Kingdom Norms, Part Two
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, March 2, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
The character of the citizens of the kingdom of God is revealed in Matthew 5:1-12. In verse 4 we read of the second quality which Jesus says characterizes the citizens of his kingdom: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." In this study we will examine what that statement means.
Happiness through Mourning
"Blessed are those who mourn" sounds utterly ridiculous and incredible in the ears of modern unbelievers. In fact, if some people had the opportunity, they would rebuke Jesus for such speech, saying, "Jesus, you should be ashamed of not thinking positively. Aren't the ones who are blessed those who laugh? Don't we all have to eat, drink and be merry now, for tomorrow we will not be able to?"
Modern people are earnestly pursuing happiness. Many come, legally and illegally, to this land of happiness, the United States of America, looking for pleasure. They look for entertainment and drugs of various types which flow in huge quantities into this country daily to satisfy people's demands and hunger for such happiness.
This is not the kind of happiness Jesus is referring to. In this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is saying the ones who are blessed are those who are spiritually bankrupt, those who weep, those who are meek, and so on. Such teachings make no sense to a hardened sinner who craves for and is in hot pursuit of pure pleasure. But they are the teachings of the kingdom of God. Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
The person who recognizes that he is a sinner before God is blessed. How? He is approved by God. Such a person is admitted to the salvation of the kingdom of God and weeps over his various sins. Not only does he recognize that he is poor in spirit, bankrupt, and a miserable sinner, but he goes a step further and weeps over his various, particular sins. Jesus says such a person is blessed, and there is no greater blessing than to receive such a divine benediction, such divine approval. Those who are blessed in this way by God will alone see God and dwell with him forever.
Now, we must note here that not only is there divine blessing, but there is also divine disapproval. In Luke 6:25 Jesus said, "Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep." Such people are cursed, and on the last day they will hear the terrible words of Christ's judgment as recorded in Matthew 7:23, "Away from me, you evildoers!" Such people shall be disbarred from the presence of God and will spend their eternity away from the blessedness of God's presence.
Are You Blessed?
Are you blessed in the way Jesus is talking about? Are you poor in spirit? Do you mourn for the many and particular sins you have committed? If not, the word of God to you is, "Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone." Then you shall be blessed. When you are approved by God, you will hear the divine benediction.
You cannot be blessed by trying to be jovial or by using certain cosmetics and being a smart dresser. You cannot be blessed because you have a great tan, because you are looking thin, or because you pretend to be athletic and speak knowledgeably about sports. You cannot be blessed because you possess a lot of expensive toys, because you smile a lot with a plastic smile, or because you have sex appeal. The only sure way to receive divine benediction is to repent, to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to be merciful, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and so on. That is why Jesus said blessed are those who mourn.
We must realize that mourning over sin is not how the world will advise us to achieve blessing. The world will say, "Go ahead, have a good time. Have fun. Don't worry; be happy. Do all you can to maximize your pleasure and minimize your pain. In fact, avoid all pain, if you can, and never be serious." But the people of the world are like the passengers on the Titanic. Although the ship was sinking, they were oblivious to it. Why? They were having a great party. But God's word tells us "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Why Should We Mourn?
No one mourns unless the Holy Spirit convicts him of sin and reveals to him that he is a violator of the Ten Commandments in letter and in spirit. For example, if a man looks at a woman and lusts after her, he has committed adultery in his heart, Jesus said. "Thou shall not covet!" thunders the Ten Commandment. But haven't we all coveted? Haven't we all committed adultery in the sense Jesus is speaking about?
We must realize that we all have violated God's law. But only Christians, under the conviction of the Spirit, will realistically declare that not only are they spiritually bankrupt, but also they are grieving over the multitude of their personal sins. Only Christians will declare that they are by nature enemies of God, acknowledging that to sin means to set oneself against a holy God. Opposition to God is the very heart and essence of sin.
