Matthew chapter 5 again, Matthew chapter 5 - and we've been looking at the beatitudes of the Lord Jesus Christ, His opening words of His great Sermon on the Mount. We spent our first week looking at the Preacher and His preaching, and then the second week we thought of this little word 'blessedness' that is repeated so often, what it meant. And it simply meant 'to be approved of God', 'to have God's smile', 'to have the applause of heaven' - not simply happiness, because happiness is affected by the things outside of us, our circumstances - but this approval of God is something that transcends simple happiness and externalities of circumstance. Blessedness is to have God's hand resting upon you, God's smile and approval in your life. Then last week we began looking at the first beatitude, verse 3, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'.
Let's begin reading again at verse 1: "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was sat down, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil", or to 'fill them up', "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case" - no way - "enter into the kingdom of heaven".
Let us pray: Our dear Father, we thank Thee for Thy truth, and we know that Thy word is truth, that it has power. We would ask as we read it that the Holy Spirit of the Living God may fall afresh on us, in Jesus name. Amen.
We're looking at verse 4, the second beatitude, verse 4: 'Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted'. Perhaps you could translate it like this, it sounds paradoxical, it sounds contradictory, but really what it's saying in everyday terms is this: 'Happy are the unhappy. Happy are the sad'. What a paradox that is! They seem absolute opposites, that someone who is mournful should be comforted, or should be happy, should be joyful, should have satisfaction within them from being mournful, from being sad, from being downhearted. How could this be? It's an absolute paradox. Someone has defined the word 'paradox' as this: 'A paradox is truth standing on its head calling for attention'. That's exactly what this is - the Lord Jesus Christ, in verse 4, is saying: 'Approved, blessed, accepted with God are they who mourn, for they shall be happy, they shall be comforted, they shall be satisfied'.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, said: 'Mournfulness is a rare herb'. It's an endangered species, it is something that you don't come across often in these days that we live in - why is that? Well, first of all - if you look at verse 3 - you will see that, as we said last week, all the beatitudes relate to one another. There is almost like a knock-on effect as we read them: verse 3 leads to verse 4, verse 4 leads to verse 5, and so on. None of them are exemplary, we must take them all, we must believe them all, we must practise them all, we must look for them all in our lives - but there is seemingly a progression as we look from one verse to another. You see, in verse 3 - look at it: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit' - we saw last week that to be poor in spirit was to be humble, and to be humble because you have been humbled by a vision of your own sinfulness before God.
That great hymn, 'Rock of Ages', we sang it twice - and that verse that says: 'Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling' - there is nothing that I can bring to God that can commend me to Him, nothing that I have that can make me acceptable and bring me to heaven. 'Simply to Thy cross', His work on the cross, 'I cling. Naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee in grace. Foul I to the fountain fly, wash me Saviour or I die!'. It's a knowledge - if you like, the first beatitude, number one beatitude in verse 3, is intellectual - it's knowing your sin, coming to a knowledge of it and a realisation of it. But verse 4, number two beatitude, is emotional - it is the effect of what happens to your soul and your spirit when you realise that you're a sinner. When you have the intellectual knowledge the emotional experience kicks in and not only do you know that you're a beggar in the sight of God, but you begin to feel like one. That's the difference. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit' - intellectual. 'Blessed are they that mourn' - emotional.
What a devastating experience this is. I want you to notice that the first words that the Lord Jesus Christ uttered, almost, in His public ministry as we see Him here in the Sermon of the Mount - the first words that He spoke were not 'Peace! Peace!'. They were not particularly comforting words, but - as He enters into this great sermon describing what the nation of Israel needed to do if they were to come back to God - they are violent words, they are destructive words, they are words that cut to the quick, that deal a deathly blow to any form of self-reliance, any form of self-righteousness, anything that would say: 'In us, myself in my hands I bring, and then to Thy cross I cling'.
I want you to see the devastating nature of these words. It's unbelievable to think that we - for us as prideful human beings - that we can't come to God by ourselves. You see, that knocks it - that's why the world around us doesn't like it, because it means that I can't do anything to be saved. People don't like that. To know it is one thing, but when the Holy Spirit enters - not just into your mind, but into your heart - and brings to you the emotions that you cannot come to God - the feelings of your rottenness, of your beggarliness and your sinfulness before the face of a holy God - it is destroying! You see, it needs to be destroying - because if there was anything left of you or I as we came to God for salvation, we wouldn't be saved. All of self, all of pride, all of self-reliance and self-righteousness, all of the things that we think are acceptable, God has to destroy them - it's sad that He has to do it, but He has to.
