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The Beatitudes: The Meek and the Hungry

January 15, 2017 Speaker: Afshin Ziafat Series: Sermon on the Mount

Passage: Matthew 5:5–5:6



Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Matthew Chapter 5. We're going to jump back in to the Beatitudes in a moment and carry on with our series that we started last week, walking through the Sermon on the Mount.

As I've studied this sermon, really, a deep personal conviction of mine, as I've studied, I just see this need. There's a great concern, I believe, that in a culture that is ever-shifting away from God's standard of truth, that the church would be very tempted to try to blend in with the culture; that the church would try to survive by its own efforts, anyways, and actually end up becoming lukewarm instead of standing out as a light in this culture. We don't want to be like Revelation 3 where God speaks, "You're neither hot nor cold, you're lukewarm and so I'm going to spit you out of my mouth."

And so for some churches, I think as the culture is shifting further and further away from God, they're saying, You can't 100% be cold, and by that I mean, embrace clear anti-Christian doctrines that the world is spouting forth. But yet, my fear is that maybe we would not seek to be truly hot, if you will, for our witness in Christ, but try to be more like Isaiah 8, make us a king so that we can be like all the other nations; and therefore lose our purpose and lose our way.

That's the big What and the big Why, I believe, of the Sermon on the Mount. So last week we spent a whole lot of time making some introductory remarks to get us prepared for this sermon. I'm not going to walk through all of that, but again, I want to remind us the big What and the Why of the Sermon on the Mount. The "What" is, ultimately, Jesus detailing for His disciples what kingdom life looks like. This is what kingdom life ought to be. In other words, in the kingdom of God, this is the way the citizens of the kingdom function. This is the way they live.

And the big "Why," the reason for that, the reason that Jesus is spelling this out, is so again that his disciples would in fact be hot, and not cold or lukewarm -- that they would shine and stand out in a dark world.

And that's why right after the Beatitudes, the first instruction that's given in this sermon is, Don't lose your saltiness, don't cover up your light. Why? We want to shine our light so that people would see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. So again, the purpose of our standing out is not so that people would think great thoughts of us, but so that they can see our Father in Heaven and glorify Him. So again, at Providence, we exist to glorify God. That's our mission statement. That's how it starts.

So this sermon is going to show us how to live holy lives. We talked about this last week. Holiness means to be set apart from the world. Not to be "holier than thou" so that people will look at us and say, Wow, look at those amazing Christians, but so again, that we would stand out and be able to reflect Christ to this world.

And that's our aim, and that's why we need to press in. We said last week also, we've got to be very careful about how we interpret the Sermon on the Mount -- that it's primarily detailing for us a description of disciples' lives. It's more a description of Christian character than it is a code of ethics and morals.

Why is that important? Because it keeps us from making two errors: The first error is, you come to the Beatitudes, you come to the Sermon on the Mount, and you see it as Christ detailing conditions for us to meet in order to be saved. In other words, in the Beatitudes he says, "The merciful will receive mercy." So it kind of sounds like, you've gotta do this in order to receive mercy. But again, as you study the sermon, as you study the whole of the Bible, you see that really that's not what's being taught. But it's rather, those who have received mercy, the way they're going to show themselves to have received mercy is by being merciful to others.

It's the fruit of grace that has impacted our lives. So the first Beatitude really makes that crystal clear: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven -- those who belong to the kingdom of Heaven, those who belong to God are those who are poor in spirit. And that means they understand their spiritual bankruptcy. They understand that they have nothing to offer by way of good works before God. They have nothing to commend themselves with. They are utterly bankrupt and they turn to the mercy of Christ. And one of the main purposes, I believe, for this sermon is to move us to a position where we understand our need and we declare our bankruptcy. God moves to those who are contrite and lowly in spirit -- the poor in spirit.

And so, instead, as I said, this sermon is Jesus saying, Since you have been saved by grace alone, this is the way you ought to live your life. The merciful will show mercy. And Jesus does this in Matthew 18, in the parable of the unforgiving servant. Again, the heart of that parable is to say that those who have been forgiven will show the fruit of forgiving others.