Thus, the mourning and weeping of Christians referred to in this beatitude is not because of financial loss, terminal sickness, the death of loved ones, loneliness, a divorce, a problem with children, or rejections experienced. All of these situations may, in God's providence, drive people to repent and mourn for their sins, and to that extent we must welcome such problems. But Christians mourn because they realize that they have sinned against a holy God and have brought dishonor to his name.
What Is Godly Mourning?
What does it mean to mourn? The word "mourn" is a very strong word which is used in Genesis 37:34 to describe the deep mourning of Jacob when he was told that his son Joseph was killed.
Godly mourning is not just pretended gloominess and long-facedness. I have seen people who pretend such piety. They remind me of what a little girl once said: "Daddy, that horse must be a Christian. It has such a long face."
Godly mourning is also not the kind of worldly sorrow that Esau, Saul, or Judas demonstrated. We read about Judas' repentance and mourning in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew. After betraying Jesus, Judas justified Jesus publicly, confessed his sin of betrayal, made restitution, and experienced grief and remorse. Yet Judas was not saved. Why? He never experienced godly sorrow and never trusted in Jesus for salvation. And finally Judas hanged himself and entered into his miserable eternity.
What, then, is godly sorrow? It is the kind of mourning recorded by Paul in Romans 7:24, where he says, "What a wretched man I am!" It is the kind of sorrow Paul wrote about to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 7. Godly sorrow leads to repentance and brings salvation to those experiencing it. Godly sorrow causes us to loathe, despise, and repudiate sin. It is what Peter refers to in Acts 11:18 as "repentance unto life," meaning unto eternal life. The worldly sorrow of Saul, Esau, and Judas did not lead to eternal life. Theirs was a repentance unto death.
Those who experience godly sorrow truly forsake sin and turn to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We see this demonstrated both in the life of King David and that of the prodigal son. But King Saul, whose repentance was only worldly sorrow, did not turn to God. In the time of his troubles he turned to the witch of Endor.
St. Augustine said, "He truly repents of the sins he has committed who never commits the sins he has repented of." That is the type of godly sorrow and godly weeping that we see throughout the Holy Scriptures.
Characteristics of Godly Sorrow
What are the characteristics of godly sorrow?
- Godly sorrow is spontaneous. In the gospel of Luke we see a sinful woman coming into the house where Jesus was eating with a Pharisee. And in Luke 7:36-38 we read, "Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." That was godly sorrow functioning in spontaneity. Godly sorrow is spontaneously produced by the Spirit of the living God. It is not a forced, mechanical thing.
- Godly sorrow is spiritual . The heart of sin is against God. When we truly repent we are not looking at ourselves or at anyone else. We are looking at God whom we dishonored by our rebellion and violation of his law. We see this demonstrated in Psalm 51. After committing horrible sins, David prayed in verse 4, "Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." He knew that the heart of sin is against God. And in Luke 15:21 the prodigal son said, "I have sinned against heaven. . ." meaning against God. He understood what sin is. Only spiritual, Spirit-produced repentance causes one to see the true nature of sin.
- Godly sorrow is particular . Godly weeping does not mean to utter superficially some general little prayer such as, "Oh, God, forgive all my sins." What did David pray? "For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me" (Ps. 51:3). We forget many things, don't we? And we never want to think about things that are negative, especially our sins. But when David said, "My sin is ever before me," he was not making just a general, superficial confession. Sin is specific and should be repented of particularly.
- Godly sorrow involves hatred of sin . In 2 Corinthians 7:11 Paul wrote, "See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter." The Corinthians despised the sins they committed, and they now showed great indignation at their sins. They were not sweeping them under the rug. They hated, abhorred, loathed, and despised their sin.
- Godly sorrow involves restitution. When we experience such deep mourning, we will also make restitution. Do you remember what Zacchaeus said? "If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (Luke 19:8). Such actions demonstrate deep mourning for sin.
