Sermon: The Christian Counter Culture (Part 4) Chasing Hard After Righteousness Matthew 5:6

The Christian Counter Culture (Part 4)

Chasing Hard After Righteousness

Matthew 5:6

Truth Taught- To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to taste of it in justification and then possess a persistent longing for more


Today, Lord willing, we will complete the first half of the Beatitudes. So far we’ve seen a spiritual progression where each character trait is built upon the one before. We saw that Christians must be poor in spirit, being spiritually bankrupt before God with no claim to righteousness or His love. When we are poor in spirit we are exactly where God wants us to be to begin with. Then when we understand our spiritual poverty in our self we will mourn over our sin and corruption. Jesus tells us happy are those who mourn over their sin because God will comfort us. Coming before God spiritually poor and mourning over our sin will truly promote biblical meekness. We are not like the wicked who strive after riches but are those who would rather wait for God and those who trust Him. So, spiritual poverty leads to spiritual mourning which leads to true meekness and then today, we’ll see that all these lead us to a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness.


Father, make us hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only You can give us through Christ…

Matthew 5:1–12 (ESV)

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  1. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Again as with the three previous Beatitudes, Jesus uses the word blessed or happy in a strangely paradoxical way. Nowhere on the entire planet are the starving looked upon with envy. Someone who is malnourished and famished is someone who is suffering and not happy and in need of physical aid.

Jesus teaches us that hunger is to be something that His followers help with and seek to overcome in others. It is a very kind act and one God endorses to seek to alleviate hunger in others and it shows the love of Christ.

Matthew 25:35 (ESV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

Paul, teaches that even if our enemy is hungry we should come to his aid…

Romans 12:20 (ESV)

20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

The point is that all over the Bible, hunger is something that requires our help to overcome. It’s not a thing to be happy about. It’s not a thing to be sought after and desired.

What Jesus does here is teaches us that just like when someone is hungry for food and seeks after it because they must have food to survive so to God’s people must have righteousness to survive. He calls us to be hungry and on the hunt not so much for our next meal but for righteousness. To pursue it and to chase after it is the idea.

Biblical righteousness comes in three forms.

  1. Legal Righteousness

Here, what is meant is justification. This is, of course, when someone believes and God saves them. That person is declared righteous before God based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is an amazing work of God on behalf of the elect. He saves us apart from any righteousness in us. This is entirely God’s grace giving to the sinner what he so desperately needs.

This is where the Jews stumbled so severely. They thought that there was an acceptable righteousness that they could achieve through works and tradition.

Romans 9:30–10:4 (ESV)

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

      “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

10 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.


Legal righteousness is God declaring the sinner righteous based on faith in Christ alone and resting in the finished work of Christ on his behalf. This first step of true righteousness comes from God as a gift to the believer and is what creates the hunger and thirst for more righteousness.

  1. Moral Righteousness

This is the righteousness of character and conduct, which pleases God. This is specifically the type of righteousness Jesus is referring to here in Matthew 5.

The Pharisees tried to achieve this by an external conformity to certain rules. What Jesus tells us to hunger and thirst for is a righteousness of the inner person. It’s not conformity to rules seeking to achieve it but it is actually character transformation and is who we are on the inside. It’s hungering and thirsting to be conformed to the image of Christ. It’s a deep longing for true righteousness and it manifests itself in right living before God.

Our trouble, beloved, is we have way too much Pharisee in us. They thought that adhering to rules would cause God to favor them. The reality is the opposite. We must seek to be righteous not to earn God’s favor but because we are already favored, not to earn salvation but to please our heavenly Father.

Jesus tells us that we should desire this passionately and crave it like our favorite food or how we desire a drink of water after we’ve been outside in the heat.

Jesus has used these same analogies before in the NT.
John 4:31–34 (ESV)

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

For Jesus, food was important but not as important as obedience to the Father’s will.