And so that's the first error we might make. The second error we might make is to look at the sermon and throw up our hands and say, "Man, the ideals laid out in this sermon are just unattainable for us. So why even try?" Or maybe, This is just the ideals for the age to come. Jesus doesn't really mean for this to happen in this life; it's just not really practical to turn the other cheek, or to give someone your cloak also. These things are way too hard -- they're unattainable.

And I would say no, Jesus taught this sermon and He means for us to live this kind of life out. Not in our own strength, but in His grace, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Some people in history, Thomas Aquinas, by the way, would say that this is something that is reserved for an elite class of Christians. Remember that the church in history has been guilty of trying to separate the ministers from, let's say, the laity.

But that's not what's going on here. These Beatitudes are the characteristics of all people who are in the kingdom of God. This sermon is meant for ALL of Christ's disciples, and Jesus died, not just so we could be in Heaven once we die, but He died so that we can experience this kind of life, in the here and now.

In Titus 2:14 it says it this way, that "Jesus gave Himself to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, who are zealous for good works." And so we are meant to look at this as a way that we are to live lives that are pleasing to God and reflect Him in the world.

And then, again, we have to interpret this teaching very carefully, and remember that ultimately Jesus is ushering in a spiritual kingdom. And this is something that is very important. Remember that Matthew wrote his Gospel primarily to a Jewish audience. Now a Jewish conception of the kingdom was an earthly kingdom -- that the Messiah was going to be a military ruler, to drive out Rome and set up an earthly kingdom. And that, by the way, is why you're going to see more often than not in Matthew, he does not say "the kingdom of God" but he says "the kingdom of Heaven." Because he's trying to make sure his audience understands that this is not a kingdom that belongs to this earth; it's a heavenly kingdom.

So these are spiritual qualities that are going to be laid out for us. And so Jesus in Luke 17 said, when he was asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God would come, he says, the kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, "Look, here it is," or "There!" For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.

The kingdom of God is really what is happening within the hearts of men and women as they surrender and they turn themselves into subjection, into submission to the lordship of Christ. They submit themselves to the King, and live lives -- that's how the kingdom of God is advancing. It is that which governs and controls our heart, our mind, and our will. That's why you're going to see, again, "Blessed are the poor in SPIRIT" -- it's not physical poverty. It doesn't mean that God doesn't care about physical poverty -- He does. But ultimately, what He's commending is not a physical poverty -- you could be physically poor and not have this quality. He's saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit -- again, those who understand that they have nothing in and of themselves to fix their sin situation. And they turn to God for mercy. They humble themselves, and they're lifted up.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. God cares about physical hunger and thirst, but at the end of the day what He's commending here is a spiritual one.

So let's jump in again. We looked last week at the first two Beatitudes -- Blessed are the poor in spirit, I've already hit what that means, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Now verse 4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. We talked about this last week. That really, honestly, the closer you get to God, the more you will mourn truly for your sin. Not just because you were found out in your sin, but you mourn that your sin is against a holy God. And your desire is to please Him, and you grieve over your sin. It's like Isaiah chapter 6, when Isaiah saw the glory of God, he heard the angels crying out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." And then what does he do? He says, "Woe is me, for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips." So the person who sees God's holiness, then sees his own sinfulness, and truly mourns. It's a good quality. It shows that you are walking close to God.

And so today we're going to move now to the third Beatitude. In verse 5, Matthew writes, Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Now, I will confess that meekness is something that we don't often preach about, and it's something that's kind of hard for us to understand and grasp. What does meekness mean? Let's start with what it is NOT.

Meekness does not mean WEAKNESS. It doesn't mean indecisiveness, or to be timid. It doesn't mean laziness, flabbiness. It doesn't mean mere niceness. It's not like a spirit of compromise, or peace at all costs.

No, meekness is actually compatible with great strength. We're going to find that the great men and women of the faith displayed this quality of meekness. It's not synonymous with weakness. In fact, it takes great strength to be meek.

