Sunday 17 May 2020
We continue in the Blessed Series that we were in before the lockdown.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
But before we continue, we need to recap what had been shared.
“Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: Blessed …. (Matthew 5:1-3)
In the Old Testament God’s people gathered at Mount Sinai. God came down, but His face was never seen. The people were kept at a distance. Darkness descended. Fire and smoke covered the mountain. The trumpets were blasting (Deuteronomy 4:11-12).
The whole scene was so terrifying that even Moses said, “I am trembling with fear” (Hebrews 12:21).
If that’s how Moses felt, how do you think you or I would have felt?
But when we come to the Beatitudes, the scene is completely different. God has come among us in the Person of Jesus Christ. We see His face. He bids us to come to Him.
At Mount Sinai, God comes down to the mountain in terrifying splendour, and the people are kept at a distance.
But here the Son of God goes “up on the mountain (Matthew 5:1), and when He sits down, His disciples come to Him.
At Sinai, God spoke thundering words, so terrifying that the people begged that no further words would be spoken (Hebrews 12:19).
But here the Son of God speaks, not thundering words of condemnation, but wonderful words of blessing.
Who would not want to sit down and listen to God in the flesh tell us about the life that is truly “blessed”?
Don’t miss the word “blessing,” that is repeated here, and over and over, in the Beatitudes.
We saw that the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes have a profound effect on us in at least three ways:
– We are finding the Beatitudes compelling
Jesus is speaking of a life that is blessed by God and shows us the path by which blessing is to be found. We want to be one of those blessed people!
This is also giving us the means by which we may pursue such a life. In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving us a key to progress in our Christian life.
– We also find the Beatitudes searching
Am I displaying the marks of a blessed person?
We also use the Beatitudes as:
– A tool for discernment,
– As a key to progress, and
– As a window to worship
Jesus says that “the one who hears My words and puts them into practice is like a man who builds his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:23)
We looked at “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
Jesus does not begin with a class of all the great doctrines of the Bible. He does not begin by saying: let’s get you all involved in ministry”. He begins by saying: “let Me tell you what a person who lives under the blessing of God looks like”.
As we go through the Beatitudes we have to ask, “are these the things I am pursuing, and what evidence are there of these things in my life?
There is an image I asked for you to have in mind throughout the series. Imagine a child at the playground swinging from one ring to the next ring on the monkey rings. The key to swinging on the rings is momentum. The momentum of your swing on the first ring as you leave the platform, makes it possible for you to reach the second, and the momentum on the second ring makes it possible to reach the third, and so on.
Without momentum from the previous swing, the next ring would always be beyond your reach.
The Beatitudes are like a series of rings. How do you get to the fifth or sixth Beatitude? You start from the beginning. Everyone can do this but you have to realize that you start from the platform; Christ Jesus our Lord as your Lord and Saviour. On the first ring recognise that you do not have what it takes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. It is then when repentance come.
When holding on too long on any of the rings, will eventually let you lose momentum and you will get tired and let go of the ring. Losing the momentum, and you fall off any of the rings, you go back to the platform, back to Jesus and start anew in Him. “Lord, I do not have what it takes as you start swinging on the first ring of “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, knowing your own inability and that gives you momentum to the next ring as you surrender to God.
We looked at:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs are the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5:3)
Poor in the spirit means that you recognize your poverty before God. This is the first mark of a person walking with God. Being poor in the spirit is where your blessing begins. It is the gateway that leads to the other blessings.
Poor in the spirit will impact your life in four ways:
– You will give up the idea that God owes you anything.
Pride says, “I gave Him something. He owes me something bigger and better than what I got back”. A person who is poor in spirit says, “What do I have that I did not receive? I owe God everything and I can give Him nothing. God owes me nothing and He has given me everything”.
– People poor in the spirit are not afraid to ask.
Such a person will be much in prayer.
– People poor in the spirit are in a position to receive.
Those that feel they have something to offer God are always come with their hands full, but only those that come to God empty-handed; aware of their need of Him, can receive.
