral law found in His eternal character given to us in His image. These characteristics follow what has been discussed within the Sermon on the Mount in the previous three elements which define and describe the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. It is too easy to study once and forget what was learned. Jesus does not give the option to hear Him and then forget. We are never done with the qualities He has stated. At the risk of boring or losing some readers, I will continue to go over them throughout the study. Here, the characteristics studied are relevant to hungering and thirsting after righteousness. When fully applied these characteristics are integral to sanctification.

Those who are poor in spirit become those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. If the chief quality of those who are poor in spirit is the demand for truth, and a love for truth, and conversely a hatred for anything which is not true, then they will confront the lie and promote the truth forcefully. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness know the truth and why it is true. They are not content with simply knowing something is true but want to know what makes it true and how this truth works in the larger scheme of God’s plan. The former first draws conclusions then promotes the truth. The latter contemplates and applies truth to the theological circumstances of life. Since God works through the whole person once truth is recognized it is understood. One of the basic tools of sanctification is truth.

God is true and in Him is no lie. It is the work of the citizen in sanctification to seek Him out, to understand who He is and why He works as He does. It is not the work of the citizen to try to predict how God will work but to study Him and patiently listen for His words and watch for His actions. Here, poverty of spirit will help the citizen to immediately discern truth from fiction. It is those who hunger and thirst for righteousness who will delve deeply into the mechanics of the truth and how one point affects another.

Truth is fundamental to the person of God. His moral law, which is truth, is also essential to Him. He has given us both truth and His moral law in the word of God, which is His Son and the written declarations found in Scripture.

God uses the verbal law to train us in His spiritual, eternal moral law. But the necessary attitude to learn, through the prompting and council of the Holy Spirit, is the attitude of mourning over sin. We must not only realize the fact of sin but recognize its consequences. Knowing, even in a cursory manner, the moral law of God will cause mourning. Only in repentance, not remorse but a complete turning away from sin and trusting God, will the soil of our souls and spirits become fertile so His moral law can grow in us.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness do so because the moral law of God is growing in them. They require spiritual nourishment given only by the Holy Spirit so the fruit of righteousness might grow and ripen. It is righteousness, being right as measured by God, which produces this good fruit. Jesus says “you will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20), by the evidence of their lives. It is the evidence of life God uses to judge (see Matthew 16:27) those created in His image.

Six times in Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus points out to His hearers the difference between intellectually knowing and simply observing the law or only doing what is required and the spirit of the law, intimately knowing the law, the Lawgiver, and going beyond what is required.

You have heard that it was said to those of old [Matthew 5:21 ESV; see also verses 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43]

But I say to you [Matthew 5:22 ESV; see also verses 28, 32, 34, 39 and 44].

He is telling those who listen the central quality of a citizen of the kingdom is who they are which dictates what they do. God is making citizen who are His not just people who say they are His. Observing the law, the Mosaic Law of the Hebrew Scriptures, or any law attributed to God, will not make anyone righteous. A life which has grasped the spirit of the Law is shown by a going beyond the simple requirements of what is written and expected to living the Law without a thought.

Murder is against the law. Being unjustifiably angry is against God’s moral law. Adultery is against the written law. Looking on another to sexually lust after them is against God’s moral law. Violating the written law brings physical punishment. Violating the spiritual moral law of God brings separation from God. Those who must be restrained by physical, verbal laws are incapable of fulfilling a moral law. There must be a fundamental change to their deepest being. This fundamental change is the indwelling of the Spirit.

None of the previous discussion means anything without the attitude of servant-hood. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness by pursuing the truth do so because they want to please God and not themselves. Service is another measurable tool of sanctification. Those who recognize truth and seek it with all their being are cut to the core, divided by its edge, separating the dying physical from the living spiritual. This is the true work of sanctification, the separation of anything which distracts them from seeking God and His righteousness. Service to God is more than simply accomplishing a duty. It is throwing oneself into the work given by God.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” [Luke 17:7-10 ESV]

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will look for ways to serve God, and promote Him, without putting self before Him. Abandoning self to God while living in the world demands a relentless pursuit of His will and a complete subservience to His moral law. This means there is a pursuit of intimacy with God and a relinquishing of control of self to God.

