At a time when many want to live as close as possible to the line between Christianity and the world, Matthew 5:6 compels us to stay as far from the line as we can, Jim Shaddix preached June 12 in New Orleans. The professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary said there’s good news for Christians living in that tension.
“Jesus has given us everything that we need to be able do that,” he said during his message at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference 2023. “Jesus blesses pastors with an eagerness for righteous living now, and an expectancy of its fullness when He returns.” Shaddix spoke specifically to pastors, but he noted the blessing extends to all God’s children.
His sermon focused on the fourth Beatitude found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, the verse says, for they will be filled. The Scripture, Shaddix said, highlights the goal of the Christian, the grace of God and the guarantee of future glorification.
Personal, practical, necessary
Throughout his sermon, Shaddix explained each part of the Scripture by first talking about what it doesn’t mean. The righteousness at the heart of this Beatitude, he said, isn’t referring to the justice of the future Messianic reign, the social justice of our day or the imputed righteousness of justification. Rather, Jesus is referring to personal and practical righteousness.
Similarly, the hungering and thirsting Jesus talked about isn’t the minor, temporary issue we might experience today. Instead, he was talking to and about people who knew what it meant to be desperate for sustenance. Again, there’s good news, Shaddix said. God has deposited a desperation for personal and practical righteousness in the lives of His children. It’s a manifestation of His grace, Shaddix said, and something we can’t do on our own.
“Remember, you and I can’t make this happen. We can’t muster this up. We can’t inspire ourselves to the longing for such a lifestyle. But this Beatitude is a pronouncement of the blessing of God that He puts inside of you, and He puts inside of me. And listen to me, it’s something that we cannot exist without.”
Likening the spiritual life of a Christian to the physical life of a human, Shaddix said desperation for food is a natural part of the physical growth process.
“Beloved, we cannot do without practical and personal righteousness to thrive and survive the Christian life any more than we could physical life without physical food and water. It is a necessity. It is not an option.”
Fan the flame
When Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled, Shaddix said, He wasn’t talking about an incomplete or temporary filling. Again, it’s also not something we can do on our own, he noted.
“The day is going to come where this journey that now is characterized by hungering and thirsting and desperation, this pathway that we’re on of being transformed day by day into the image of Christ, is going to be brought to the place of completion and there is going to be total satisfaction.”
But there’s a tension, Shaddix acknowledged, that comes with living in a season of ongoing hungering and thirsting. We don’t always feel desperate for righteous living. As long as we’re still on the journey, he said, our fleshly bodies will war against the desire for personal and practical righteousness. Instead, he urged pastors, lean in. Don’t throw in the towel. Fan the flame. Shaddix ended his message with a warning and a challenge.
“If you determine and I determine to pursue a life of personal and practical righteousness, it may not lead to our culture respecting us more. It may lead to our culture reviling us more,” he said.
“Don’t let your first motivation be to regain the respect of the culture. Let your first motivation be to reclaim the righteousness of your Christ.”
To view more photos from Jim Shaddix’s message, click here.