So what is meekness? Briefly, the adjective means "Gentle, humble, considerate, courteous." And as you study meekness throughout scripture, and we're gonna walk through some scriptures today, let me say that really meekness could be said this way: It's a right estimate about God, and about yourself, that governs the way you act and respond in relation to others.

I think it's brilliant the way Martin-Lloyd Jones says it: Meekness is essentially the true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. The man who is truly meek is the one who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do, and treat him as well as they do.

So that understanding of who you are -- again, you're poor in spirit, you're mourning over your sin -- understanding who God is, that engenders, that moves us towards meekness. To have, again, a right attitude in the way we relate to others.

So again, it flows out of the other Beatitudes. Every Beatitude that we're going to walk through demands and implies the others. So when you are spiritually bankrupt, you understand that, and you mourn over your sin, you have a right understanding of yourself, then you will be meek in your relationship with others.

So now, how does meekness behave, and where do you see it in scripture? We'll put a few of these on the screen. I hope these will be helpful.

First of all, meekness isn't being consumed with yourself. It's not hyper-sensitive about the self. It's really an absence of pride. The meek man does not feel there's anything in himself to boast of, and therefore does not seek to glory in self. It means that he doesn't assert himself, demand things for himself. He doesn't even look at his rights as claims. He doesn't make demands for his possessions, privileges, status.

The meek man is able to be meek because the self is already well taken care of in God, in Christ. So he doesn't clamor to grab more for himself from others. So the examples of meekness you see in scripture, for instance, in the life of Abraham. Remember in Genesis 13, the great deference that he showed to Lot. If you remember the story, they're standing there, and Abraham looks at Lot and says, "The whole land is before us." You go ahead and pick. If you go left, I'll go right. If you go right, I'll go left. You see, the person who is so satisfied in Christ knows that he doesn't deserve anything. He can be meek and defer to others.

And the Bible says that Lot looked up and saw a portion of the land that was well-watered, and that's where he traveled to. So Abraham settled in Canaan. It's great strength to be able to do that.

David with Saul, remember? David had already been anointed to be king. And yet, here's Saul seeking to hunt him down and kill him. David's advisors say, "Hey, Saul is alone in the cave -- you can take him out, you can kill him." And David doesn't say, I've got that right -- in terms of not, maybe, killing him, but I've already been anointed king.

But he doesn't take matters into his own hands. That's deference right there. The person, again, who is satisfied in who he is in Christ doesn't clamor to gain more. He understands he's deserving of nothing. He's not consumed with self.

Therefore, number 2,

He seeks the best for others. Remember that Jesus was obviously the meekest. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (that's the word meekness there), and you will find rest for your souls." And so, obviously Jesus displays this for us mostly through the act of His condescension, coming into this world and being crucified, Philippians 2 -- He set aside His rights. And He came as a bondservant, putting on human flesh, came into this world, Philippians 2 says, and became obedient, all the way to the point of death on the cross. And the Bible says there in Philippians 2 that we are to count others more significant than ourselves, put the interest of others before our own. That's meekness right there.

And, look, we cannot do that in and of our own strength, so we must remember what Christ has done for us in order to be able to live that out. Jesus counted us more significant, even though clearly we'd all say that He's more significant than any of us. And yet in the very act of putting on human flesh, stepping out of His glory, and coming and dying for us, He is displaying meekness for us. Paul says the same thing about Timothy in Philippians. He goes on to say that "I hope to send to you Timothy; I have NO ONE like him who will be genuinely be concerned for your welfare, for they ALL seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ." So the interests of Jesus Christ is not your own; it's putting others before yourself.

It's like Zig Ziglar told me at Prestonwood when I used to serve there. He said, "Help others get what they want, and you will ultimately get what you want." I think there's a little bit of biblical truth there; that's meekness. Again, that's looking out for the interests of others. That person also does not seek to defend self, or retaliate. Again, if you understand that you are already undone, you're not deserving of anything, no one can say anything bad about you -- you'd say, Man, I deserve that, and even more. It does not seek to retaliate and defend itself. It is not ultra-defensive. A man becomes meek when he no longer worries about himself and what other people are saying. Because, look, he understands who he is, and says, really, there's nothing worth defending. I am who I am because of the grace of Christ alone. So he never pities himself. He doesn't spend time being consumed with making himself feel better for being slighted.