What are attitudes today? We've seen over the past weeks that the attitudes of the Lord, and the philosophies and the doctrine that He is presenting here, is the absolute antithesis to everything that society believes today. If you went out into the street and you got the microphone in the open air and you shouted: 'Blessed, happy are they that are unhappy', they would lock you up! It doesn't make sense, it doesn't seem to be logical, it doesn't fit in with our way of life, our thought pattern, our system of reason and logic. You see, we in our society today - and especially in our society - to be unhappy is not in vogue. It's a pleasure-man society, it's a society that wishes to bring everything to them to satisfy their fleshly lusts. No matter what it is, good time is the goal - as long as you have a good time, no matter whether it's sin, no matter whether you break the law, as long as it gives you a buzz, well, then it's OK.
Moral, immoral, amoral man today - no morals at all - is building around himself this structure, to be appeased and appealed to by every maximum entertainment and amusement, in an attempt to make his life one big party. Is that not true? Is it not true that the next step, and stage, and goal that every person strives to is the next high that they can have? And if they can't find that high in their own personal lives, in their own lives and their family as it is in the moment, they have to take substances with which to bring, falsely, that high within their life and their mind, and to make them feel better than they really are. What a sad society we live in - but to be mournful, to be unhappy, to be sad is to be a wet blanket. At any cost the world will try and attempt to avoid unhappiness - and when the world should be, and is meant to be, crying they are laughing! And when they ought to be laughing and rejoicing they are crying.
I want to speak to the young people, just for a moment, before we look and expound this verse, there's something that bothers me. As I was (or am!) a young person, as I grew up through the Young People's Fellowship and through University and school and so forth, I found a quality within young people - there are many good qualities within them, and sometimes we don't praise them enough - but there was one quality (and it's not particularly their fault, because they have grown up within a generation and a society that has depicted this to be the way to be). It's simply this: that everything must be laughed at, everything! Everything must be made a joke of, everything must be poked fun at. There is nothing sacred, there are not things that are to be sad - there are things that we are to express sorrow and sadness and morning about. Look at the television: I guarantee you that if you turn Channel 4 on at about eleven o'clock at night after an atrocity, they would be poking fun at it - I've seen it happen. Taking things that are serious, loss of life, great catastrophes, and the vogue of today is to laugh at things that we should weep at, and to weep at the things that we ought to laugh at!
It has even infiltrated the church of Jesus Christ, that people laugh at spiritual things - even within the sanctuary we are looking for a continual buzz, a feeling of happiness, of pleasure. We feel pressure that we always have to be happy if we're a Christian, we have to wear the plastic smile! Some of us feel such pressure - some seeming 'defenders of the faith', leading evangelicals in our world today, will not preach sin or guilt because it makes people in the pew feel uncomfortable. 'We don't want to feel uncomfortable, we don't want to feel unhappy, we don't want to mourn, we don't want to be sad - tell us something that makes us happy, tell us something that changes our emotions!'. Let me tell you would Jesus said: 'If you don't mourn for your sin, and if you're not poor in spirit, and if you don't feel sad, you'll never be saved'. You will never be saved! Because in order to be saved you must see your sin, and if seeing your sin doesn't make you sad, you haven't seen it!
Neil Postman - he's not a believer, but he has written a book and the title explains the whole book that he has written, do you know what it's called? 'Amusing Ourselves To Death' - amusing ourselves to death, we laugh at the things we should weep over, don't we? And we weep at the things we should laugh at. There was a train crash a few years ago across the water, and it was televised and it showed after this crash the carnage that there was. It showed you the Fire Brigade and the ambulances coming to rescue the people, and there was a shot of a mother that was sitting in her passenger seat, strapped in with a little child in her arms, and the mother was dead. But the child was still alive, and the rescue men came in and they lifted the child and - think of this - as they lifted the child, the child began to laugh and giggle! But then, as they lifted her, they found they couldn't lift her because she had chocolate in both of her hands, and they took the chocolate out of her hands - and when they took it out of her hands she began to squeal and wail. Is that not like us? Is that not like human nature? At the tragedies of this spiritual world that we live in, we laugh! We can't see it! We're blinded by it! But immediately our little candy bar is taken away from us - whether it be health, whether it be wealth, whether it be status - whatever it may be, we wail and we cry! But the Lord Jesus Christ said this: 'Blessed are the mournful, for they shall be comforted'.
I want us to look, first of all, at what mournfulness is not, and then we're going to look at what it is, and then we're just simply going to look at the phrase 'they shall be comforted'. Let's look at what it is not. Mournfulness is not Christians being perpetually morose, not downtrodden, downhearted, boring, depressing Christians that trip over their faces! It is not being full of self-pity, weeping continually - that is not what the Lord Jesus Christ is talking about. First of all, this blessed mournfulness is not cheerlessness - not cheerlessness. Robert Louis Stevenson, many of you know him, the author, he wrote this - listen to this: 'I've been to church today and I'm not depressed'. Because of Christians that he had experienced in his life he thought you had to be depressed, you had to have a long face, you had to be boring, dull, morbid to go to the place of God to worship - and let me ask: can you blame him? It's like the little girl that was walking in the country with her mother, and she pointed over to a horse and she said: 'That horse must be a Christian, look at the long face on it!'. And sometimes we are like that - now that is not mournfulness that the Lord Jesus Christ is talking about, that is miserableness.