God gives all those who are His a tool, the word of God, and the training needed to live as a citizen of His while in hostile territory. His tool is at once spiritual, intellectual, emotional and willful. It is not physical, though we must use this tool within the physical realm. God’s word involves the whole person in the battle because the whole person is created by Him in His image and the whole person is redeemed by Him.

All of these personalities, all of these characteristics, are needed to use the truth as a tool. This tool is a sword, double-edged, and cutting both ways, outward and inward. Before the tool of truth can effectively be used to confront the surrounding lie it must first be used on the inner person. God’s truth demands compliance, not simply assent. Sanctification, the seeking of truth makes the citizen fearless in its pursuit. Wherever the truth leads, whatever lie it exposes, however it unfolds life, those who seek truth will find God.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV]

Sanctification, part two

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [Matthew 6:25, 32-33 ESV]

Sanctification is the process God uses to separate use from the sinful world in which we live while preparing us for Himself and eternity.  It is apparent, even to those who want nothing to do with God, the world influences our thinking, our feeling, our desires and wants. Christians struggle with misinterpreting the desires of their flesh for the absolute needs and rights demanded by the world. God does not cater to these misplaced, misinterpreted desires. He knows what we need and will not deny those needs. He may deny our desires and wants. However, He may fulfill our wants and desires when they conform to His will, not our own. Sanctification, part of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, is the training camp God uses to teach us to look to Him and not to ourselves or the world.

How does God use the world as part of His training? As He changes us by conforming us to the likeness of His Son we begin to think and feel, to see and recognize, the assault of sin saturating the world and its activities. Part of our training is the battle we must actively wage against sin. When God brought the people of Israel out of Egyptian captivity into the Promised Land He was explicit in His instructions to kill all of the inhabitants. This is harsh, but all those who lived in the land would have influenced His people to sin against Him. He set them apart to be different and wanted no corrupting influence to take their eyes off Him. They did not do as He commanded and have had to fight the corruption of the world ever since.

In the same way, when God saves a person He tells them to kill all of the sin in their life. Sin must be purged from the believer’s life so its influence does not continue to corrupt what God has changed and is purifying. Any sin not obliterated completely will remain, grow  and distort the Christian’s vision and wisdom. This does not change God’s love for us even knowing He hates sin. His Son died so we might be freed from the effects of sin. When He chose us He set us apart for Himself. Why would we then continue to sin knowing sin’s consequences? Sanctification is God teaching those who are His what it means to be separated from the world for His kingdom.

Sanctifications first affect is spiritual separation of everything righteous from everything which is sinful. It is in full accordance with our new nature to desire everything deemed righteous by God and disdain everything with even a hint of sin. Yet, like His declared people, the nation of Israel, we have not purged sin from our lives. God would have driven the local people out of the Promised Land had His people actively continued waging war against them until all was accomplished. They stopped fighting allowing the idolatrous people of the land to stay and lead them away from God.

We remain in our sinful flesh even though we have the Spirit of God in us. It may take a lifetime but God demands we actively purge sin from our lives until we have accomplished His directive. This means we are done with sin at physical death. How long it takes, a lifetime, is not an excuse to stop fighting and allow sin control. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness begins now and continues until we are finally changed.

Changing us and filling us with His Spirit means we stop hungering and thirsting after sin and begin hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The world, and all our supposed needs, wants and desires are a distraction from what God wants for us. When we place more value upon anything God knows we need, worrying and obsession over it, we say to God we do not trust Him. We also say we do not recognize we are His, bought with a price. God uses our misplaced desires, the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and our own minds and emotions to teach us the danger of all which surrounds us in the world.

When you begin obsessing ask yourself questions: Do I trust God to give me what He knows I need? Will my life end if I do not receive what I am obsessing over? If my life does end, am I willing to give it to Him who has guaranteed me eternal life? Am I really His?

Sanctification changes our thinking and our feeling, conforming our will to Him who controls all things, owns all things and loves us unconditionally. When we see ourselves hungering and thirsting after His righteousness, even minutely, we can know He is working in us preparing us for eternity.