This is such a beautiful quality. Can you imagine the peace, the security that comes from knowing that you have nothing, you don't deserve anything? It's by the grace of God that you are what you are. You don't always have to try to retaliate, and try to defend every point when someone comes against you.

There's great strength in meekness; do you see it? So it's easy to confess to God, yes, I'm a sinner, but then when someone else comes against us, we want to rise up and defend ourselves. And so it takes great strength to have that kind of meekness.

Where do you see it in scripture? How about Moses? By the way, in Numbers 12, it says that Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth. Now listen to how it explains his meekness. In Numbers 12, I'm going to read the first 4 verses. It says this: "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married. For he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, 'Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?'" So they're coming against him; they're reviling, they're attacking him for marrying this woman. And then it says this: "The Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, 'Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting,' and the three of them came out." And it goes on to say in Numbers 12 that God basically chastises Aaron and Miriam for coming against Moses, and He basically vindicates Moses.

That is meekness. Insults are hurled at you, and you don't seek to defend or retaliate. You are secure in Christ, and you let God vindicate you. That is meekness in action. And so it's the same thing that Paul talks about in Philippians when he says that Some are preaching Christ out of envy, seeking my harm in my imprisonment, but man, I will even rejoice in that, as long as Christ is proclaimed. And he says, by the way, I believe God WILL vindicate me.

And so of course the greatest example of this is Jesus Himself. 1 Peter chapter 2 says it this way: "When Jesus was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly." He didn't feel the need to revile in return, because He was committed -- He trusted in God.

Can you imagine if we infused this quality into our marriages? Being so secure, knowing you deserve nothing anyways. Not feeling the need to defend yourself at every point against your spouse, and retaliate for every slight that comes your way.

I think this would be a beautiful thing, not only in our personal lives and our marriages and our friendships.

The meek person is also TEACHABLE. Listen to James 1:19: "Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your soul."

So James 1 says, look, the meek person is not the one who is quick to speak, quick to anger, but SLOW to speak, slow to anger, and is able to receive the instruction of the word. So the meek person is the one who never sees himself above instruction from anyone. And takes the word of God. Has a teachable spirit.

Finally, let me say this: The meek person leaves everything in the hands of God. Trusts God again. Remember we said the meekness comes from a proper view of self and of God? This is where the proper view of God comes in; knowing that God is sovereign; I don't have to defend myself at every turn, as I said. Knowing that He is in control.

Listen to meekness displayed in Psalm 37. I think it's one of the most beautiful pictures of meekness. Listen to this: "Fret not yourself because of evildoers. Be not envious of wrongdoers. For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord; wait patiently for Him. Fret not yourself over the one who prospers, over the man who carries out evil devices. For the evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. In just a little while the wicked will be no more. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant peace." And I think this is what Jesus is quoting in this Beatitude.

Again, the person who is so secure and trusts God and can humble himself as 1 Peter 5 says, and "Cast all his anxieties on Him." So this goes right to the reward. Again, the meek shall inherit the earth. To have that kind of assurance in the blessing, to be able to stand and not be full of anxiety when things don't go your way in this world, when people come against you. Again, it takes an incredible strength -- being rooted in Christ, to be able have this kind of meekness.

And that's what's so astonishing. The meek shall inherit the earth? How much does this go against the way of the world? The world would say, "No way! It's the strong, the powerful, the one who asserts himself and dominates -- THAT person is going to inherit the world." Again, in the kingdom, it's totally flipped on its head. No! Jesus says, actually, it's the meek -- the one who is patient, who defers, who's not trying to assert himself, and trust in God, and waits on God, and commits his way to God. THAT person will inherit the earth.

