A Different Righteousness
I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 5:20 NLT)
Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is geared toward giving you a vision of righteousness that you couldn’t possibly fulfill. There’s a bit of frustration in this sermon, and it’s designed that way. You’re supposed to be overwhelmed by it. No one reads this sermon and thinks, I can do that. Let’s get to it. It raises the standard high above the reach of fallen human flesh.
The message should be clear: You are going to have to tap into a righteousness that comes from beyond yourself. That may be humbling, but it’s also liberating. The message of Christianity is that someone came to live the righteousness we couldn’t fulfill. By his Spirit, he now fills us with the righteousness we never had in the first place. Growing into that righteousness may be a long process, but we nevertheless have to learn to see ourselves as growing into it. Grace doesn’t excuse us from it; it enables us to embrace it—and to live it well.
Don’t settle for unrighteousness or semi-righteousness or I-hope-it’s-good-enough righteousness, which is really the best you can do on your own. Accept the goodness, truth, and power that come from beyond yourself. Learn to live in them practically and purposefully. The kingdom of heaven comes to those who do.
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