Hungering for His Grace: Sanctification, Part One

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [Romans 5:20-6:4 ESV]

Our continued existence is sustained by God. We need Him. His desire for sinful man is to acknowledge we know we need Him. Not a simple acknowledgment of need then continuing with life uninterrupted. But a life interrupted, stopped, recreated, and the direction of life unalterably changed. He wants us to seek Him as if our very lives depend up finding Him. They do.

Modern life in the Westernized world has lost the sense of need for food known by our immediate ancestors. Before the convenience of large stores all life’s necessities had to be grown, hand-made, bartered for or done without. Life, and sustaining life, was hard work. Life expectancy was short and conditions were harsh. There were a select few who lived in ease and pleasure. For the vast majority of people life was lived hand to mouth. Even now there are billions of people who live on the edge of life, hunting for food, whether in an urban sprawl or a wilderness.

When a government provides the basic needs of its people giving food and not requiring to work personal motivation for a better lifestyle need not exist. Such a lifestyle does nothing to inspire any to seek the source of life bit does but has the exact opposite effect. Where all physical needs are provided, where desires, wishes and wants are paramount and more often than not, filled, need is overwhelmed by ease. Our corrupted self given our basest wants will never seek God. When the physical feeling of hunger and thirst for food is sated without effort there is no spiritual recognition of need let alone seeking to meet that need.

In Israel, 3,000 years ago, those who were afflicted with leprosy were considered outcasts by God. They had to leave their families and live separate lives unable to participate in the religious rituals instituted by God for His people. They were the untouchables of the Middle East, walking examples of sin. Then came Jesus, God in the flesh, who not only touched them but healed them and gave His disciples authority to heal them, also. Instead of being a living example of God’s displeasure with the person they became a living examples of God’s grace and healing of sin. When they sought out Jesus and asked for healing they were healed restored to the community of God’s kingdom. Their momentary discomfort drove them to God, resulting in their ultimate benefit.

God will use our physical circumstances to drive us to Himself. Paul, afflicted by an unknown disease, begged God’s release from the “thorn” in his flesh.

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me [2 Cor. 12:7-9 ESV].

His discomfort drove him to God. He needed God more than he needed comfort and physical security. God gave him something this world cannot give. Grace, given through the conduit of faith, a tool of righteousness, is God’s strength delivered to those viewed as weakest in the world. His grace is available to all who hunger and thirst after His righteousness.

Those who receive God’s grace do not then hide behind grace from God. Of course, they cannot hide. But some people think if they close their eyes and can see no one then no one can see them. It shows a complete lack of understanding of our position before God if we say we follow Him but continue to sin without recognizing sin. Those who have been given new life, and are a new creation, even while remaining in the old body, hunger and thirst after righteousness as a natural result of receiving grace.

To hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God shows a change from seeking and needing the world, which is running toward death, to seeking and needing God, which is running toward Him and life. A fundamental change occurs caused by God within the essence of those chosen. This change is the spiritual death of the person, who is condemned by sin and sentenced to death, to their raising up to new life because of Christ’s righteous sacrifice. Whether struggling for food or with the provocation of sin it is the battlefield of the physical which reveals the desperate need for the spiritual.

God takes those who are His and sets them apart from the world for Himself. In theology proper this is called “sanctification.” This setting apart is not complete while any remain in the physical world, bound by sinful flesh. So it is not the completion of being set apart, the final result of sanctification, but the striving for and pursuit of, the hungering and thirsting for the final place which is most important for all who remain in the world.

As related to man created in God’s image sanctification means several things in Scripture. First, it means to intellectually acknowledge the righteousness of God.

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” [1 Peter 3:14-15 ESV].

Being ready with the defense demands every citizen work out in their minds why they are who they are. When Jesus prays “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” [Matthew 6:9 ESV] it is an acknowledgment of our position before and need of Him.

Sanctification also means to separate from that which is sinful or profane, that which corrupts. It is an emotional response to the moral demands of God resulting in repentance and trust in God. He will keep His promise to redeem us though we are ever sinful in this life. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” [John 17:16-17 ESV].

Finally, sanctification means to purify. Here, all which corrupts is driven out of our life as if by fire and we voluntarily give Him control.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” [Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV].

Nothing impure will come before God. Everything, and everyone who comes into His presence must be pure and undefiled.