Isn't this God's way? It's just like when Peter took up the sword, again to advance the kingdom (he thought) by the sword. Jesus said, Put away your sword. Right? He told Pilate, "If my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would have taken up arms to defend me." But it comes through my deference, through my not reviling, through my actually laying my life down that the ultimate victory is won, and the kingdom advances. And this is the way it is for us. We inherit the earth in the present and in the future. Let me explain.

You see, only the genuinely meek person is going to be content in what he has in Christ, in the here and now. And he's not going to be, again, clamoring for more, trying to put himself over others. 2 Corinthians 6:10 says that we, while having nothing, we possess everything. It's what Paul said to the Philippians in Philippians 4. He says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."

You can't give him too much that he gets overly ecstatic, because he already has the greatest thing in life, in Christ. You can't take everything away from him that he's gonna be so bummed out, because you can't take Christ away from him. And that kind of person, again, has truly inherited the earth today. And by the way, we know that we WILL inherit the earth. We will. It's again, Psalm 37. The evildoer will be gone, and we will inherit the earth. Romans 8 says that we will reign, provided that we also suffer with Him. So there's a future promise. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him freely, how much more will He give us even more? And we trust in that, and we're able to not clamor for more.

It's like when you see children, for instance. Even my daughter will do this. She'll be very generous with her sister, in giving her sister things, when she knows that she already has something even better. You see generosity flow out, right? When we know what we have in Christ, we put the interests of others first. Meekness. The only way you can be meek, again, is remembering who you are in Christ. Looking at Him; looking at the gospel.

All right, so let's move to do one last one before we're done today, all right? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. And I may have to pick this up again next week, because there's a lot in here. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Let me say this, again, I think all these Beatitudes build on each other. It's not enough to admit sin and be broken over it, to see yourself in the right light. But then, what invariably comes is an insatiable thirst for Christlikeness.

This is a progression that must take place: Confession, to contrition, to meekness, to humility, to a passionate pursuit of conformity to God's will. And I would say this hungering and thirsting for righteousness, again, is a fruit of salvation, a proof that grace has truly entered your heart. And we are those, friends, who have tasted what the world offers, and we've found it to make us more empty.

And so now, we have tasted of God, and we run after it, and we long for more and more of Him. As 1 Peter 4 says, the world looks at us, and they are surprised when we don't follow them in the same flood of debauchery. After the junk of this world, we know it doesn't satisfy. In fact, it says they will malign you.

That's why, by the way, at the end of this Beatitude it says we're going to be persecuted for our righteousness. They're gonna malign you because you are not running after the stuff of this world to fulfill you, but you're seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. So friends, I believe this is again, a fruit.

Last week I said something that may have been confusing. I quoted a Puritan quote that said this: That the law, as Galatians says, is a tutor to drive us to Jesus, to find mercy and sanctification in Him alone. But then Jesus, once we've been justified, sends us to the law in order to be sanctified.

And let me be clear. I don't believe that what the Puritans were meaning, and certainly I don't believe that the Bible is teaching that we are saved by grace alone, only to now try to maintain our salvation by our own efforts and keeping the law. That's not what's being taught there. What's being taught, I believe, is this: That the person who has truly been blown away by the grace of God doesn't throw out the law. Jesus didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. But then He turns to the law and he actually delights in the commandments of God. It's his delight; it's his food, and it's his water, his drink. He desires it because he desires conformity with Christ. A person who is truly amazed by grace doesn't drift into moral laxity, but pants after, and strives, for righteousness. That's a fruit of salvation.

Again, Martin-Lloyd Jones gives this brilliant quote here: "I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse, hungering and thirsting for righteousness -- If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole scripture, you can be quite certain you are a Christian. If it is not, then you had better examine the foundation again."

That's what it is; that's what it means to be a Christian. You constantly say, Not that I have already attained this, but I press on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. You know 1 John 3 says that when He appears, we shall be like Him. So your desire is to know Him and become more and more like Him; to reflect Him to the world. And you are pursuing THAT. It's like that children's game, you know, tag, you're it. One child tags another kid and says, "you're it." And what happens? Immediately it reverses -- the child who was tagged starts running after the person who tagged him. That's what happens. When God comes and he touches us with His grace, immediately what turns in us is this insatiable thirst to know Him more and become like Him, and to pursue Him.

