What a Christian is: Part 6
We jacked up the car to change the oil. I was about to slide under it to remove the drain plug when my friend stopped me and asked, “Is the jack secure?” I nodded without bothering to check, but he stopped me to say, “Your life depends on it.” He was right.
If that’s true about an oil change, it’s far more true about repentance.
We have been carefully considering how Jesus teaches us to repent. What Jesus has in mind goes far beyond a pat apology. It involves Seeing our sin (and, thus, ourselves) as ugly, Sorrowing over it, Submitting our errant ways and wills to God, and Seeking his righteousness not our own.
In our last devotion (Part 5), we focused on “seeking,” but there’s a treasure trove of encouragement and benefit in Jesus’s promise of righteousness. So, let’s look at that promise more deeply. (Maybe I should title this devotion “Part 5, again”). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6).
To begin with, we might ask the question, When? When will Jesus satisfy that hunger and thirst for righteousness? As a Christian, I believe that my sins are forgiven; I AM righteous (Phil 3:9). But, if I already have it, why keep repenting? (cf. Rom 6:1).
It may be helpful to remember the three areas of sin’s pollution over us and this world. Everyone suffers under the three “P’s” of sin: The Penalty, the Power, and the Presence of sin. When Jesus died, he suffered the penalty of sin (2 Cor 5:21). There is no longer any guilt for the Christian. Jesus paid it all.
But, Jesus is talking about more than that.
This may come as a surprise. Maybe you read Matt 5:6 and only think about conversion, but there is more to sin than its penalty. The apostle Paul in Romans talks about how we are slaves to sin (Rom 5–6). Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we must sin. The second “P” of sin is its Power. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness means longing for sin’s power to be broken then diminished. That is, we crave the enabling of the Holy Spirit to resist. Every Christian knows, that our “old self” is right there, asking us to fall back.
That is why the Christian’s hungering and thirsting for righteousness includes longing for the Presence of sin to be eradicated. Look around you. There is nothing in this world that is unaffected. Rebellion against the Creator has ravaged this world. Our own hearts are divided within us (James 1:8). And so we should hunger and thirst (and pray!) for the world itself to be renewed, for the time when the presence of sin will no longer be felt, for that day when “every knee will bow and every tongue confess” the kingship of Christ. (That’s the day we pray for when we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”)
Real repentance leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It’s so much more than quick, easy forgiveness. It’s a life transforming desire for Jesus to set all things right. It’s a desire that will continually grow. After all, hunger grows until it is satisfied. And the fullness of Jesus’s promise is still ahead of us.