For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” [Hebrews 9:13-14 ESV].

Sanctification is separation from the use of self, the use of the world, and the  manipulation of Satan for the dedicated use of God. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer and they are conformed to the image of Christ. Obedience to God drives sin out of those who are His. God uses this world, our flesh and Satan to prepare us for eternity. This preparation is the process of sanctification and will not be stopped. However, there is no expectation of sinless perfection in this life, only the pursuit of God, the hungering and thirsting after His righteousness. We must fight and strive for God as if our lives depend upon reaching Him.

Our Need, His Righteousness

But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” [Mark 10: 24-27 ESV]

Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are filled with righteousness when entering eternity but are covered with righteousness while still in the world. We cannot be satisfied short of eternity because the abiding effect of sin is the desire to be unrighteous, the exact opposite of how God created Man. Still, God’s image in Man struggles with righteousness, seeking to attain that for which we are designed. Though, sin corrupted the image of God it did not destroy it. Even the corrupted image strives toward knowing God while battling self with the desire to place self above Him. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, even in their corrupted self, know and recognize God’s true position. They may deny they know but they know. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” [Romans 1:19 ESV].

Our lives, when judged by the righteousness of God, are characterized by utter, abject failure. We cannot, under any circumstance or condition, meet God’s expectations. It is impossible for us because of our total depravity. Yet, what is impossible for us is eminently possible with God. He expects us to live up to His righteous character in His strength, not our own. Without Him the only way this is possible is if we never sinned. Once we have sinned is no returning to a state of sinlessness. God’s righteous judgment against sin demands death as the sentence for rebellion. Christ died for us, in our stead. Now, when God sees us it is through the blood of His Son. He sees us as righteous even though we are not. In fact, He has not left us in this world to teach us righteousness. He left us to teach us the utter sinfulness of sin.

Our own flesh tugs and pulls us toward sin. The world in which we live tugs and pulls us toward sin. Satan does everything in his power to tug and pull us away from God. Everything in this world fights against us. Nothing this world or our flesh has to offer will in any way help us become righteous.

In this verse, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” the emphasis is on a continual state of need with an ultimate eternal conclusion. This fits the critical reality of a world corrupted by sin, filled with a people totally depraved, assaulted by an enemy who wants anything opposite what God wants. God is not blind. He knows our condition. Simply because He sees us through the righteous blood of His Son means neither He is blind to our sin nor are we righteous while still in the world. He will make us righteous when He decides, not when we decide. God’s immediate desire for us is that we see our need for His righteousness.

We need Him. This is not a wish or desire or want. It is a need, like we need food and water and air. We need Him. We need Him more than we need air. We need Him for our very existence. Even those who do not know they need Him, need Him. In this physical world and universe He holds all things together. In eternity only those who are His will live for they will be intimately attached to the very source of eternal life.

Right now counts forever. God uses the here and now, the present, to prepare us for eternity. Part of our preparation is to understand our total dependence upon Him. Another part is to trust Him. He will deliver what He has promised. He has promised we will be with Him. What we do now, does matter but has no influence on our place in eternity. He expects obedience. He expects failure. He expects a hungering and thirsting for Him. Because we fail, He will succeed.

God Must Reveal

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” [Matthew 16:13-15 ESV]

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness suggests righteousness is necessary for life and is either withheld or missing. While righteousness is absolute, based upon the eternal character of God, our relationship with God is based on more than mere righteousness. “Mere” is the wrong word for God’s “mere” is eternal and inexhaustible. Straining His righteousness through our selfish thinking and self-centered feelings leaves us with a wrong understanding of what is missing from our spiritual diet or withheld from our spiritual existence.

Many Christians, because of personality, think in black and white. There is no room for gray or color. Binary thinking is either “yes” or “no”, “right” or “wrong.” We can assert everything we do is done within in His will or outside of His will. Within His will is eternal flexibility and freedom. Each person lives with a desire to control God. It is  the thinking of our hearts which tell us if we do not do His will perfectly then we fail. In the thinking of our hearts we must hit the bull’s eye of His will otherwise we miss.  Is not sin characterized as missing the mark? Bull’s eye theology suggests if you somehow miss God’s will you can never go back, or start over. You cannot take the shot over or act life it never happened. We either hit it and win or miss it and lose.

