Monday, September 18, 2017

What God Most Wants From Us

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).

The chief goal of the Christian life is righteousness. Righteousness is what God wants from us more than anything else. We see this in Matthew 6:33. In this verse, the word first is the Greek word protos. This word not only means first in sequence or chronological order, but it also carries the idea of “foremost in importance.”

One of the most frightening statements in the New Testament is found in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Some of the commentators take this verse to be referring to justification. According to this view, Jesus is saying that we must possess perfect righteousness in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. How can we sinners have this perfect righteousness? Only in Christ Jesus. Jesus alone truly fulfilled the terms of this verse, and thanks be to God, His righteousness is credited to my account.

I think it may be possible that this verse does ultimately refer to justification, but I think we need also to consider its relevance for sanctification. The fact is that Christians, being justified by faith, are to live as righteous (just) people thereafter. Christians must be people with a passion for holiness and righteousness.

So what is this verse saying? It says that unless our lives begin to manifest a quality of righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is strong evidence that the faith we profess is not genuine. The true Christian is a person who grows in authentic righteousness.

Bible scholars have a category entitled “The Hard Sayings of Jesus.” Matthew 5:20 is one of them. Don’t yield to the temptation of diluting, defusing or dismissing such passages and the implications. If you have become complacent in your faith, pray that the Holy Spirit would properly “disturb” you with this and other similar passages.