Preached: January 12, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Last week we began our journey through what is called the Sermon on the Mount. This is without a doubt the greatest sermon that was ever preached. Why? Because it was funny? Because it had a great power point presentation? Because it had great illustrations? No, it was the greatest sermon ever preached because it came straight from the mouth of God. It was pure unadulterated truth, and truth is what our hearts desperately need, not amusement.
With that said, last week we unpacked Jesus's first statement, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” What we saw was that this statement was not only the beginning of the sermon, it is the beginning of new life in Christ; for it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God, unless you first humble yourself and recognize your complete, and utter inability to save yourself. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that you need a Savior, that you need Jesus.
After making that statement, Jesus does not waste anytime. He moves very quickly to the next powerful beatitude. So with that said let us do the same and read it, pray and dwell upon it.
· Matthew 5:4 - “"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.“
To begin, as I stated last week, it is important for us to understand the word “blessed.” It is the word that Jesus chooses to use to begin each of the beatitudes. The word is regularly understood to mean “happy” however being happy is incomplete in its description. For to be blessed is to be approved by God, or to think about it as “the applause of heaven.”This makes sense when we think about it. When we say, “I am blessed.” What we are saying is that God has chosen to give us something that pleases us, or makes us happy.
Having said that, we should ask, “Why would God accept those who mourn?” What is good about mourning? How can this be acquainted with happiness? Isn't this a paradox to say, “Happy are those who are sad?” Isn't the key to happiness the avoidance of mourning?
There is no doubt that this is the philosophy of the World, especially today in America. We have rejected the reality of mourning. We see it as something to avoid at all cost. We fill our lives with as much entertainment, music, people, and stuff as possible so that we never have a moment of mourning. We buy books, attend small groups, listen to speakers, and take medication so as to never taste the bitterness of sorrow. We flee sadness like a cockroach flees light. Yet, here stands Jesus proclaiming to the disciples and the crowds who were eavesdropping, that those who mourn are blessed. How can this be?
To understand the second beatitude, we must consider the first. Last week we saw that “ blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” and we understood this to mean that to be poor in spirit is to recognize who we are in comparison to who God is. To be poor in spirit is to recognize that we are not gods, and that we are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. To be poor in spirit is to be a dog begging for scraps at the table of Christ. Without this humility we cannot enter into the Kingdom.
Mourning is directly connected to being poor in spirit; for it is the emotion that flows out of humility before a Holy God. The intellectual recognition of our need for Jesus is good, but it is not enough. Not only must we accept the truth of our need in our heads, but this need must affect our hearts. It must cause us to be sad, to weep, to mourn because of our condition, our actions, our sin. We must feel the weight of the reality of our depravity. Unfortunately, I fear that to few people feel the prick of sin in their hearts, and therefore to few people are actually in the Kingdom even though they think they are.
To understand this truth of mourning, turn with me to Genesis 6:5-6. We have looked at this text before, but not necessarily at this angle. What I find interesting is that this is the first time we see mourning, or grief, mentioned in the Bible. What is interesting is that it comes not from who you think it should come from.
· Genesis 6:5-6 - “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
Isn't this interesting? If anyone should be mourning, it should be humanity, but it is not. Instead we see humanity's pride. However when we look at God we see grief.
God looked down on mankind, people just like you and me, doing things, thinking things, and how are they described? Evil. Remember, just a few chapters before this in Genesis 1, we were told that when God had finished creating everything on the 6th day and he looked down at his work and he described it as “very good.” God was pleased with what he saw. However, in Genesis 6, we see a different response. When God gazed down upon creation, His reaction was, “grief.” What changed? Sin. The difference between Genesis 1 and Genesis 6, was that sin had entered the world and had corrupted the heart of man. So when God now looked down on his creation instead of being pleased, God's heart was grieved. He was mourning over sin and its consequences.
This was not the last time that God was grieved by the sin of man. Listen to the description of God's feeling towards the people of Israel after he called them out of Egypt in Psalm 78
· Psalm 78:37-40 - “Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. 38Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. 40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! “
Once again, the people of Israel were people, just like you and me. They dreamed, they loved, they worked, they played and when God looked down on them he saw rebellion, he saw their iniquity, he saw how they were unfaithful to Him, and it grieved Him. He was not indifferent towards their evil. He didn't laugh it off. It caused an infinitely Holy and Awesome God grief, pain, sorrow. It caused him to mourn. I think this is so important for us to recognize. I feel like so many people see God as a character on the Simpsons. He is portrayed with a “C'est la vie” attitude, as if he could care less about his creatures spitting in his face and living independent of their Maker. This is not the God that is portrayed in the Bible. God is grieved by sin, it breaks his heart.
This mourning was not exclusive to only God, but it also flowed to His chosen people. Probably the most well known mourner in the old testament was Jeremiah, otherwise known as the weeping prophet. In fact, one of his books is titled lamentations. There is nothing more mourning then to lament. So what was he so sad about?
· Jeremiah 8:18-22 - “My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me. 19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: "Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?" "Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images and with their foreign idols?"20 "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." 21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? “
It is not the economy, the lack of food, or the lack of entertainment that Jeremiah's weeping. It is their idol worship. The people of God where worshiping things other that God, and it made the heart of Jeremiah sick. It pierced him. It wounded him. Why? Because it wounded the heart of His God. And because of his wounds, he cried out for a physician, he desired what he called the “the balm of Gilead.” He sought comfort. Jeremiah was not alone, every prophet from Abraham to John the Baptist mourned for the sins of the world. Just as God did, and just as Christ did.
In Isaiah 53, the famous suffering servant passage of the old testament, it tells the world what will be the distinguishing characteristic of the long awaited for Messiah, and what are we told?
· Isaiah 53:3 - “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;”
Of all things that God could say about His Son, Jesus, He wanted us to know that Jesus would be a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. Jesus, the Son of God, was defined by mourning. Too often I think we see Jesus as being ok with sin. We see him hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, and we make the assumption that Jesus is not emotionally effected by sin. This is not true. Jesus is grieved by sin. It breaks his heart to see people seek pleasure in something other than his father. We see this played out most vividly in Luke 19.
· Luke 19:41-42 - “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. “
In Luke 19 we are given a window into Jesus heart. It is as if Jesus is reenacting Genesis 6 in this moment. The grief of the sin of Jerusalem was overwhelming for the Him and He did not like what he saw. His spirit was grieved. His desire was for them to come to Him, the Prince of Peace, the great Physician, the balm of Gilead.
This was the spirit of Christ, grief; grief over sin; grief over rebellion. And as Jesus stood on the side of the mountain and taught his disciples, He told them that they must be like Him, like the prophets, like God. He invited them to participate in his mourning. In fact, it wasn't just an invitation, it was a description of true disciple, one who was approved. A disciple must mourn over the reality of sin. As I stated earlier, being poor in spirit is a necessity to enter the Kingdom of God, however mourning is the evidence.
As I look across Christianity in America, I worry that many self-proclaimed Christians have never mourned over their sin against a Holy God. They have never felt sorry for it. They have never stared their rebellion in the face and saw it for the wretchedness that it is. They do not love God to the extent that it breaks their heart to have grieved Him.
The death of Jesus in their place does not resonate with them in that they don't recognize that the scourging, the spitting, the nailing, and the suffocating of Jesus is because of their sins. They feel no remorse. This so called Christians are merely intellectually following Jesus, just as many people intellectually follow Muhammad, or Gandhi, or humanism. Christianity is just a philosophy to them. They have never felt the weight of their sin and they live in blissful ignorance, therefore they have not and do not mourn.
The problem with this blissful ignorance is that Jesus says that those who mourn will be comforted. This is an exclusive statement, for there is a correlation between mourning and comfort. If you want comfort, you must mourn. Mourning is the pathway to comfort. No mourning, no comfort, and trust me, you want this comfort.
This comfort is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The verse that I think best shows us the mourning and the comfort is played out is Romans 7. In this text Paul is mourning over the sin in his life and at the end of the chapter this is his conclusion:
· Romans 7:24-25 - “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! “
In this moment we see Paul recognizing his complete inability to live a Holy life, and he is therefore poor in spirit. This reality of his need pierces his heart and he feels the weight of his sin. He sees his wretchedness. This feeling of wretchedness leads him to one place, the person of Jesus Christ. For there is no other place that true comfort can be found. It is at the cross that we find ultimate comfort; because it is at the cross where Jesus takes our punishment, and we are granted his righteousness. It is at the cross that we find forgiveness and therefore it is at the cross we find comfort. Our sins are washed away, the chains are broken, our wretchedness is replaced with righteousness. Therefore, when God looks down on his disciples, his not grieved, he is pleased for he sees not the sins of you and me, he sees the righteousness of His Son. There is no greater comfort than the removal of God's wrath.
With that said, it should be noted that mourning does end when we first accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Mourning is continuous for a true disciples for two reasons.
First, sin will never be absent in our lives as long as we live in this fallen world. No matter who we are and how long we have been walking with the Lord we will continue to battle our sinful flesh. We will lie, cheat, swear, gossip, lust, covet, worship idols, and we will forget and doubt God's goodness. There is no doubt that we will fall prey to our weakness, it will happen over and over again until we die or until Christ's return. Having said that, a true disciple is not ok with this. A true disciple is distraught with every sin that becomes of them. When sin in their life rears its ugly head it breaks their heart, for they have sinned against their Father whom they love. It grieves them to be lacking in faith and therefore vulnerable to sin. Therefore, when they recognize their sinfulness they do not compare themselves to the world and shrug it off, but instead with tears in their eyes they confess their sins, and stand in the grace of the cross and praise Jesus for His atoning blood.
Second, a true disciple continues to mourn because it breaks our heart to see others living in rebellion to God. When we become a follower of Christ, the Spirit of God comes and dwells in us. The same spirit that grieved over the world in Genesis 6. The same spirit that looked out over Jerusalem and wept. The same spirit that was in Paul when he agonized over his fellow Jews. Listen to what he says in Romans 9: 1-3.
· Romans 9:1-3 - “I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
What grieved Paul more than anything was not his stoning, whippings, ship wrecks, lack of money or lack of food, it was that the people he grew up with, whom he went to school with, who he lived life with were not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. That their sin was not atoned for. That they were still dead in their trespasses. His mourning was the fuel his relentless mission to proclaim the Gospel to anyone and everyone who was within earshot.
This should be us. We must look out in the world and not laugh at sin, but mourn for those who are lost and condemned and bound for Hell. It should break out heart that our children could care less about loving the Lord. When we see sin glamorized on TV we should not be drawn to it, but repulsed by it and grieve over those who are promoting it and being deceived by it.
Should cornerstone Church be full of love and joy on Sunday mornings? Absolutely! However, this love and joy must be genuine. Let us not put on fake smiles and entertain ourselves for an hour. Let us instead face the realities of our wretchedness and humble ourselves before the cross of Jesus Christ and let the the Grace of God be the source of love and the source of joy. Let the comfort that we receive through faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus be our peace in the midst of the storms of our lives.
Let us weep for those who are lost and and not stand back and let darkness reign in our families, communities, country and world. Let us be a shining light, taking the Gospel everyone God has placed in your life. Let us take the true comfort of God to the broken hearted. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, let us pray that our mourning leads to action.
Finally, we must remember that their will come a day where mourning will be no more. A day will dawn when brokenness will be cast into the lake of fire and the Garden of Eden will rebloom.
· Revelation 21:1-4 -”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." “
How about that for comfort? Come Lord Jesus come!