You've heard me say this, again, it's like the illustration with marriage. We get the wrong goal in marriage. Men pursue their girlfriends and their fiancees and date them, and send them flowers, and so on and so forth, and then when they marry them, they stop pursuing their wives.

And they miss -- the goal isn't just to be married, men, the goal is you and her becoming one, as you continually put her before yourself. And in the same way, when you become a Christian, in that moment, yes, the righteousness of Christ invades your life. It's an alien righteousness. It's a righteousness that is apart from the law, though the law testifies to it. It's a righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. It's a gift that God gives us to be received by faith. And when you put your faith in Christ, you know you're a sinner, you know Christ is holy, and you know what He has done to pay for your sin on the cross, and you in faith receive Him. The Bible says, that righteousness comes to you.

BUT that's just the beginning for you. It's not the end. NOW you are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. That's why, let's define what this righteousness is. I don't think it's that righteousness at justification. I think it's the righteousness of our being sanctified, again, more and more like Christ. I believe what this refers to, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, is hungering and thirsting for conformity to God's will. It's hungering and thirsting to be made more and more like what we are already declared to be in Christ. Does that make sense? It's hungering and thirsting to become more like what we are already declared to be in Jesus. That's what this is referring to. And I think it's very important that He uses the phrase, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for it. Again, guys, our becoming like Christ, sanctification, our becoming more righteous, let's confess, it is a passive work. In other words, we can't make ourselves righteous. The Holy Spirit -- yielding to the Spirit in my life -- He's the one in my life that makes me righteous.

But I believe this hunger and thirst says that it's not just a passive thing that's happening in sanctification. That there's also an ACTIVE thing on the part of the believer -- that I am hungering and thirsting for it. Again, as the deer pants for flowing streams, the Psalmist says, so my soul pants for You, oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

So, friend, yes, it's passive, but hungering and thirsting means this: That I am gonna do whatever it takes to position myself to allow God to make me more like Jesus. That's what it looks like. And so it's John 15: Abide in me, and you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can not bear fruit on your own. But abide in me. Or John 8: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciple, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So Christ is the truth. He's the one that sets us free. But we're to abide! That's active. It's Philippians 2: Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do. It's 1 Corinthians 15, by the grace of God I am what I am, but I worked all the harder, harder than all the rest. Why? Then he says, but it wasn't me who was working; it was the grace of God working within me.

It's both and. It's a hunger and thirst that says, I am going to do what it takes, whatever it takes, because righteousness for me is like food and water. If you are physically hungry and thirsty; if you are physically starving, see the determination you're gonna have. See the single-minded focus you will have. See the motivation you will have, to make sure you get food and water before you. And it's the same thing here.

And so if we really hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will do whatever it takes. So in one sense, let me say, you will throw off anything that hinders righteousness in your life. It's like what Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." The runner, before he would run, he would take off any piece of clothing that was excess, that would weigh him down.

It's like my buddy in high school, you may have heard me share this before: John Cox was his name. When he was a swimmer (he ended up swimming for USC), I looked at his legs, and he had not one piece of hair -- now this is a dude -- not one piece of hair on his legs. I'm like, "Dude, what's going on with you?" He goes, "I shave my legs." I say, "Why, are you a freak?" He says, "No, I'm a swimmer." And I go, "Really?" And he goes, "Yeah, I don't want anything dragging in the water, slowing me down."

It's that kind of determination, man! NOTHING hindering me. That means, think of all the five hundred million things that North Texas says that we ought to be involved in, that weigh us down and hinder our progress after righteousness. Throw off the weight! That's what it means when you hunger and thirst. The stuff that you and I are wasting my time with, that keeps me from pursuing this, I get rid of it.

How about the sin? It goes on in Hebrews 12 to say that "In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." It's like Jesus says, if your right hand offends you, cut it off! If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, that sin that is dominating you-- man, whatever is causing that cycle, man you're going to cut it off! You're do business with it -- you're going to bring it into the light. You're gonna get that drastic when you really are hungering and thirsting for this righteousness.

