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The Transformational Gospel of Jesus #14: What kind of righteousness are you hungering for?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. -Matthew 5:6

Everyone needs food and water to stay alive. So as Jesus lays out the gospel of the blessed, he draws on that reality of life to signify a shift in those who are on this faith journey. Before we embraced the good news of Jesus, we felt no problem in feeding our souls on the garbage dumpster of life, even dressing it up with garnish and sauce. Now, however, what we will desire to feed and water on will change. And not by an act of our will, but by the working of the Spirit, who empowers the blessed.

But what exactly is the kind of righteousness for which Jesus says those who are blessed are hungering and thirsting? For him, righteousness is not merely about doing the right thing. It goes much deeper than that. When Jesus does talk about righteousness later in this sermon, he contrasts the Pharisees’ idea of righteousness to that of God’s. Their idea of righteousness by keeping the tenets of the law does not lead to being perfect as God is perfect. And that is where the good news of the kingdom leads us. Righteousness is aligning your life with the character of God.

What will change in you who embrace this way is that you finally will desire to be what God made you to be in the beginning. You will begin to want your life to reflect His life, perhaps for the first time, perhaps more genuinely than you ever thought possible. This blessing indicates that those who come this way have passed the point of passivity. They are no longer content to experience spirituality in passing. Their deepest desire is to pursue God, resulting in a display of His presence in their lives.

This pursuit is not just in the big things or in big ways. Transformation is not about better church attendance, more Bible reading, or giving lots of money to God. How God might go about shaping your religious life is not what this blessing is about. It is about the reality of the new covenant God promised in Jeremiah 31: 31ff—that He will put His law in our minds and write His law on our hearts. Then He will be our God and we will be His people. In other words, this blessing indicates our switch from selective obedience to a passion for being righteous in the way God is righteous. He infuses His life into us. We want to look like our Creator. This is an amazing change for descendants of the couple who were convinced by a lie that they could do without God.

I learned how deeply satisfying this is after I submitted myself to God at the start of my transformational journey. I had always been critical of my wife, Shirley, since our marriage. I arrogantly found that she did not measure up to my standards of doing things—how she kept house, how she raised the children, etc. I foolishly tried to fix her by pointing out her faults, thinking that in time she would improve. I had no idea how badly I was wounding her and destroying our marriage.

One day, soon after I entered into the healing process with God, He showed me I was to stop criticizing Shirley. I was staggered because being critical was as normal as breathing. Giving it up sounded impossible to me. But because now I wanted what God wanted, I submitted willingly, asking that He do this in me by His grace. A year later, conditions had so changed in our marriage that Shirley, who journaled her thoughts, wrote in her notebook that day all the reasons she loved me as her husband. The first statement she wrote was, “I love Steve because he doesn’t criticize me.” I first saw this list seventeen years later, on a day when Shirley was cleaning out her storage chest. When she handed me the list, I was dumbstruck at the confirmation of God’s changing our marriage by changing me years before. Through that one act of obedience, love was rekindled in my wife. Do you think I was not filled that day?

Look into yourself and ask what drives your desires. The healthier you are becoming, the greater you will find that you want what God wants. One of the sure signs that God is changing you is that you look back at your former behavior and realize you never want to go back to what you were.

Steve Smith