- Godly sorrow is due to realism. He who repents is coming out of the fog of sin into reality. Godly weeping demonstrates that person has entered into the realm of reality. Let me tell you, only a Christian looks at life realistically. A Christian is a one who, by the Spirit of the living God, has come to himself. He has come away from the madness, insanity, and irrationalism of the world and has been brought to the truth of the Holy Scripture. A Christian is realistic about death. He knows that death is, and all will die. He knows that it is appointed for man once to die and then comes the judgment. He is realistic about death, and he also is realistic about God and his existence. He knows that God is--the infinite, holy God--and that he is both a Judge and a Savior. He is also realistic about the nature of sin and, thus, he exposes it. He knows that sin is against God and, therefore, he will not cover it up. He will expose it because he understands how terrible sin is. A Christian is realistic about the existence of eternity. Whether you believe it or not, all are rushing into eternity, hurtling into it every day, but for some, it is the eternity of heaven, while for others it is the eternity of hell. But a Christian is also aware of the gospel, the good news, and knows that there is a way out of darkness into light, a way out of hell into heaven, and a way out of death into eternal life. He is realistic about it, and as a result, he turns in hope to Jesus Christ on the cross.
- Godly sorrow is ongoing. This weeping is continuous. Why? Sin still dwells in us. Therefore, Christians will demonstrate ongoing repentance, ongoing confession, ongoing weeping, and ongoing grieving, that they have dishonored God by their personal and particular sins.
- Godly sorrow is for our sins as well as the sins of others. Godly weeping has to do, first of all, with personal sins, and we see that aspect of it demonstrated in the life of David and in the life of the prodigal son. But a person exhibiting godly sorrow also grieves for others. (PGM) In Psalm 119:136, the psalmist expresses this by saying, "Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed." In the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel, Daniel not only confesses his own sins and weeps for them, but he also weeps for the sins of others. And after Ezra prayed his great prayer in Ezra 9, we read in Ezra 10:6, "While he was there he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles."
We must mourn for our own sins, but we must also mourn for the sins of our family, for the sins of church, and the sins of the world. We must mourn at knowing how God's glory affected by our sins and how we heap dishonor on the name of our glorious God by our sins.
Motivation for Godly Weeping
Do you need some motivation for godly weeping--divine motivation, as the Puritans would say? If you are not inclined to weep and grieve over your sins, these principles can motivate you to do so, but only if you are the chosen of God. Only the elect can repent with godly sorrow.
- It is the best use of tears. God has created man with a capacity to weep and godly sorrow is the best use for tears. We must come to God and say, "God, I have sinned. I grieved you. Ephesians 4:30 tells me, 'And do not grieve the Holy Spirit with whom you are sealed for the day of redemption,' but I know that I have grieved you by my sins." Such sorrow and confession before God is the best use of any tears we shed.
- Weep now, not later . In Luke 6:25 Jesus said, "Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep." If we don't mourn over our sins now, we will do so later, in hell. But there is no comfort available for those who weep in hell. We have a choice: weep now or later. That ought to give us strong motivation to weep now so that we can be comforted. Tears prevent mourning in hell later on.
- Our tears are precious to God. The Bible speaks about the preciousness of tears, and in Psalm 56:8 we read that God is keeping a record of our tears. People keep a record of money, isn't that true? But here is God who functions as an accountant, keeping record of our tears. Why? They are more precious than gold in the sight of God.
- Tears demonstrate grace. Show me a man, a woman, a teenager, a young child who is weeping in the presence of God, and I will show you a person who is under the influence of grace and the mighty Holy Spirit. Tears are an evidence of God's grace. Ezekiel 36:26 tells us how God will remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. It is my prayer that God will give us hearts of flesh. Why? Hearts of stone cannot weep.
- Mourning brings blessing. Jesus said those who mourn are blessed, didn't he? There is a divine benediction resting upon the person who weeps before God
- Tears nourish us spiritually. In Psalm 42:3 we read, "My tears have been my food day and night." Have you ever been on a diet of holy tears? Try it. You will like it. It will feed your soul as nothing else would. It is sweeter than honey to be able to weep before God under the influence of the mighty Holy Spirit.