This theology holds the absurd belief God’s will for a person is changed by the person’s disobedience and that God must then settle for second best. So much influence is placed upon the person’s behavior and accomplishments God can do little or nothing once that person deviates from the stated course. Since an event did not happen within a specific time frame God is forced to modify His plan in order to get the person back on track. How arrogant.

There are many places in Scripture where God explicitly states His expectations. Though clearly stated every person in every part of their life, under every worldly circumstance, misses the mark. Yes, there are great successes followed by even greater failures. God’s ultimate standard is absolute righteousness which none but His Son can achieve. It is His righteousness which is missing from our spiritual being and withheld from us because of the corruption of sin.

Once sin corrupts every man and all of his world no one is capable of standing before God in righteousness. God, because He is God, judged every sin according to His righteousness and found every person, except His Son, wanting. God’s laws, commands, statutes, and explicit demands are meant to force each person to recognize sin, to realize the consequences of sin, and to relinquish control back to God. These laws, commands, statutes and explicit demands of God are never meant to offer a means for any to attain righteousness with any effort. Again, this does not mean we cease trying but that we recognize or efforts as worthy but unable to achieve the result of righteousness.

In Matthew 16 we witness the see-saw of success-failure working in Peter. He has followed Jesus for some time. He has seen the evidence of Jesus’ miracles. He has heard Jesus’ words. Now, Jesus drives home a point we all need to hear, understand and incorporate into the thinking of our hearts. His point to Peter is not about who He is but about how all can know who He is. Up until this time everyone who followed Him saw the evidence of His life and words. He spoke with authority. He healed the sick and  raised the dead. He performed miracles like feeding thousands of people. All of the evidence pointed to Him being very God for only God could do what He was doing.

He asks His disciples what people speculate about Him. Who do they say He is? Some say they think Him just another person or a reincarnated Prophet from their past. Peter, on the other hand, declares who he is. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” [Matthew 16:16 ESV]. Jesus’ response is telling. Peter’s statement of fact was not thought through or deduced from the evidence. God had to reveal this to Peter. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 16:17 ESV].

God reveals Himself to people. We can study and pray, seek with all diligence, say all the right words and phrases, act like the perfect Christian, but unless God has revealed Himself to us all we do and think and feel is enslaving superstition.

Jesus then tells His disciples what must happen, alluding to God’s ultimate reason for sending His Son. There is no compromising His mission. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” [Matthew 16:21 ESV]. These facts were predetermined by God from before the creation of the world and the fall of man. Moses, Job, David, Isaiah all talked about Him and what He would do. All of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scripture known by the Jews Jesus spoke with, knew these Scriptures. They knew the Scripture but did not believe the Scripture.

Peter’s response to Jesus’ statement is completely understandable. He was a corrupted human who did not, could not, believe the truth of Scripture, or even his own statements. “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you’” [Matthew 16:22 ESV]. His statement are inconsistent. When Peter succeeded it was because of God succeeded in and through him. When Peter failed it was because he lived in his own strength.

Notice Jesus did not rebuke Peter. He rebuked Satan. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” [Matthew 16:23 ESV]. Jesus loved Peter, even knowing he would miss the mark, and accepted him in grace. Peter thinking malfunctioned. He was a failure according to the standards of the world. He failed according to his own standards. He failed because Satan, the Deceiver, wants all to fail. But in God’s eyes Peter was a success, only because he was covered with the blood of His Son, Jesus. Jesus condemned Satan. Jesus redeemed Peter.

There is no such thing as a successful Christian when measured against the standards of the world, or self and those around self, and especially Satan. Jesus does not ask us to be perfect. He demands it. He does not ask us to be holy. He demands it. We fail. He must succeed for us. Here is the Object of faith delivering what is promised. He loves those who are His because He has decided to, not because we are lovable.

If only we would recognize our poverty of spirit and mourn our failures while recognizing His righteousness and enjoy Him. If only we would be weak and rest in His strength. If only we would hunger and thirst for His righteousness like our very lives depended upon it. We cannot change ourselves. God changes people, preparing them for eternity with Him.