Matthew 4:3–4 (ESV)

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

       “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

In both of these examples, Jesus equates His desire to be obedient to God to our desire to eat. Just as physical food sustains us, there is a soul food that sustains us spiritually. This spiritual food is obedience to God’s will.

  1. Social Righteousness
    The third type of righteousness that God desires is a righteousness that permeates our society at large. Now, we realize this will only happen in the Kingdom of God that will be consummated at the return of Christ. At the same time, we are to seek in whatever way we can that righteousness is part of our world. We pray for our government and it’s leaders. We pray that our courts are just and fair. We show integrity in business dealings. When we live by righteousness others benefit. So, this third type of righteousness is really the outworking of personal righteousness that is manifested as we live in this world.
  2. How Do We Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Jesus has made the declaration that all who desire and pursue righteousness will be satisfied. The word translated satisfied when the context is food is the idea of being stuffed. Think of Thanksgiving when you pass out from the meal. That’s Jesus’ promise to us when we desire personal righteousness and when we pursue it, we will find it and be stuffed with righteousness.

The way we are called to hunger and thirst for righteousness it be continually eating and drinking of Christ and God’s Word. Just like a meal, it only lasts for a while. We need to keep eating on a regular basis, three meals a day. In the same way we must feed our souls three meals a day of righteousness. It’s not a one time meal but ongoing.

The motivation to chase after righteousness comes from the promise that in finding it there will be great happiness.

Isaiah 55:1–3 (ESV)

55 “Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

       and he who has no money,

come, buy and eat!

       Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

   Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

       Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

   Incline your ear, and come to me;

hear, that your soul may live;

       and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness means to come to the source of spiritual food and righteousness on a regular basis. This hunger is a yearning for God’s rule in our lives. It’s a deep longing for God and His Kingdom. We long for Christ and His complete rule so much that we are driven to do our part by loving His rule in our lives.

Psalm 42:1–2 (ESV)

   As a deer pants for flowing streams,

so pants my soul for you, O God.

   My soul thirsts for God,

for the living God.

       When shall I come and appear before God?

  1. Chasing Righteousness By Faith

Just like we don’t have to make ourselves hungry physically so too, we don’t have to make ourselves hungry spiritually. As believers we are always hungry for righteousness.

The motivation to chase after righteousness comes from the promise that in finding it there will be great happiness.

The issue is, are we convinced that what Jesus tells us is true, namely, that we will be the most happy when we are gaining personal righteousness?

Our hunger causes us to act. We stop what we are doing and go eat, we pull of the road and enter the drive thru, or whatever. Our hunger causes some action.

What action does spiritual hunger cause?

For some it drives them toward seeking to be filled some other way. May turn to business or even eating perhaps to seek to be satisfied.

So, what we must strive for is an ongoing faith that we will not be happy until we are seeking personal righteousness through obedience to God.

Many of you can attest to overcoming certain past sins as you have grown as a Christian. As you speak about those victories you are very happy.

I can be starving for righteousness, follow Jesus’ lead, and feel immensely satisfied, but then a few hours later, say around dinner time, I might be earnestly desiring…dinner. My hunger for righteousness apparently comes and goes, and sometimes my hunger for worldly things takes over. It’s frustrating.

The difference between the righteousness that Christ gives us and the righteousness to which He calls us is important to grasp…to all who are in Christ, God gives His Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts and creates within us a new and deep desire to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. Christ’s people hunger and thirst for righteousness, because while we know that we are forgiven and accepted before God on the basis of all that Christ is and all that He has done, we also know how far we are from all that Christ calls us to be.

The motivation to chase after Christ’s righteousness comes from the promise that when we find it we will also find happiness.

Proverbs 21:21 (ESV)

21    Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness

will find life, righteousness, and honor.

We have a Bible full of these promises. The motivation is only found as we taste and see for ourselves. When we discover Christ’s righteousness perhaps in a certain area in our lives and then also with it find the happiness that Jesus tells us about then we will be motivated for more and more.

What area of your life will you hunger and thirst for righteousness?




Philippians 1:9–11 (ESV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.




*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible


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