“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
The biggest problem most non-believers have with Christianity, so they say, is Christians! They claim that Christians are “hypocrites” and “self-righteous,” so who wants to be part of that? Could it be true and what do they mean?
In a way, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which we just began a journey through on Sundays, addresses the hypocrisy and self-righteousness issues. The Sermon on the Mount is not a prescription for your best life now, nor is it a list of qualifications for entering the kingdom of heaven. It is a sermon specifically for those who are already Christians, those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. God loved and rescued us just as we were, but because He loves us so much He won’t leave us as we are. Those belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven will have hearts melted and transformed by the Gospel of grace and they will have a new desire to follow the commands of the Sermon on the Mount. They will serve as evidence that the kingdom of heaven is now here and, at the same time, not yet fully realized.
Christians don’t just profess faith in Jesus to acquire eternal life. They also repent of their old rebellious ways and turn towards God’s ways for their lives. Repentance isn’t something we do after we’ve been a Christian for a while. We have faith and repent at the same time, and continue to strive to repent toward righteousness. As the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts, we begin to hunger and thirst, more and more, for righteousness. It’s something Christians increasingly desire to do upon following Christ. As hard as the Sermon on the Mount is to obey, a heart transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t get discouraged and say, “What’s the use?!” No, a heart transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ says, “I want to live like that!”
So while Christians may seem like hypocrites, a genuine Christian is not. Not because she is perfect, but because she knows that she is not, as much as she hungers and thirsts to be. We are a constant work, of the Holy Spirit, in process. We seek to be as righteous as Christ and yet fail all the time. And so we repent and we try again, getting a little bit closer to the standard set by the Sermon on the Mount and what we will one day be, on the day when the kingdom of heaven is fully realized. Jesus said to His disciples, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) My own righteousness will never, in this world, be on par with that required for entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but thanks be to God that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4). Remember that the next time someone objects to Christianity because of Christians.