In the last post, we examined the righteousness of God that opens up the kingdom of heaven to a person. We discovered lots of interesting truths about ourselves, the righteousness of God, and the kingdom of heaven. You can read the article here as a way of review. The kingdom belongs to you when you have the righteousness of God. I would now like to take a look at the character, or lifestyle of a person who belongs to the kingdom of God because he lives by the righteousness of God.
I. He is blessed
At first, this may not seem like a characteristic. It seems that it is a result. In a way, it is, but when you understand the original intent of “blessed” then you will see why it is more of an attitude than the actual result. The original word translated “blessed” is the Greek word “makarios” and it means “content, satisfied”. Therefore, a person who has the righteousness of God and is part of the kingdom is content with who he is in Christ and is satisfied in life because he is living to accomplish the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. Most people feel that if they could just get a better job, house, children, spouse, or more money, or more recognition or ________ (you fill in the blank) then they would truly be happy/satisfied/content in this life. Then, once they achieve one, or all of those things, they find that they are still not satisfied. They spend their lives chasing those things like a dog chasing its own tail. When it is all said and done, they are miserable and what do they have to show for it all? A person who belongs to the kingdom is blessed, he is satisfied at the moment because he knows his purpose in life and he accomplishes it. There is nothing more satisfying.
II. He rejoices when suffering persecution for his faith
He is not being persecuted because he is a jerk, shoving his self righteous attitude down everyone’s throat. He suffers because he lives for the kingdom of God, to accomplish His will on earth, to live by God’s righteousness. When he does this, he is different. He is no longer controlled by the desires of his flesh like the rest of humanity. Those who are still enslaved will either want to know what he has and receive it too or they will want to stop him from being light in the darkness, because of their own evil conscience. It is better to turn off the light then to examine myself as I truly am. I would rather just wallow in my misery and not know that there is a better way. I want everyone else to be miserable with me and it angers me when others are not. That is why he suffers. Or, there are others who want to live for themselves and their selfishness is manifested or revealed when the righteous man does not live for himself but instead, he lives for the kingdom. Again, it is easier to stop the light than to face reality.
III. He is salt and light in the world
This is the reason that he is persecuted. The world is dark because of sin. When a person receives the righteousness of God and takes part in the kingdom, he is transferred from the darkness to the light and His light now shines through that person, in the darkness. There are two reactions for those who remain in darkness. Either they will be drawn to the light and want it too or, they will want to put the light out. When you live for the kingdom, your light shines brightly. People see the character of God in you. You expose sin by the way that you live. You also confront sin, which is part of being light. You are not indifferent to the dying world around you. Actually, the way that you do this is explained just a few verses later when Jesus teaches that the greatest in the kingdom are the ones who do not annul the Word of God. The receive It as is and then they also teach others to do the same. This is what it means to shine light in the darkness. Another quality of a believer is that he is salt to a world corrupted by sin. During Jesus’ days, salt was used to stop decay. It preserved food back when there were not refrigerators. Sin causes decay in a person’s life as well as in a society. As salt, I am to confront the decaying powers of sin and stop them. Again, he does this by living according to the Word of God and teaching others to do the same thing. He attacks sin with the Word of God. Now, he does it lovingly and humbly but he does it.
IV. He is not controlled by anger
The people who heard Jesus’ message were very familiar with the teachings of the Old Testament. They had been taught that murder was a sin and that you could not do it. They would never commit murder because they may be caught. Instead, they were consumed by hate and played the murder fantasies in their mind. It was okay to hate and carry out heinous crimes in the mind because no one could see that. Jesus taught them that, yes, there is One who sees the hatred in your heart and he equates hatred in your heart with physical murder. Why is hatred so bad? It is so bad because it will consume you and lead you to the physical act of murder sooner or later. A person with the righteousness of man becomes a good hypocrite. He would never stab you in the back literally because then his sinful nature would be discovered. On the other hand, he will smile to your face while inwardly hating you because he thinks that no one can see that. God does and He is not fooled. What about you my friend, are you consumed by hatred? Is there something that you just cannot let go of? Is there a person who you just hate with a passion? What does Jesus say about you, even if you have never actually murdered someone?