- Godly sorrow does good to others. When I was a child, I woke up almost every day hearing my parents weeping in prayer. It did something to me. My father's prayer and my mother's weeping functioned as an alarm clock for me, and it did good to me. Can your children say that? My mother is ninety-two years old, and she is still weeping, crying, and praying to God. Her weeping has done a lot of good for me.
- The end of tears will soon come. A final motivation to godly weeping is the knowledge that our weeping is finite. There is an end to our tears and, according to the Bible, that end will come soon. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, we are told in Revelation 7:17 and 21:4. In Psalm 30:5 we read, "Weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Comfort for Mourners
What is the promise to those who mourn? They will be comforted. Who will be comforted? Only those who mourn, meaning only those who repent. Only those who grieve over their sins under the conviction of the Spirit and cry out to God, saying, "Woe is me! I am undone. I am unclean. I have sinned against heaven and against you. I have sinned grievously. My sin is so great" will be comforted.
Why will only such people be comforted? Because they alone know that Jesus Christ came to seek and save that which is lost. They alone look to the cross of Jesus Christ and realize that Christ died for their sins. The cross causes us to weep, but it also causes us to rejoice.
Jesus said, "they will be comforted." This is a divine passive. Such people shall be comforted, not just by other people, whether the pastor, the father, the mother, the spouse or anyone else. Such people shall be comforted by the infinite, personal, holy, all-loving heavenly Father himself.
God's Plan to Comfort His People
In Isaiah 40:1 we read, "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God." God's plan from all eternity was to comfort his people. And the truth is, the Comforter--the Christ, the Anointed One, the Suffering Servant--came. And in Isaiah 53:5 we read, "The punishment that brought us peace," that is, comfort, "was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed," meaning we are saved, we are comforted. Jesus Christ came preaching good news to the poor in spirit and comforting the brokenhearted. As the Messiah he tells us, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you" (Is. 60:1).
The Comforter, the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, has come. In Isaiah 61 we read that the Messiah was sent to preach good news to the poor and to bind up the brokenhearted. He was also sent for the specific purpose to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion. And that is not the end of it! In verse 3 we read he came "to bestow on them," meaning on those who are brokenhearted, those who mourn, those who grieve, those who are poor in spirit, "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."
We must mourn to be comforted. Do you want a crown of beauty? Get a crown of ashes. Do you want the oil of gladness? Start weeping and repenting. Do you want a garment of praise? Look to the cross of Christ.
True Comfort from God
Not only is it Christ's business, Isaiah says, to comfort us, but it is also the Holy Spirit's business. He is our advocate, our comforter, and the one who is for us. The Holy Spirit applies redemption to us effectually and individually by regenerating us, giving us a spirit of repentance, and causing us to believe. He forgives our sins, imputes Christ's righteousness in all its perfection and glory to us, and justifies us forever. We have been adopted as sons and daughters of God and now, through Christ, we can stand in God's presence.
Paul says that we are in God, and John says God is in us. Oh, if these things do not comfort us, I do not know what will. We are in God and God is in us. What comfort, what peace, what joy! God has heard our cries. God told Moses that he heard the cries and groans of the Israelites, and then he came down to bring them out from under their burdens and lead them into a land that was flowing with milk and honey. God has rescued us from under the burden of sin, guilt, and alienation and has brought us out into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Listen to him. He calls to all who labor and are heavily burdened, saying, "Come unto me, all who mourn. Whosoever--one and all, rich and poor, black and white--come unto me! I will give you the only true comfort and rest for your souls."
Comfort for Sinners
In Luke 15 we read of a young man who became mad, irrational, and insane. This man left his father's house to go to a far country to sin, but soon the fun was over. He became famished, lonely, brokenhearted, and rejected by all. But by God's grace this young man came to himself, became sober and began to think clearly and biblically.
