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Pursuing Righteousness

Why did Jesus come to Earth? What was His mission? You could answer that in any number of ways and be correct; He came to reveal the depth of God’s love for us; or He came to save us from our sins; or He came to shine a light in the darkness. All of those are true to Jesus’ mission.

In Matthew 5:17-20, during His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus answers that question for us, and at the same time ties together all of Scripture, and ultimately clarifying what it means to be righteous, a characteristic He had called us as His Followers to hunger for and to suffer for earlier in this sermon.

One of Jesus’ goals in his ministry on Earth was to help people to understand what it means to obey the law, which He makes clear He did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Later, Jesus will offer a summary of all the law and the prophets, calling us to essentially love God and love others. (Matthew 22:37-40). This beautiful summary outlines the Ten Commandments, the first four detailing our vertical relationship with God and the second six detailing our horizontal relationships with one another.

God had given detailed laws in the Old Testament to help people grow in and express their love for Him and others. The problem was that over time, religious leaders (Scribes/Pharisees) had taken those laws and turned them into a confusing mass of rigid rules which had little or nothing to do with loving God and others. They had even made additions and exceptions to those laws, which in affect, neutered them.

So Jesus wanted to bring people back to the original intent of “the law” and to the expectations of the law. He wanted people to realize that the law, under the religious leaders of that time, had become a messy and complicated religion. Jesus made clear that following Him, honoring God, had little to do with religion and everything to do with relationship; a relationship born out of a heart fully committed to Him. A heart that hungered for righteousness and found that righteousness in Him and inspired our obedience to God’s Word.

Maybe you’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time. You want to progress in your faith journey and learn more about what Jesus wants you to be and do. Maybe you’re a person who is not really “religious,” or you know people who would say that. Maybe you’re a rigid, rule follower and you have always thought that is what being “righteous” is all about. No matter where you are in life and in your faith journey, Jesus has a lot to teach us in this section of His Sermon on the Mount!


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