In Proverbs chapter 17 and verse 22 we have wise words from Solomon were he says this: 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones'. And it is true that a laugh - there's nothing wrong with a laugh in the right place, and there is a time to laugh and a time to cry - there's nothing wrong with a smile on your face, and if you're saved today and there's not a smile on your face, something's missing. But Oswald Saunders goes on to say - and here's a warning for us all - that we have already, in the Christian church, allowed to much that is good to be lost to the church, we've cast too many pearls before swine, and the church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toast-maker. We need to be happy, and mournfulness is not cheerlessness.
But secondly, look at this: mourning, neither, is mourning about the difficulties within our lives. Think about it: the Bible never says that mourning in itself is a blessed state. In fact, mourning within the word of God, at times, is cursed of God. You remember Amnon? You remember how he lusted after his half-sister Tamar, and it said that because he couldn't have her - because it was against the law, it was against the law of nature and his family, and it was against God, it was a sin - but it says that he mourned because he couldn't have her. That's not good. It says that Ahab mourned because he couldn't get his hands on Naboth's vineyard. He coveted, he lusted after it and that wasn't good either - so mourning is not mourning over the difficulties of life.
But thirdly, look at this: nor is mourning - in this context - bereavement. Mourning is bereavement, but not here. So, what is it? There are nine words within the New Testament used for the word 'mourning', all of them are used, all the Greek words, nine of them, are used in the New Testament. But the word that is used in verse 4 is the strongest and most descriptive word that you can use. It's found in Genesis 37 verse 34, and if we had time we could turn to it, it describes Jacob's sorrow and mournfulness over his son Joseph who had died. You remember, his brothers took him and they cast him into a pit, and they took his beloved coat of many colours and they splattered it with blood, brought it back to his father and said: 'Your beloved son, he's dead now'. And it says that he mourned - and the word that is used is the most descriptive word. It's the word that's used in Mark chapter 16 and verse 10, where the women who had been to the tomb after the Lord Jesus had rose from the dead, they came back to the disciples and they told that He was risen - and they found them mourning and weeping, they had lost the Saviour! What mourning that was.
This is not simply cheerlessness, this is not simply difficulties in life, this is not only bereavement - because bereavement is a natural sorrow. These other mournings that we can have at times are unnatural, they are deeper than they ought to be, and we do weep about things that we ought to laugh in the face of - but this is spiritual sorrow. I want to illustrate it by turning to Psalm 32, Psalm 32 and if you look at verses 3 to 5 you see here this godly sorrow, this spiritual sorrow. Psalm 32 and verses 3 to 5, and this is the way you feel - it is kicked out of your intellect and into your emotions, and when you keep silent your bones wax old through your groaning all-day long: 'For day and night [God's] hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer'. That's the way you feel, and the only happiness, the only comfort, the only relief that you can have is found in verse 5: 'I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin' - and the result is, you're comforted, verses 1 and 2: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord does not credit iniquity, in whose spirit there is no guile.
Do you know what this is? And I'm speaking as much to Christians now as I am to anyone here that's not saved. This is ceasing from rationalising your sin, this is - in your life - calling sin sin, calling it what it is, admitting what it is and letting the horrors, the desolation, the degradation of sin penetrate right into our very soul until we weep and mourn about it! Have you ever done that? It was Cranmer - Archbishop Cranmer - when he wrote the prayer book in 1662, and he wrote the Holy Communion part to put into the lips of church people words to say as they broke bread, was he exaggerating when he said: 'We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness'? Is that too strong a word? 'Bewail'? That is mournfulness.
It says of John Bradford, that was burned at stake by the papists in 1555, that scarcely a day passed in which he did not weep for his sin. Isn't that powerful? It says of David Brainerd, the great missionary in the 1500's to the American Indians, as he walked in the forest one evening and contemplated his sins and his depravity before God, that he felt that the very ground of the forest would open up and swallow him into hell! It says as he went back to the mission station he could hardly show his face in case the other missionaries knew what had happened to him, or saw the look of sinful shame upon his face. Spurgeon said: 'The best of men are men at best, and apart' - listen to this - 'apart from the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of divine grace, hell itself does not contain greater monsters than you and I might become'! I remember hearing about the old preacher Alan Redpath that stood on a platform and he said: 'As I stand here this evening I am capable of committing any sin under the sun' - that is realising how big a sinner you are! And it was Paul - in his late years, now, not after he had murdered Christians - but as he thought and contemplated what he was, that he could say that he was the chief of sinners! As believers, as unbelievers, do we see our sin? Do we see ourselves as we really are? Do you know what the old puritan called sin? 'The Devil's excrement' - that describes it wonderfully. Do we see ourselves like that? That this is all we are - but often, and it's not wrong to make much of the grace of God, but at times we make much of the grace of God and we make light of our own sinfulness before God.
