Lesson 5 April 26 - May 2
Those Who Hunger and Thirst
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Matt. 5:6, 20; 6:33; Luke 15:3-7; 11-32; Rom. 3:21-24.
MEMORY TEXT: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6, RSV)
KEY THOUGHT: Everyone has experienced the cravings associated with physical hunger and thirst. These needs can be easily satisfied with a plate of food or a glass of water. But the hungering and thirsting of the soul, the longing for righteousness, only God can satisfy.
GOD'S ANSWER TO SPIRITUAL FAMINE. With each beatitude the character of a true disciple of Christ is portrayed more clearly. Each, in turn, sheds light upon a different facet of Christian character.
Rare is the person who does not hunger and thirst after righteousness. In this evil world in which we live the unsatisfied are many. They, consciously or unconsciously, feel the inner emptiness of human misery and suffer from a kind of soul sickness. Surely the hungering and thirsting after righteousness has never been greater than it is today.
In speaking of the signs that are to take place just before the coming of our Lord in glory, the prophet Amos foretold a spiritual famine: "not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11, RSV).
It is not enough to hunger and thirst after righteousness in order to be filled. One still must go to Him who has been "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). Being the only Righteous One, He alone is able to invite men to come and drink at the Source of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
What kind of righteousness is Christ referring to in this fourth beatitude? Matt. 5:6.
"In every instance of its use in the NT (94 times) dikaiosune is translated 'righteousness.' Among the Greeks 'righteousness' consisted in conformity to accepted customs. To the Jews it was essentially a matter of conformity to the requirements of the law as interpreted by Jewish tradition. (See Gal. 2:21.) But for Christ's followers, righteousness took on a broader meaning. Instead of going about to establish their own righteousness, Christians were called to submit 'themselves unto the righteousness of God' (Rom. 10:3). They sought for the righteousness 'which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith' (Phil. 3:9)."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 326.
What assurance does Jesus give to all who hunger and thirst for righteousness? Matt. 5:6. How does such an assurance become a reality in your life and in your witness? Matt. 5:5.
This metaphor was especially meaningful to Christ's hearers, most of whom had experienced hunger and thirst at one time or another. Moreover, no word could have been more pleasing to their ears than the promise of righteousness at a time when Israel was awaiting the advent of the Messiah. Their hope was rekindled that He would deliver them from their yoke of bondage, establish righteousness, and administer law over all people.
"Only those who long for righteousness with the eager anxiety of a man starving for lack of food or famishing for want of water, will find it. No earthly source can satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul, whether it be material riches, profound philosophies, the satisfaction of physical appetites, or honor and power. After experimenting with all of these things, Solomon concluded that 'all is vanity.' "--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 326.
"The sense of unworthiness will lead the heart to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and this desire will not be disappointed. Those who make room in their hearts for Jesus will realize His love. All who long to bear the likeness of the character of God shall be satisfied."--The Desire of Ages, p. 302.
Under what condition can you appropriate the Master's promise to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness?
What is the righteousness of God that Christ wants us to seek, and what is its relationship to the kingdom of God? Matt. 6:33.
The righteousness of God should be the constant concern of the Christian. There are individuals who seek only the commonplace needs of daily life; that is, they are blind to the true reality of life, ignorant of God and of His redemptive act. They who hunger and thirst after righteousness will never be satisfied until they find true righteousness, the righteousness of God in the person of Jesus Christ."Righteousness is love, and love is the light and the life of God. The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ. We receive righteousness by receiving Him.
"Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice, is righteousness obtained; but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it. ... 'This is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.'... Jeremiah 23:6."--Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 18.
According to the prophet Daniel, what type of righteousness would the Messiah bring to earth, and why is it called such? Dan. 9:24.