In the third message we looked at “being humble”:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
We looked at the curse of pride and that humility goes directly against the grain of today’s self-affirmation culture. Jesus does not say to believe in yourself but He says, “Believe in God, believe also in Me”. (John14)
We saw that there is a blessing in humility: It helps us to bear affliction, it nourishes our love for others, it strengthens us to overcome temptation, and it release you from the tyranny of self.
The way we cultivate humility is by measuring yourself by the Word of God, using the Word as a searchlight in your soul, and also to model yourself on Jesus Christ, learning from Him:
– I can do nothing on my own… John 5:30
– I have not come to do my own will… John 6:38
– I do not seek my own glory… John 8:50
If these are the word of Christ, how much more should they be mine?
Humility is the grace that brings more grace!
Today we move on to the second Beatitude:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
What is this “mourning” that Jesus says is “blessed” without qualification?
There are three kinds of mourning: Natural, sinful, and spiritual.
Natural mourning is grieving for someone or something you have lost.
God gave you a wonderful gift, and now that gift has been taken away. The natural response is to mourn. Those who’ve been bereaved know about this. Jesus knew about this. He wept at the graveside of a friend.
The presence and comfort of Jesus in the journey of bereavement is a treasured gift to every believer, but that’s not what Jesus is speaking about here.
Here’s why: in the Beatitudes, Jesus is speaking about qualities we are to proactively pursue.
We are to go after purity of heart. We are to seek righteousness. We are to desire meekness. We are to get as much of these things that we possibly can.
Jesus is speaking about conditions of heart that are so laden with blessing, and He is encouraging us to go after them at any cost.
That is true of all seven Beatitudes, and the eighth that is added is; being persecuted for righteousness sake and that is simply the outcome of a life marked by the other seven.
We are to desire and to go after as much of these blessed qualities as we can get.
Nobody would say that about natural mourning. No bereaved person would say, “I want to go after as much of that as I can possibly get.”
So that is not what Jesus is speaking about here.
There is another kind of mourning that is described here as sinful mourning.
Sinful mourning is pining for something God has not given
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
There is no sin in natural mourning. Jesus wept. Grieving over something or someone God has taken away is modelled by Christ.
But there are other kinds of sorrow. Paul warns us about a worldly sorrow that leads to death.
You have an example of this in Ahab, the king of Israel. God gave him a palace and a kingdom, but next to the palace, there was a poor man by the name of Naboth who had a vineyard. Ahab set his eyes on Naboth’s vineyard. The Bible says; “And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen…” (1 Kings 21:4)
We might say today that he’s “pouting.” Why? Because he could not get his hands on the vineyard.
Another word for it is “coveting,” and it led to the murder of Naboth. Coveting is pining for what God has given to others, but He has not given to us.
This sinful mourning is a killer. It leads to death and obviously that is not what Jesus is speaking about here when He says “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Natural mourning that is the outflow of what God has given; sinful mourning which is a killing kind of a pouting after what God has decided not to give; and the third is spiritual mourning which is clearly what Jesus is speaking about here – sorrow over our sins against God.
Spiritual mourning is sorrow over our sins against God
A.W. Pink says,
“The mourning for which Christ promises divine comfort is a sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow”.
This is the godly sorrow Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians 7:10. It is blessed because it “produces a repentance that leads to life.”
You know about natural sorrow. You may know about sinful sorrow. What do you know about godly sorrow, this “mourning” that is blessed?
This is a subject of huge importance to the church today, because true Christians are surrounded by a form of faith that has been so emaciated, so diluted, that it’s unrecognizably different from what Jesus speaks about here.
Thank God for great truth that we are justified by faith:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Why does faith justify? Why does faith justify and not works?
Answer: A believer is justified by faith because faith unites a person to Jesus Christ, who justifies, sanctifies and glorifies believers through the power of His shed blood.
This power is applied to the life of the believer by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Now here is the problem that has led to the Trivialisation of what is called “Christianity”, under the banner of Christianity today! A redefinition of repentance and a redefinition of faith.