In verse 20 of Luke 15 we see this young man going back home. He was now a poor, wretched, miserable, naked specimen of humanity, but what was he doing? Coming home to his father. He mourned and wept as he walked, but he was coming. And when he reached his father, he said, "Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son. Just make me a servant of yours at the lowest rank, for I need to be comforted. Save me, for I am dying."
How did the father react to his son? He comforted him. The father hugged and kissed him and gave him a fine garment to wear. He told the servants to put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. He ordered a great celebration with music and feasting. And when the other son questioned why the father was doing these things, the father said he had a great reason: "This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:24). What comfort for this son!
"Come unto me," God tells us, "and I will give you rest--rest for your soul. Did you say something about these many sins? Yes, I know about them, but they are forgiven. What about the penalty? It is gone forever, son. From the far country of sin and shame you have come to enter the kingdom of God where there is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Yes, sin was the problem, but for those who trust in Christ, its penalty is gone forever. What about the power of sin? God assures us that he will also give us power over the power of sin. What about the pollution of sin? God assures us that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sins. What comfort for sinners!
Fullness of Comfort
Although great comfort is available for us in Christ even now, it is going to increase. One day the very presence of sin will be eliminated. Then we shall see him face to face and enter into the fullness of comfort.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Paul wrote, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
Look at the cross. Yes, it causes you to weep, and then you know that Christ died for your sins. But there is also comfort overflowing from the cross of Jesus Christ, and that comfort is the Father's comfort for us.
One day we will enter into the fullness of comfort, and God shall wipe away every tear from every believer. The first question in the Heidelberg Catechism asks, "What is your only comfort in life and death?" And read the answer very carefully: "That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by his Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him." That is comfort.
Why Don't We Weep?
Are you experiencing godly sorrow? If not, why not? If those who mourn are blessed because they shall be comforted, why are we not weeping? There are several reasons why people do not mourn for their sins.
- Love of sin. Some say, "I love sin with all my heart, mind, soul and strength." That is a reason one will not weep and repent. Is that your reason?
- Unrealistic despair. Have you ever thought, "My sin is too great and nobody can do anything about it"? If so, you must realize that is a lie which devalues the cross. There is no sin too great that the blood of Jesus Christ cannot deal with it.
- Presumption of mercy. Do you think that God will show you mercy, no matter what you do? Don't be too sure about that. No one enters into the kingdom of God without repentance.
- The insignificance of sin. Perhaps you have said,"My sin is so small. I really do not think it is a big deal to God. Aren't I basically a nice person?" If you say such things, you are underestimating the heinousness of sin. The wages of all sin is death, whether the sin is big or small. But the truth is, everyone is depraved.
- Procrastination. Perhaps you think, "Some day I will weep, mourn, and repent, but now I just want to make money and seek pleasure. Let me just enjoy myself now. I want to play and laugh and have fun. Maybe when I become very old--when I am no longer able to play golf and when all my desires are gone--maybe at that time I will consider repenting." Is that your situation?
- God's judgment is delayed. We do not see God's judgment manifested every time we sin. But if you study the Bible, you will find that God is delaying his judgment for a specific reason. What is that? To lead you to repentance (2 Peter 3:7-9).
Therefore, if there is anything that is causing you to be unrepentant, I exhort you to forsake it. Ask God to give you a spirit of repentance! If you weep and mourn because you have sinned, you shall be comforted. May God Comfort Us!
In Hebrews 3 we read, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." There are people who have hardened their hearts for many years now, but the word is coming to them again. If you are one of them, this is your day. I urge you, harden not your heart. Cry out to God and abhor, loathe and forsake sin. Express godly sorrow. Don't turn to the witch of Endor. Don't go and hang yourself. Turn to the cross from which there overflows great comfort for you. Only from the cross can you receive true rest for your soul.
May God have mercy on us and grant us repentance unto life! May he give us true rest and comfort! May he crown us with his joy and give us the oil of gladness and the garment of praise through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™