"Men will learn of the reconciliation for iniquity and of the everlasting righteousness which the Messiah has brought in through His sacrifice. The cross of Calvary is the great center. This truth acted upon will make Christ's sacrifice effectual. This is that which Gabriel revealed to Daniel in answer to fervent prayer. It was of this that Moses and Elijah and Christ talked at His transfiguration. By the humiliation of the cross He was to bring everlasting deliverance to all who would walk after Him, giving positive evidence that they are separated from the world."--Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, pp. 1172, 1173.
"The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel."--Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 19.
Is the everlasting righteousness of Christ a living reality in your life today? Share with your class members how you are helping in some way to sound this message of Christ's righteousness from one end of the earth to the other.
What does it mean to have Christ as our righteousness? How do you explain the fact that God in demonstrating His righteousness remains just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ? Rom. 3:22, 24, 26.
"When in love and gratitude the believer in Jesus commits himself without reservation to the mercy and will of God, the righteousness of justification is imputed to him. And as he continues daily in this experience of trust, surrender, and fellowship, his faith increases, enabling him to receive more and more of the imparted righteousness of sanctification."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 502.
What is the evidence in the life that one has by faith put on the righteousness of Christ? Rom. 6:18, 19.
Sometimes it is not clear to us what it means to put on the righteousness of Christ. But it is imperative that we have no illusions about this all-important matter. Of course, salvation by faith in Christ is free and cannot be earned, for its inestimable cost is His very life. However, we must seek Christ's righteousness and His salvation with all our interest and perseverance. He gave His life to save us, and we must give our lives in total submission to Him to appropriate such priceless salvation.
A garment is there to be worn, and the garment of Christ's righteousness will do us no good unless we are clothed with it. For unless in loving submission to Christ we live for Him and not for the world, we have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5).
"When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 312.
What is Christ's role and what is our role when it comes to doing good works of righteousness? Eph. 2:8-10.
"The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit. ... When Christ reigns in the soul, there is purity, freedom from sin. The glory, the fullness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life."--Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 419, 420.
The parable of the lost sheep teaches clearly that God calls after an individual while he or she is still lost and that all Heaven rejoices when a single sinner repents. Jesus affirmed this truth when He said, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Lost people, like lost sheep, can never find their way to God of themselves, neither by their intelligence or through force of will. That is why, while we are still His enemies, God reconciles us to Himself "by the death of his Son" (Rom. 5:10). "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9, 10).
What is the central truth of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican? Luke 18:9-14.
The parable of the Pharisee and the publican aptly illustrates the fact that justification is possible only through faith, and not by works. Full of self-righteousness, the Pharisee was not among those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. His numerous works, so he thought, were sufficient for him. The publican, on the contrary, counted only on God's mercy when he prayed, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). In conclusion Jesus affirmed: "This man went down to his house justified rather than the other" (verse 14).
What is the central truth of the parable of the great debtor? Matt. 18:23-35. Where do you find yourself in it?
The parable of the great debtor teaches that salvation is free. &Like that servant, the sinner is incapable of repaying his debt to God. Like the king in the parable, our Lord is "moved with compassion" and has forgiven the debt (Matt. 18:27).
We are not saved by good works, but for good works. "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10, RSV).
What is your motivation for doing good works? Is it to please and glorify God or is it to impress Him?
Jesus never employed the expressions "justification by faith" or "imputed" and imparted righteousness." Instead of theological expressions, which are always abstract and sometimes obscure, Jesus used concrete, living lessons that everyone could understand. In this way the parable of the prodigal son wonderfully illustrates the doctrine of imputed righteousness. The prodigal son experienced physical and spiritual hunger as a consequence of his foolish behavior, and this led him to repentance. He also experienced the joy of having his father satisfy his needs with blessings and kindness. How well this account depicts the sinner's dependence upon God for both his title to heaven and his fitness for it.
By the "best robe" is symbolized God's imputing of Christ's righteousness to sinners in response to their faith in God's pardon of their sins.
In what way does the parable of the marriage feast teach the doctrine of imparted righteousness? Matt. 22:1-14.
