20 For I tell you this: you will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless your righteousness goes deeper than the Pharisees’, even more righteous than the most learned learner of the law. Matthew 5:20, The Voice Bible
Both Jesus and the Pharisees wanted people to live righteously, but the difference in achieving this end lies in their approach. The Pharisees were good at telling people what is wrong with them and how undeserving they were of God’s mercy. Jesus, however, exposed the Pharisee’s flawed sense of righteousness and their misuse of the Law to control people and make them feel not welcomed by God.
Jesus did not start His ministry by telling people how they had fallen short of God’s glory. Rather, He reached out to them with the glory of God’s grace. By accepting and loving people as they were, Jesus extended an invitation for them to join their lives to His so they could find their righteousness in Him. This righteousness is of God’s doing and not of our own efforts. As such, we will live right and do what is good because of God’s perfect love for us, and not because of any fear of rejection or punishment. God’s righteousness through Christ empowers us to live freely for Him!
Enjoying God’s acceptance frees us of every expectation from ourselves and others. By embracing this truth, we will have a healthy view to see people as God sees them and to treat them as God treats us — with love, forgiveness and mercy, even if they have hurt us or turned against us. Legalism looks for what is wrong. Grace looks for who is hurting. This is why grace is so radical. It opens our eyes to look beyond people’s sin and struggles and see their real needs.
Sin, more often than not, is the result of deep and unmet needs. This explains why Jesus tells us to seek first the righteousness that is bestowed to all who belong to God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33). To seek righteousness is to keep on thinking and meditating on our righteous standing before God. God promises not only meet our needs but He will give us much more than we ever need. Knowing the reality of our righteousness in Christ not only gives us the power to overcome sin but it also qualifies us to be worthy recipients of God’s promises.
© Copyright Richard Tan, 2019.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®.
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