And it's not just negative, friends. It's also, you position yourself. In other words, you put yourself in the Word. Why? Because Jesus says, "Sanctify them by Your truth," he prays for the disciples, "Your word is truth." And, man, if pursuing righteousness is my conforming to God's will, what better way than for me abide in His word, because it's in His word that His will is most clearly displayed for me.

And so I hunger and I thirst for the word of God. I make it a habit in my life. And I surround myself with the church. I put myself in places where people can speak truth to me. And what's so amazing, before we pray, is the reward is that you will be satisfied. Now this is a kind of an interesting little thing to think about here. Because the satisfaction that comes when you are filled -- I think the implication is, if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you're gonna be filled with righteousness. What that means is, you're gonna see your character conforming to that of Christ. And what's amazing is, when that hunger and thirst is filled, what's amazing about it is, it immediately produces MORE hunger and thirst. That's the way it works in the Christian life.

So, yes, in one sense, you are filled -- Jesus says, I'm the bread of life, whoever comes to Me will never hunger and thirst again; but the Christian walk is one that, once you are filled, again as I said, you long for more. When Paul says, I have not already attained it; I continue to press on, he goes on to say in Philippians 3, if anyone is mature, let him think this way. The mature Christian is the one who is tasting of God and conforming to Christlikeness and says, Man, there is so much more I want. And I'm running after it all the more.

So I think really in some sense, what's happening is, when He's saying "you will be filled," it's the way you battle sin. You don't battle sin in your life just by fasting from that sin, getting away from the junk food. No, you turn to the Bread of Life. You get in the Word; you hunger after righteousness. And as you are filled, it means your appetite for the junk food wanes away. And THAT's how you defeat sin in your life. The person who is satisfied with an incredible filet mignon from a 5-star restaurant is not gonna hunger for plastic, fake chicken nuggets at McDonalds, all right? He's satisfied. And that's what I think is happening for us.

And friends, this righteousness that we're after, again, is not just for us, before we pray -- at the end of the day, we want to be meek, displaying meekness, not always defending ourselves, to show to the world that our trust is in God. We want to pursue righteousness so that we would conform to what this sermon is laying out, not so people can say "Afshin is so amazing" -- that misses the mark -- but to say, "Look what God has done in a guy who doesn't deserve ANYTHING." And that's what we should be running after. Let's pray.

Lord, I pray that we would be a people who would turn to Your word and seek not just to hear it but to do it in our lives. So God, I pray, Lord, for more meekness in our lives. I pray that we would be a people who have a right estimate of ourselves, by turning to the gospel. And embracing what we deserve -- knowing what we deserve, and yet what we get. And that THAT informs the way we relate to others. So that people would say, "what is up with them." They're not in angst (? 43:25) They're not slapping back. And they would see it's because of You. May we be a people who hunger and thirst for You -- for righteousness. Not just to claim to know You with a head knowledge, but to pursue You in a relationship; we hunger and thirst not just for a title; we hunger and thirst for righteousness. We want conformity. God, produce a restlessness in our heart, as Augustine said, Our heart is restless until it rests in You. May that be true of us. May we remember the words of Isaiah 55, "Why do spend your money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which does not satisfy? Eat what is good. Delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to Me. Hear that your soul may live." And Lord, may we turn to You.

And as your head is bowed, let me just say, if you're here and you're saying, "Man, I've tasted what the world has offered, and I am empty. I'm empty. Maybe you're like the woman at the well in John chapter 4, who's sitting at a well, pulling up water, and Jesus talks about a water, a living water, that will satisfy eternally. So that she won't keep going from one relationship to the other to fill something that only Christ can fill. And maybe you're here and you're saying, "That's me. That's me. I keep running after other things to fill me, and I'm empty." Turn to Him. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water. He is the One who will satisfy your soul.

Turn to Him and say,"God, I need You. Make me yours."

Lord, we love you, we worship You. Thank you for Your word. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

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