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Seeking His Righteousness

September 7th, 2018

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

The purpose of Christ in His sermon was not to give a new legalism, with new and stricter rules for earning salvation. It was, instead, to kick the crutch of legalism from beneath us, and teach us to stand in His righteousness and not our own.

What applies to worry also applies to salvation

As happens quite often in scripture profound statements with broad applications are made in the midst of discussions about a more specific issue. In chapter six of Matthew, in the middle part of His sermon, Christ is addressing worry – worrying about money, about what we will eat and drink, what we will wear, how long we will live, the normal worries of normal life – and He points the believer to God. Put worry away by seeking God’s kingdom first. Or as James Montgomery Boice wrote in his commentary on the Sermon, “Make it your business to seek God’s interests and follow His way and see if all your physical needs do not come to you effortlessly and without any necessity on your part of being anxious about them” (pp. 255-56).

Yet this verse 33 has more practical application for us than just for our worries. Christ spoke about a righteousness that comes from God, that can be sought and gained. Earlier in the sermon Christ spoke of righteousness:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).

So this exceptional righteousness is to be hungered and thirsted for, and it is the superior righteousness that brings salvation or entrance into the eternal kingdom of heaven. And, in 6:33, it is clearly God’s righteousness and not our own. It must be given by God and it alone can cover our unrighteousness and sinfulness.

This is exactly what the gospel proclaims. We see that Paul wrote precisely on this issue in Romans:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:20-25a)

The superior righteousness that Christ spoke of in His Sermon was purchased for us on the cross. This righteousness covers our sins, declares the sinner – you and me – as righteous before God, and is received through faith.

A clearer undertanding of faith

Christ has in His Sermon on the Mount given us a clearer understanding of faith. It involves repentance as much as belief in the efficacy of Christ’s payment for our sins. It is the recognition of our poverty of spirit (or our sinfulness), the mourning for our sins, the meekness to let God save us His way, and to hunger and thirst in our heart for His righteousness. It involves an eschewing (sorry, I could not think of a better word) or “rejecting” (not as good, but perhaps more understandable) of any effort on our part of earning our righteousness, and an inward seeking for His righteousness.

So the inner longing for God, the personal disgust of our sinfulness, the personal repudiation of any other means of salvation, and the inner seeking or reaching out in faith to receive God’s righteousness purchased by Christ are Christ’s descriptions of saving faith. To hunger and thirst is not the same as to seek, though they complement one another. True faith always contains this element of trust that God will grant us the righteousness that we seek. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…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 11:1,6).

And what applies to salvation also applies to worry

This is exactly what Christ promises, that we can come to Him and receive not only eternal salvation but the lighter burden of His grace. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Christ said:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There is from the early Christian writings reference of a man named Titedios Amerimnos. “Amerimnos” was a very uncommon name, and it appears to have been given to him as a title, like “James the Just” or “Alexander the Great.” His name means “Titedios Who Never Worries.” It has been passed down that Titedios was an unbeliever who always worried about life, but when he came to faith in Christ he completely changed. The peace of God guarded his heart and mind and he ceased to worry about anything.

The same faith that saves us from hell and saves us for heaven also can save us from worry and the burdens of this life. Make it your business to seek God’s business, take matters to Him in prayer, and trust in His love, and He will lift the burden of worry from your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon on the Mount