As we continue the series on the Beatitudes, we come to one about hunger and thirst for righteousness.
(Matthew 5:6) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
There is a progression in the Beatitudes – that is, each one is built on the foundation of the previous. First was poor in spirit, or humility before God. Second was mourning our sins and wrong decisions. Third was meekness, a quiet strength and determination to stand for what is right.
We all are born with a sin nature. When Christ was crucified, that sin nature was crucified with Him on the cross (Romans 6:1-14). But at the same time, that thing refuses to admit it is dead; and all too often we are drawn to the stench of the old, dead thing, and go play with it. That dead thing is a little like a zombie, dead but not dead, with flesh rotting even as it moves. And just as a zombie wants to eat your brains, so this dead thing want to eat/control your mind (Ephesians 4:22-25).
The spiritual progression should be a desire to keep that old nature in the grave, to break the sin-repent-sin-repent cycle. Our goal is to go beyond just acknowledging and standing for the truth, to living in the Truth. We need to develop a hunger and thirst for true righteousness. It is our place to develop the hunger, and it is God’s part to provide and fill us.
God has provided everything we need to pursue and grow in righteousness. We have the truth of His Word to battle the lies of the devil and his offspring, the sin nature. If we have received Christ for salvation, then we have the Spirit of God to help us, to guide and strengthen us in our weaknesses. Furthermore, we have been born again as spiritual children of God – we receive a new spirit that is incorruptible.
When Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden, there were two special trees in that Garden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They chose to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As one of the results, they were kicked out of the Garden, and angels were set to guard the way, so they could not eat from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3). If they had eaten from the Tree of Life after the Tree of Knowledge, mankind would have forever been bound to sin, with no remedy.
Similarly, when God commanded the building of the tabernacle, and later the Temple, a veil or curtain was placed between the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to approach God, and that only at Passover.
Jesus was crucified in fulfillment of the Passover feast and sacrifice. When He died, an earthquake caused the veil in the Temple to be torn open. He was the true High Priest (Hebrews), and through Him we can enter the spiritual throne room, the heavenly Holy of Holies. Jesus made the way, where there was no way! He was promised to Adam and Eve when they were kicked out of the Garden, with the first Messianic prophecy.
Likewise, in a true spiritual sense, we now have access to the Tree of Life (and in eternity, will have literal access to the Tree). Revelation 12 says that the saints overcome the Antichrist (and by extension, the anti-Christ system or mindset that is in the world) by the Blood of the Lamb (Jesus), by the word of their testimony (changed life), and by not loving their lives even to the death – (in humility coming to God, mourning/repentance, meekness; see previous articles). Revelation 2:7 promises that to the overcomer Jesus will give to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.
So, now we have a choice, if we are believers. We can choose the flesh nature (Tree of Knowledge – the fruit of death), or we can choose the Spirit (The Tree of Life). But be warned: 1John tells us that those who consistently choose sin do not walk in the light, and show that they do not know God. In other words, they will not make it to heaven. Do not be deceived, Paul warns: God is not mocked. He who sows to the fleshly nature will reap destruction, while he who sows to the Spirit will reap life (Galatians 6:7, 8).
1John was written to admonish and encourage us, so that we choose life, so that we “do not sin” (2:1). But John goes on to say, if/when we do sin, Jesus will be our Advocate to the Father. If we confess (agree with God about) our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us.
An Obvious Question
The obvious question: How do we choose the Tree of Life?
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is the propitiation (payment and replacement for) sin (1John 2:2). He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, The LORD our Righteousness. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, thinking in them you will find life, and they are that which testify of Me. Yet you refuse to come to Me, that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
The Answer: We choose life by going to God for His wisdom, by going to Christ for His strength. Don’t try to win by your own human willpower. That is not spiritual fruit. You may succeed in stopping something by choosing good rather than the evil. However, if it is by your own willpower, then you are still eating from the Tree of Knowledge of GOOD and Evil.
There are plenty of “good” people who are going to the Lake of Fire (hell), because they all still have sin. Nobody is without sin, and anybody who thinks they are make God a liar, and the Truth is not in them (1John 1:8, 10). It is not just a matter of not doing certain things anymore. It is not, per se, about stopping sinning.
It is about hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It is about honoring God, and about becoming children of God in truth (John 1:12).
You can change your ways for many reasons. You can stop smoking simply for health reasons. You can stop sleeping around because you want to honor your marriage bed. These are certainly good and right. … Or you can hunger, strongly desire, to live a life pleasing to God, and stop these things for that reason – and seek Him in the process. Which of these do you think honors God?
Scripture says, whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). True righteousness comes through faith (Philippians 3:9).
When we choose to do good for other reasons, such as health reasons, respecting our wife/husband, then it is for selfish reasons – self – the natural man. Granted, it is still doing good; but this is the same tree as doing evil. (That IS what it says, knowledge of good and evil!)
On the other hand, when we do it out of simple obedience (ooh, that hated word – obey!) to God because it is right, then we are choosing life. And when we go to God in our temptation for strength, we choose life. When we speak and stand on God’s Word, as Jesus did in the wilderness (Matthew 4), and submit ourselves to God, then the devil will flee because we chose life, rather than the other tree.
As we put this into practice, we will become righteous, even as Jesus is righteous (1John 3:7). Christ was of completely righteous character, and if we thirst for and pursue righteousness, our character will also become righteous.