Remember as a kid how hard it was to color inside the lines? As we got older we got better but every now and then, we’d have that one errant mark that got away from us. And no matter how good the rest of it was, our obvious mistake was there for the whole world to see.
The lines were boundaries identifying an image. You knew what the picture was because the lines outlined its shape. But what if being right or wrong with God was like coloring images on a page and how well we colored those images determined our standing with Him?
In Jesus’ day, coloring within the lines was all the Pharisees knew to do. Since those lines defined their standard for what made a person right with God, staying within the lines was essential. The horror of life would be to cross a line and then have to face your fellow Pharisees.
See, it really wasn’t God they were ultimately trying to please but each other. The worst thing you could do was mess up in front of another Pharisee, and have your picture hung up for all to see.
But not only were they concerned about their own lives and the lives of other Pharisees, they became the Righteousness Police to make sure everyone else kept the 490 laws deemed necessary for righteousness.
Since what they were doing wasn’t God’s idea, you can understand why Jesus and Pharisees didn’t get along. One day the disciples grabbed a handful of grain, rubbed the seeds out and ate them. A Pharisee pointed out, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." Another time they were eating dinner and a Pharisee pointed out, Your disciples didn’t wash their hands properly—according to the Law. Then, again related to food, they challenged Jesus because His disciples didn’t fast like everyone else.
His response to the Pharisees: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. (Matt 23:27)
Hypocrites – word comes from actors in a play, using a mask to pretend to be someone they weren’t. That idea filtered into life to describe anyone trying to be something they weren’t.
To give an example of their hypocrisy, Jesus told His disciples, Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matt 6:1-2)
They thought they were doing good. They thought they were examples of righteous living because they colored so well. But all they were doing was living for the applause of men. The problem with hypocrisy is, it gets you what it’s designed to get you—the praise of those you fooled.
Like magicians, the Pharisees were showmen, amazing the people by pulling off spectacular feats of holy living, yet behind the curtain was a little man just pushing buttons, pulling levers and blowing smoke.
Jesus said: "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees…" (Matt 16:6) Leaven is an influencer. The most dangerous influencers are those who influence in the wrong direction or toward the wrong things. It is particularly dangerous when they don’t even know what the right way is.
I had a friend who worked as a service tech for office equipment. He admitted he didn’t really know what he was doing. So, he’d go into a business, find a machine he didn’t even know how to turn on, and say: Why don’t you turn this on the regular way you always do and let me see if you’re doing it right. He faked them out to keep from proving he didn’t know what he was doing.
The Pharisees were trying to enforce righteousness without knowing what righteousness was or how it worked. They thought it was an obligation God owed them for their efforts. They thought it was credit they got for doing religious stuff. The target they were shooting at had nothing to do with the real target.
Boy had hit the bullseye of a dozen targets he had drawn on a fence. When asked how he had gotten so good, he said, “I kept missing the real target so I just shot the arrows at the fence then went over and drew the circles around where the arrows hit.”
Fortunately, God later clarified the target through Paul: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…He made Him who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:19, 21) He calls it: the gift of righteousness…through Jesus.
Righteousness is a gift made available through Jesus dying to pay the penalty for our sin. That sin had separated us from God. When we believe in Him, accepting what He did as the salvation of our lives, God gives us the title, righteous. We are declared instantly right with Him.
Paul explained further: if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom 10:9-10)
It is acknowledging Jesus as who He is. Peter declared: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16) Later he added: "Lord, You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (Jn 6:68-69)
As Abraham was declared righteous when He believed God, His disciples were as well. So from the standpoint of having already been declared right with God, Jesus told His disciples: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.
He wasn’t talking about becoming righteous, but pursuing the righteousness they already had. He’s not talking to people on the outside looking in, but those already inside. Jesus wanted being right and living right with God to become consuming desires affecting everything about their lives – like hunger and thirst.
There are two interesting words used to describe the extent of our hunger and thirst.
· Hunger for something to eat – a piece of bread.
· Thirst for something to drink – a glass of water.
Word Jesus used is hunger for the whole loaf of bread.
Thirst for the whole pitcher of water
He said: I’m not just promising you’ll get the edginess of hunger knocked off. I’m going to fill you up.
His desire is for the whole effect of righteous engulfing me. “When God is the supreme hunger of our hearts, He will be supreme in everything.”
Jesus fed two separate multitudes of people—5000 and 4000. The Bible says in both accounts: they all ate and were satisfied.
There are three levels of satisfaction:
· Dissatisfied – I do not like or approve of what I have.
· Unsatisfied – I haven’t gotten enough yet.
· Satisfied – I’m filled to the highest level of being full.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst as a consuming life choice with regard to righteousness for they will be neither dissatisfied nor unsatisfied, but satisfied.
What creates hunger and thirst for righteousness? What makes us want Blue Bell?
Remember David’s little deer: As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. (Ps 42:1)
Why does the little deer pant for the water brooks? He knows what’s there. He’s been there before and can’t wait to get back.
Chuck Swindoll had a family come to church on Sunday who had experienced a tragic loss the day before. After what they went through, no one would have expected to see them there. He asked them about it and they said: We needed a word from the Lord. He has spoken to us here before, so we came back to see what He might say today.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Ps 63:1-8)
God, I hunger and thirst for You because I know You are good. I know what it’s like to live in the overflow of Your blessings. I know the joy of being surrounded by Your favor. I know the comfort of Your presence, the lightness of Your load, the release from my burdens, the hope in my darkness, the love that forever holds me secure.
To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to long for God Himself. To delight in fellowship with Him. To worship Him for His goodness. To desire His Word as nourishment for our hearts. To want for ourselves what He wants for us.
Job said: I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. (Job 23:12) More than I hunger for food do I hunger for my God.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary and gathered from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to an inhabited city. They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses. He led them also by a straight way, to go to an inhabited city. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good. (Ps 107:1-9)
We are blessed because giving ourselves to the desire for the righteousness we already have produces a satisfied life.
HG Wells: A person may be a bad musician but yet passionately in love with music.
Or: we may not be very good at coloring within the lines but desperately love to color.
Ask yourself: Am I okay just to touch the hem of His garment to gain the benefits of His blessings or do I want to embrace Him and satisfy my whole life? Cry out to God and you will not be disappointed.
Oh the blessedness of the righteous ones who give themselves to the consuming desire to find the nourishment for their lives in their relationship with Jesus. For the promise to them is: Your hunger and thirst will be satisfied.
1. In a world where everything is a temporary fix, the promise of complete satisfaction seems unrealistic.
2. Even things that come with a guarantee have conditions attached.
3. But God is faithful and all His promises are true.
4. He promises that those who hunger and thirst after Him will be satisfied.
5. It would seem, then, that if the results we want are found in Him, He must become the target of our desire for life.