"The parable of the wedding garment opens before us a lesson of the highest consequence. By the marriage is represented the union of humanity with divinity; the wedding garment represents the character which all must possess who shall be accounted fit guests for the wedding."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 307.
"By His perfect obedience He [Christ] has made it possible for every human being to obey God's commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 312.
Both imputed and imparted righteousness are acts of God's grace. "We have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us."--Steps to Christ, p. 63.
Have you, accepted, Christ's offer of grace? Are, you experiencing the transforming power of this grace in your walk with Christ? Why, not pray today for God to lead you to share your testimony with someone in need of His grace.
FURTHER STUDY: Read to the extent that you are able to Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, "The Beatitudes" (Matt. 5:6), pp. 18-21; Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 265, 266; Ellen G White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, "This Is Justification by Faith," vol. 6, pp. 1070, 1071; Christ's Object Lessons, "This Man Receiveth Sinners" (The Lost Sheep), pp. 186-192 and "Lost and Is Found," pp. 198-211; The Great Controversy, pp. 584-586.
Jesus did not abolish His law, nor did He release His disciples from the obligation to observe it. Instead, He enlarged upon its requirements. Christians, generally speaking, believe that Christianity is an easing of Judaism. They are pleased to set a religion of love and pardon up over a religion of stem justice; they even go so far as to speak of the Jewish law as being in opposition to Christian grace, as if salvation by grace releases a person from obedience to God's law.
Far from making void the law, faith establishes it (Rom. 3:31), and grace makes its observance possible (Rom. 8:4), not simply according to the letter of the law, but in its spirit. This is possible because God writes His law in the heart (Heb. 8:10). He requires more than formal observance of its requirements. The scribes and Pharisees viewed the demands of the law as resting upon acts and deeds, but Jesus' requirements plumb the very secret intents of the heart. Our Lord requires more, not less, from those who are candidates for His kingdom.
1. Can a person become righteous if he or she does not thirst for it? Why or why not?
2. Since righteousness comes only through faith and not by works, does this mean that works are unnecessary?
3. How would you distinguish between the righteousness of the Pharisees and the righteousness of Christ?
SUMMARY: The righteousness we should seek is the righteousness of Christ--"His own robe of righteousness which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah."--Christ's Object Lessons, p. 312.
Serafima worked in a fashionable store in Moscow. With Russia's new free market, her future looked bright. But one day an army officer came looking for her son. He was absent from his military post without leave, an extremely serious accusation. Suddenly Serafima's world began to crumble. Jewish by birth and the product of the godless Communist system, Serafirna was not even sure that there was a God. But she was desperate; she began to pray.
God heard her prayers, she is sure, for not long after she prayed, the government granted amnesty to soldiers who had left their posts. Serafima's son could come home. Following this experience, Serafirna believed that there was a God who cared for her and her son. But she did not know Him, nor did she know how to find Him.
One day her son hurried home and told her, "Mother, you must come to hear Mark Finley. He has really helped me to understand about God!" Serafirna went to Finley's meetings, and in time both she and her son were baptized.
On the first Friday after her baptism, she went to her boss to ask for Sabbath off. Because of her strong record as a leader in sales, he granted her request. As winter approached, and the sun set earlier, Serafima asked for Fridays off. "I am sorry," her boss said. "Your God will have to take care of that." Serafirna knew she would lose her job if she insisted on keeping the Sabbath. And jobs were precious. She wondered what God had in mind.
Serafima learned about the literature ministry. Was this where God was leading her? She was willing to try. Her friendly, outgoing manner and prior sales experience soon put her at the top in sales. But she was not interested in sales; she wanted to share with others the wonderful experience of coming to know God. Daily she prayed, "Help me find someone who will respond to you, Lord."
God answered her prayer and sent her to a certain city to work. She knew no one there, but God had pointed the way. In faith, she packed her bags and bought a one way ticket for the town God had told her to visit.
(Continued next week)
Serafima Levinson (left). James Zachary is director of evangelism for The Quiet Hour in Redlands, California.
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