Tuesday, July 3, 2007

True Righteousness

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is said to be the greatest sermon ever preached. By the time we get to verse 20 of chapter 5 Jesus has already said that the blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn , those who hunger for righteousness, who show mercy, who are pure in heart , are peacemakers, and who are persecuted for righteousness. He has also told us that we need to be salt and light in the world. Then in verse 20 He says that if our righteousness does not exceed that of the religious leaders we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees (or religious leaders) were the epitome of righteousness in their day; if you wanted to find an example of what it looked like to live a life pleasing to God this is where you looked. But they were wrong. As we will see going through the rest of this sermon the righteousness that God wants comes from the inside, but the the righteousness that the Pharisees practiced was external only - it didn't change their hearts. They lived by a strict code of right and wrong, but they never allowed the word of God to penetrate their hearts and change them on the inside.

So how do we allow God's word to penetrate our hearts today and change us from the inside out? Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are more deceitful than anything else, and desperately sick, so the change cannot come from inside of us; it must come from God doing a work in us. Romans 3 says God presented Him [Jesus] as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

Here is our answer; our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees only when we put our faith in Jesus. Jesus told us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him. So spend some time today thanking Your Heavenly Father for the gift of salvation and the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus. And if you have never put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, why not do it today?
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