I want to point you to the Man of Sorrow. It's interesting as we read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - the gospel record - that the Lord Jesus Christ is never recorded as laughing or smiling. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying He didn't laugh or smile, I'm not saying He couldn't laugh or smile. But why do the gospel recorders, why does the Holy Spirit, not bring that thought to us? Simply because He wants Him to be described as the Man of Sorrows! He was hungry, He was tired, He was going to bear the sins of the world, He heard in His ears day by day blasphemy, profanity, He saw it with His very eyes - the One who could not look upon iniquity, He saw all those things in His very midst. He was thirsty, He was weeping, He was poor, He was angry, He was hungry - but chiefly, He mourned because of our sin and He mourned for a sinful, lost world. We see that in Luke 23, if you look at it quickly, Luke chapter 23 - and you remember the women were weeping for Him, can you imagine this? They were weeping for Him, the crucified Saviour - verse 28: 'But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children'. What a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.
Do we see the sorrow of our sin? Do we see what our sin did to Christ? Do we see it? Do you know some of the reasons why we don't see it? One: our love for sin. Let's be honest, put your hand up here if you don't love sin - you're a sinner, so you're bound to love sin! Love for sin stops us letting go. Two: despair. We may think that we have sinned so much, or in such gravity, that God cannot forgive us - no! Thirdly: it could be conceit. 'I don't need to be forgiven. I don't need to turn from my sin, I'm not that bad! Why should I mourn about my life?' - self-righteousness. Four: presumption. 'The grace of God can cover my sin' - true...but if you talk like that you may have never seen the grace of God! Five: procrastination. Putting it off, putting it off, living with sin, continuing - as John says - in sin and not putting your sin under the blood of Christ. And six: frivolity. 'I don't care!'. Is that not why the great apostles kept emphasising sobriety within your walk with Christ? Realise the sinfulness, the awful sinfulness of sin!
Do you want to know how to mourn for your sin? Do you want to know? Meet with us at a quarter past ten on a Sunday morning - that's how. Look to the cross, look to a sinless, spotless Saviour suffering for sins that were not His own - Christ dying for you, being made a sacrifice for your sin - and if that doesn't break you, if that doesn't humble you, if that doesn't put your face and your life and your soul and your walk on its face before God in the dust, I don't know what will! Christina Rossetti put it like this - so often we can suffer from hardened hearts, can we? We were talking about sinners and hardened hearts last Sunday evening, but there's many of us have hardened hearts, many of us. Some of us no more than when we look upon the cross, we know it so well, we've heard about the blood so often, and we've heard about the sacrifice for sin, that it rolls off us like water off a duck's back. Listen how Christina Rossetti puts it:
'Am I a stone and not a sheep?
That I can stand, oh Christ, beneath Thy cross
To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so these women, loved,
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee.
Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly.
Not so the sun and moon, which hid their faces in the starless sky
A horror of great darkness at broad noon - I, only I.
Yet give not o'er, but seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock,
Greater than Moses - turn and look once more and smite a rock'.
If you look to the cross you shall be comforted. If you mourn for your sin, if you let it eat within you, you will be comforted - and what the comfort means, simply, is forgiveness. Your life will be changed, the Holy Spirit will enter in - and interestingly the word for 'comfort' is the root word, and has the same root as the word for the Holy Spirit, 'parakletos'. And 'parakletos' simply means 'to come aside', 'to come beside, arm in arm and to comfort you' - that's what the Holy Spirit does. If you mourn for your sin the Holy Spirit of God will come beside you, and comfort you, and take you all the way to the cross. You'll have forgiveness in the Holy Spirit and you'll have salvation, and your mourning will elevate you to Him. Christian and non-Christian, just like the prodigal - Luke chapter 15 and verse 18 - what did he say? 'When he came to himself, he said, I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, I have sinned in thy sight and am no more worthy to be called thy son'. What is it to be comforted? As I close:
'Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me'.
Praise the Lord! Let us pray. Perhaps there is someone here that's not born-again, and you know what it is to feel the mournfulness of your sin and the emotion of a dying soul within yourself. Look to Him and be saved this morning. Lord, we say with the poet: 'Lord, bend this stiffnecked I, help me to bow the head and die, beholding Him on Calvary who bowed His head for me'. Lord, help us to be poor in spirit, but to mourn our sin - and if we do we'll inherit the kingdom of heaven, and we'll be comforted by none other than the Holy Spirit of God in His blessed fullness in our lives. Bless us now as we part, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his Beatitudes series, titled "Blessed Are They That Mourn" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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