Firstly, faith which unites a person to Christ, has been reduced to mere belief, an assent to certain truths of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Simply believing certain things will never change your life, as if believing what the devil, himself, knows to be true would change you.
No, Jesus Christ changes you!
Faith is the bond of a living union with Christ. And when Christ enters a life, He comes to forgive you and to make you holy. He accepts you as you are, but His grace will never leave you where you are!
The replacement of faith, which unites a person to Christ, with mere assent to certain truths, leads thousands of people to “accept Christ” without ever bowing to His Lordship in their lives.
We end up with a form of faith that does not change our lives. When the world despises that, they have the right to do so.
Secondly, repentance, which involves a change of direction, has been reduced to merely admitting that I am a sinner and saying a prayer.
Listen to two Scriptures today, and try to take in how far the Bible is from the kind of message that often poses under the banner of Christianity today. We quote one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Here is the call to biblical repentance:
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
God says to the wicked “Forsake your way. Stop doing what you are doing. Turn! Stop thinking these thoughts”.
That’s a thousand miles away from merely admitting I’m a sinner and continuing on and don’t change!
Listen to this from the New Testament:
“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows who are His’ and ‘Let everyone who names the Name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
If you are going to name the Name of the Lord, here’s what it means: “Depart from iniquity!” Not think of it or merely know there is iniquity but to depart from it!
The call of God to repentance, to a change in direction, has been replaced by merely “admitting you are a sinner,” and saying a prayer “asking Jesus to forgive you.”
Union with Christ that humbles the sinner and leads to a holy life has been replaced by an emaciated form of faith that can easily be added to the worldly prosperity dream preached today.
Faith has been redefined to accommodate our selfish requests. Repentance has been reshaped to fit our indulgence.
The result is that you have people by the thousands who “admit that they are sinners” and “accept Jesus,” but who have not experienced spiritual life at all.
How would that be known?
The evidence of this is that they don’t feel poor in spirit, they don’t know what it is to mourn over sin. They aren’t characterized by a deep hunger for righteousness. They aren’t merciful. They aren’t pure in heart.
They do not know, even in the gathering for worship, the joy and the blessing of a person who has discovered that in Christ they have all that they need.
This theme of spiritual mourning is of critical importance to the whole church in our time. It’s a message that all of us need to hear!
What does spiritual mourning look like?
Distinguishing marks of spiritual mourning:
Spiritual mourning arises from humility
Spiritual mourning follows naturally from becoming poor in spirit. When you see that you do not have what it takes, you will mourn over the sins that are yours, and mourn over the righteousness that you do not have.
We’ve been picturing the Beatitudes as a series of seven rings. Swinging on that first ring of being poor in spirit will lead you to the second ring of the mourning that is blessed.
You swing on the first and it will get you to the second and so on. You can’t begin on the second ring. You can’t suddenly mourn over what used to bring you joy.
Every sin holds a passing pleasure, that’s why sin tempts us. Nobody would sin if this weren’t true.
So how can you learn to hate what you used to love and love what you used to hate? You have to start on the first ring!
Spiritual mourning is a matter of the heart
The Bible tells us the story of Saul, a high achiever with a twisted heart. Saul was the first King of Israel. He led his army into battle and then took plunder for himself and for his men. He cheated, deceived and stole, and then he lied to cover it up. But later he was found out. Samuel confronted him with the truth, and Saul had nowhere to hide.
So, Saul confessed. He said he was sorry. He said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Kings 15:24).He must have had a very long face when he said it. Then he says something else to Samuel, “I have sinned, yet honour me now before the elders of my people” (1 Kings 15:30).
He appears sorry, but the truth is that he would have continued what he was doing, if he could. He says he is sorry but his focus is on damage limitation. There has not been a change of heart!
Spiritual mourning is the key to tackling what we call “habitual sins,” sins that keep recurring in a person’s life. A true Christian does not live in a cycle of sinning, saying sorry to God and then repeating the same behaviour, year after year after year and never changing.