V. He is not a slave to immorality
The audience once again, knew that adultery (sexual immorality) was a sin and would not be caught dead doing it. Instead, they just fantasized about it, thinking that no one would actually know. God knows and He sees what is going on in your mind. Why does Jesus equate lust in your heart with the act of sexual immorality? It is because if you are doing it in your heart you will eventually act it out. Lust is never satisfied and it just takes you deeper and deeper until you end up doing things that you never dreamed that you would. Many rapists admit that their crime began with a porn addiction that they could no longer satisfy. A person who belongs to the kingdom is not a slave to sexual immorality. He avoids things that would cause sexual fantasies to develop in his mind. He runs away from porn, sexually explicit music etc. because he knows what happens when those things get in your mind. As a woman, she avoids such things as romance novels that stir up her sexuality. It is different for the men and women. Men are attracted visually while women are more drawn to fantasies (not necessarily physical). Things like what it would be like to be with him, to be held by him, to talk to him, to hold hands with him etc. Both go in the same direction, leading to lust in the heart for someone who is not your spouse.
VI. He is a man of his word, always
This is a big one for today’s world. There is a reason Jesus says do not make vows (promises) but let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you are a person of your word, you do not need to make vows or swear, or make promises. If your yes is always yes and your no is always no then people will believe you. When you are not a person of your word then you have to convince people of what you are going to do by making promises. It you say you will be somewhere at 6 and you show up at 6, every time, then you are a person of your word. If you say you will be there at 6 but show up between 6 and 6:30 every single time then you are no longer a person of your word so when you say you will be there at 6, you have to make promises to convince people that you will be there. When you are given a task or an assignment, if you are a person of your word then you will do the very best on the assignment and finish it by the determined deadline. If by some chance, something happens and you are not able to finish, you will do all that you can either to get help to finish or ask for an extension, explaining why. It is easy to say that you are a person of your word yet not really be one.
VII. He knows how to resolve conflicts
Conflicts are a part of life. A large majority of people do not do well when it comes to handling and resolving conflicts. They make us uncomfortable but they are inevitable so me must face them, confront them, and resolve them because our God resolves conflicts. He resolved the greatest conflict of all, our separation from Him because of our sin. A person who lives by the righteousness of God and is part of the kingdom knows how to resolve conflicts and he resolves them God’s way. He takes initiative to resolve conflicts even if the conflict did not begin with him. Notice that Jesus teaches that if your brother has something against you, go to him and resolve the conflict and then come back and offer what you brought to God. Usually, we want the other person to initiate resolving the conflict and we decide to wait it out until they do. If they do not, we just stay in conflict. God wants us to take the first step and it does not matter if you are guilty or innocent. When someone does you wrong, you do not seek to take revenge on that person and give him or her what is deserved. A person who is part of the kingdom, instead, loves that person and seeks to serve him or her, allowing God to take revenge at the right time. Revenge itself is not a bad thing. The bad part is when you try to take revenge on your own. God says, “you love and serve that person and leave the revenge up to Me”. Revenge is a just concept because you are supposed to suffer the consequences of your actions. God is just in taking revenge but He waits patiently hoping that the person will repent and avoid His wrath. If you love and serve that person then you do your part in leading him or her to repentance and a right relationship with God. Are you willing to do that? Could you do it?
As you can see, the righteousness of man deals with the outward appearance of things while the righteousness of God deals with the heart of the matter, the matter of the heart. Has your life been changed by God so that you are not longer controlled by anger, that you are content in life, that you are a person of your word, that you say no to sexual immorality in all of its forms etc.? Again, this is a paradigm shift, a change of thinking, a worldview change which is exactly what repentance is. Are you ready to turn away from the righteousness of man and accept the righteousness of God? What keeps you from it?