As Jesus delivers His most prolific sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, He makes a shocking statement to His audience.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.” Matthew 5:17
The Law refers to the Law of God found in Genesis through Deuteronomy. It is God’s expectation for us. The Prophets were in charge of reminding the people of what God said, correcting them, and holding them accountable.
In verse 17, two keywords clarify what Jesus is saying; abolish and fulfill. First, the word translated abolish means to loosen up.
Under the leadership of the Pharisees and scribes, the Law became a tool to judge and oppress people. Some in Jesus’ day were looking to Jesus to lighten up or lower the standard set by God by the Old Testament Law. The issue was not the Law but how religious leaders abused it.
The second keyword is “fulfill,” which means to give the true or complete meaning to something. Jesus fulfilling the Law did not eliminate God’s standard but provided the true meaning and motive of the Law.
“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18
God’s standard remains in effect until this world is replaced with a New Heaven and New Earth.
Throughout history, people and religions have attempted to adjust the standard God set. We see this happening today as good and evil are being redefined.
Jesus continues by saying, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
Jesus is communicating to us how our passion and commitment to following God’s instructions must be more intense than the Pharisees but in its proper context.
As Christians, we are to be righteous. Implementing this truth is critical to our spiritual life.
Righteousness is a multifaceted word. Simply defined, righteousness is being made right with God. That is a gift from God. There is nothing that we can do to be made right with God.
Being right with God is the start. Being righteous is a way of life. This means righteousness is both positional and progressive.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says that by putting our faith in Jesus, we become “the righteousness of God.” The moment you accept Jesus’ offer for forgiveness, He declares you righteous.
So, before you change anything about yourself or produce a single fruit of the Spirit, you are righteous!
“The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Faith is obedience to God’s instructions. Righteous men and women are people who follow God’s instructions. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of living up to God’s standard.
As Christians, we don’t obey God’s instructions so that He will love us. We obey God’s instructions because we love Him.
Although living righteously is a command, Jesus attached blessings and benefits to the pursuit of righteousness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
In 1965, the Rolling Stone’s debuted their most recognizable song, as Mick Jagger sang, “I can’t get no, satisfaction.” For many today, this statement is still true.
It’s incredible to think that people can’t find satisfaction in the times we are living in. Consider the following:
- We can travel anywhere in the world at any time.
- Unparalleled advancements in technology.
- Access to a vast array of information.
- Significant improvements to health and comfort.
And with all this, people are still unsatisfied, always looking for the next thing.
The issue isn’t options. It’s that we are seeking satisfaction from the wrong things. If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we SHALL be filled.
The words hunger and thirst are terms connected to our appetite, and our appetite is influenced by our senses.
If righteousness sounds unappealing to you, it’s time to adjust your appetite.
You may need to cleanse your spiritual taste buds from the indulgence of this world so that you can discover, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 109:113
To spur on your faith, here are four more benefits of living righteously.
#1 God hears the prayers of the righteous.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
#2 A full life.
“In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” Proverbs 12:28 The word life in this passage speaks of quality and quantity.
#3 You will flourish.
“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” Proverbs 11:28
#4 Covered with favor!
“For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12