Why do we know so much of habitual sin? Because we know so little about mourning. We miss the blessing and remain unchanged!
God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, not to presumption. Here is a person who is content to sin and assume forgiveness but does not mourn, and does not change. That is not walking the path of repentance. That is walking the path of presumption.
What God is saying to us here? God announces mercy for mourners. Those who are not mourners have nothing to do with mercy.
Someone once said: “If you have never been down on your knees before God, feeling what a sinful man, or woman you are, I doubt hugely whether you will ever stand with radiant face before God, and praise Him through eternity for His mercy to you.” Spiritual mourning arises from humility, from the heart of a believer, and then also hope.
Spiritual mourning is infused with hope
Judas grieved over his sin in betraying Jesus, but he did not have spiritual mourning. Why? His grief led him to despair.
Grief that leads to despair is the work of Satan, not the Holy Spirit.
Satan brings you to despair of self, but he never brings you to hope in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit brings you to despair of self and then also to hope in Jesus Christ!
That’s how you tell the difference between what the devil is trying to do in your life, and what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life. Hope is a signature mark of spiritual mourning.
That’s why the true believer is in Paul’s words, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
It’s very fascinating that those two things go together.There are two sides to the coin on genuine Christian experience.
The true Christian always find him or herself saying, “Who is sufficient for these things?” but does not stop there for true mourning is infused with hope, knowing our “sufficiency is of God.”
The true Christian continues to say, “O wretched man that I am,” but he doesn’t end there. His mourning is infused with hope, so he says, “Thanks be to God who has given me the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The true Christian knows how to say with Paul, “I am the chief of sinners.” But she does not end there. Her mourning is infused with hope and she says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
This is very important: True Christians mourns their sins but they never end there. Our mourning is infused with hope, and so we lay hold of the comfort that is in Jesus Christ. Without that it’s not spiritual mourning, it’s just the devil trying to make you despair.
We have looked at the mourning that is blessed. But they will also be comforted.
The Blessing that those who mourn will receive:
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
How will they be comforted? What in all the world can comfort people who feel the weight of their own sin?
A better question would be: Who in all the world can comfort people who feel the weight of their own sin?
Those who mourn find a friend in the “Man of sorrows”
The Saviour who spoke these words was known as the “Man of sorrows.” The prophet Isaiah announced that the Redeemer would be “a Man of sorrows” and “acquainted with grief” centuries before He was born.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not”. (Isaiah 53:3)
Christ knows all about spiritual mourning, not because He mourned over His own sins. He had no sins to mourn. But He mourned over the sins of the world, and grieved over their devastating effect. See Him mourning over Jerusalem, coming down the Mount of Olives, He weeps over a city that rejects Him and is headed for destruction.
Why did He come into this world?
The mission of the Redeemer is to comfort those who mourn
Writing years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah spoke of what the Redeemer would do when He came. Why did He come into the world?
His mission is to “comfort all who mourn… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:2-3 NIV)
Christ accomplished His mission by bearing our sins… and carrying our sorrows!
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4)
“But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; …” (Isaiah 53:5)
“… and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
The Holy Spirit comforts the person who mourns by making what Christ purchased his!
There is a beautiful statement in 1 Corinthians 6. In it, Paul lists a catalogue of sins:
“Some of you were drunkards, revellers, swindlers, idolaters, adulterers… That’s what you were, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
In Christ, the spiritual mourner can truly say:
“I am forgiven! I am cleansed! I have been washed. I am justified before God. I’m not the person I want to be, but I’m not the person I used to be. Sanctification has begun in me, and one day it will be complete—all because of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s the comfort for those who mourn! That’s why the true Christian is sorrowful yet always rejoicing. What do you know of this in your life?
Let us pray:
Father, we connect to hear Your Word today because we want to know You. We want to know the reality of life here and now that also secure us an eternal future. Our Father, by the help of the Holy Spirit to lay up for ourselves the comfort that is in Christ Jesus, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen