When the Sad Are Happy

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:2-12)

Last week, we looked at verse 3, which says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We learned that “poor in spirit” means to be like a beggar in our inner man concerning our lack of resources to get us to a place of peace with God and entry into His family. We utterly lack all resources needed to get to Him on our own. Our total inability to relate to God in any sort of way of blessing should lead us to recognize our need for a savior, to see our place as poor in spirit. Those who get to a place of utter poverty of spirit and call out to the Lord will be saved. The alternative is to believe in self, rely on self, believe that we are good enough to please God and earn His favor. The alternative leads to hell and damnation, it leads to dying in one’s sins and paying for those sins. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit because they will enter into the kingdom of God as His child, as an heir of righteousness. Blessed are the poor in spirit because they will see God and live a blissful, full, eternal existence in heaven and on the new earth. Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will live in His grace today, now, in this life and forever in the life to come.

One thing we really didn’t cover last week is the phrase, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We talked about the word “blessed” and what it means to be “poor in spirit,” but did not address specifically the phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Certainly part of the blessedness or happiness is tied to this phrase, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In this phrase “theirs” is an emphatic pronoun which means “theirs alone.” In other words, only the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Only those who have understood and do understand their worthless state apart from Christ will enter the kingdom of heaven, will inherit the kingdom of God. 

This is why we have to question religions like Catholicism, and others that teach, “Yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but my good works will be a big part of getting me there.” No, poor in spirit, being poor in spirit is an admission that we cannot earn salvation or an inheritance into the kingdom. It is all of Christ. And even further, even our good works as Christians are only good if it is Christ doing them in us, through us. If the Holy Spirit is doing them in us then they are good works. We need to be quick to acknowledge this, to admit our inability to save ourselves or to keep ourselves saved. Only the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom.

For us today the kingdom is living under the rule of Christ, living in His daily grace, living under His authority, living a life today loving Him. He meets our needs, He cares for us, He loves us. We as Christians are currently a part of His kingdom. Even this has an element that demands we be poor in spirit, it is acknowledging that He is doing everything in us and for us. He is the one we love, not ourselves. This is all part of the “now” part of the kingdom.

There is certainly also a future aspect to this. There will be a time of His visible, bodily rule. A time when He will rule in all His glory for us to see and be a part of. Even then we will live with a sense of, “Yes, it is Christ who is awesome and great as our king, I am here only because He is awesome and great, and my entrance into this has nothing to do with me.”

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

I don’t know how much time any of us, even as Christians, walk around trying to actively impress God, but I do think we walk around, often so, actively trying to convince people around us that we are worthy of their love, worthy of their attention, worthy of their time and affection. How would our lives look differently if we just stopped all that and settled in with this notion before God and man that we are poor in spirit? What if we did that?

What does it look like in this life to walk as one who is poor in spirit? How would your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other posts look differently? How would your conversations change? How even might your wardrobe change if you’re not trying to impress other people? How would our relationships change if we really embrace this truth that we are poor in spirit, useless apart from God in us, and stop trying to convince people that we are great? How would your job look differently? Would you even be in the job that you’re in? How would your parenting be different? How might your marriage change? If you stop trying to convince each other of your goodness and your worth? What if we really live, like we say sometimes, “All glory to God and none to me”? What if we took all those efforts of propping ourselves up and instead spend them on giving glory to God, speaking well of Him, in all of our conversations giving Him all the credit due His name. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

That was last week. For today…

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

The title of the message today is, “When the Sad Are Happy.” This beatitude speaks of the happiness of the person who mourns, of the person whom God comforts.

As Jesus continues to introduce His kingdom to this crowd of people, and the ways of His kingdom, He gives us another statement that seems rather strange. “Happy are those who mourn.” Have you mourned over something lately? What was that like for you? Jesus says, “Blessed [happy] are those who mourn.”

What does it mean to mourn? And does all mourning lead to happiness? I want to start by answering these two important questions.

First, what exactly is mourning, what does it mean to mourn? The word “mourning” that Jesus uses is the strongest word of all the Greek words in the Bible that refer to sorrow and grief. The word is very intense and is reserved for the most intense moments of sorrow. It conveys the idea of deep, inner agony, an agony that comes from the inner man, the inner spirit. It is a word that usually conveys being very uncomfortable. It is not a state of feeling that we normally go after as something we want. It results from what we see generally as negative, the result of some undesired situation. Think of the last time you were intensely sorrowful or full of grief. What sort of adjective would you use to describe your feelings of sorrow? Pleasant, happy, peaceful? Probably not descriptive words you would use. If you were to paint a picture called “Sorrow,” what would it look like? It would most likely be a black and white picture. We may see tears, a limp expression of grief, a body bent over, perhaps lying on the floor. Visuals of sorrow and grief can be powerful. These are powerful emotions.

Sometimes we see people who may seem to be sorrowful but in reality they are putting up an appearance of sorrow. For some, tears come very easily. For others being downcast is a way of life. People may look intensely sorrowful. But this word for mourning is not about how someone just looks, or about a personality type, but it is a word that conveys a deep sorrow from the heart that is real and intense.

In this beatitude Jesus does not make a distinction about types of sorrow or reasons for sorrow. But the Bible in general does make such distinctions. Does all mourning lead to God’s comfort? Does some mourning lead us into the comfort of God, and some just leave us mourning? Well the answer to that is yes. All mourning is not the same, and what we mourn over can be very diverse, some being a worldly sorrow or mourning, and another being a godly mourning. We need to see the difference in the two.

First some examples of a worldly sorrow, which Jesus is not speaking of in this passage. People, you and I, can be sorrowful for many, many reasons. You may mourn with great sorrow, I may experience sorrow and grief as well, but is it the kind of mourning that Jesus says leads to the comfort of God and brings with it blessed happiness? Can we mourn, but for the wrong things? The answer is yes. Not all mourning is godly, and not all mourning brings God’s blessing.

What are some examples of mourning, real sorrow, real mourning that is worldly and not pleasing to God? Let me give you some categories and examples…

First, a sorrowful mourning that is despairing. By despairing I mean that sees no hope. This is a worldly sorrow. We see this type of mourning with Judas who betrayed our Lord. Judas saw his sin, he was sorry for it in some way, he even made confession of his sin, and even further makes restitution. Judas in fact did more than some believers may do today when they sin. He at least said, admitted, “I have sinned.” Judas’ conscience informed him that he was wrong and what he had done was evil. In Matthew 27 he confessed…

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:4-5)

Why was Judas’ mourning not acceptable? For one reason perhaps, it was joined with utter despair. Judas thought his sin was bigger and greater than the grace and forgiveness of God. His sin was big in his mind, and God was small in his mind. Judas had not understood his need for a Savior and the Savior’s ability to wipe out personal sin through forgiveness. His sorrow was one of despair.

How often do we despair in our sin? We see sin as huge in our lives and God’s ability to forgive as something less than what is needed, at least in our case! We may think, “God can’t handle this one, God won’t forgive in this case. I am therefore helpless, on my own. All that is left for me is despair.” This is not a godly sorrow, godly mourning. This is not the kind of mourning that brings blessed happiness and comfort from God. This is me-focused and not Christ-focused, this is not what is pleasing to God.

Paul Tripp has said, “If you are God’s child, your life is no longer defined by your sin, but by God’s forgiving and accepting grace.” Do we believe that, or do we despair in our sin? Tripp also said, “In the face of all of your failures, it is sweet to know that God’s love never fails.”

Your sin is not greater than God’s ability and desire to forgive. Despair is not from God, despair is meant to evaporate, to disappear in the presence of our Lord.

Not all sorrow is godly sorrow. Another type of mourning that is not godly mourning as Jesus speaks of in the Beatitudes is a hypocritical sorrow or mourning. The heart is very deceitful. Jeremiah reminds of this in Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

In 1 Samuel, Saul looks like one who mourns with a godly sorrow. In Saul’s encounter with the Philistines he sins against the Lord. He confesses in 1 Samuel 15:24, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” Samuel spoke and told Saul that God was taking his kingdom away from him to give it to another. What we find is that Saul was not concerned over his sin, but over his position and power. What he wanted was what he had before, which was his kingdom and honor before the people. He said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel.” Saul mourned, he was sorrowful, but it was hypocritical. His sorrow was over his loss of power and honor. It was like, “Okay, I’ll be sorrowful if I need to be sorrowful so that I can get back my honor, my kingdom.” Saul labored to make his sin look small. He played the mourner to try to get what he wanted. He was not serious about his sin.

God is not interested in sorrow that makes light of sin and is displayed in order to gain what what we may have lost because of our sin. That is not godly sorrow.

I picture a child pouting, and maybe even with tears, having displeased his parents. A real look of sorrow. When what he really wants is what he had lost because of his actions: a toy taken away for misbehavior. What he wants is the toy, and if looking sorrowful is the way to get it back, then so be it. That is not sorrow over sin, that is worldly sorrow of having lost what he wants.

Another type of worldly sorrow is a sorrow over consequences. These are all closely tied together with some minor distinctions. Sorrow over consequences, sorrow over getting caught, a secret sin being revealed. It’s sorrow over not having a lust fulfilled. Like, “I’m sorry I got caught because now I can’t get what I really wanted.” This may be like Cain who said, “My punishment is more than I can bear.” His focus was on his consequences, of not getting what he wanted, more than on his grievous sin before a holy God. In other words, his punishment troubled him more than his sin. 

A bank robber who is caught cannot enjoy spending the money stolen, an adulterer who is caught cannot any longer enjoy the illicit relationship, a liar who is caught cannot continue in his lie that was motivated by his desires. Sorrow or mourning over getting caught in sin, and even in its consequences over lost sinful pleasure is not the mourning of which Jesus speaks.

One last example of an ungodly mourning is that it can simply be external. It is fake, it is for show, it is not real. It is a cover to portray sorrow that one may hope to fool others so that they can continue in their sin. “Yes I’m sorry, I admit what I have done, now let’s move on and forget about that.” That can sometimes lead to a return to such sin if it is simply for an external show. It is not real, not genuine, it is show, an act. “I’ll pretend sorrow and put on a good show so that I can get back to what I want to do.”

We can be sorrowful and full of grief over our sin that we think is too big for God to handle, we can be full of sorrow and grief over sin and circumstances in a hypocritical way to try and get what we really want, we can mourn over consequences that keeps our lusts from being fulfilled, we can give evidence of an outward sorrow meant to calm the fears of others, but all of that is worldly and none of it brings life and happiness.

If these are all examples of a sorrow of which Jesus does not speak, what kind of sorrow is he talking about? We get help here from the apostle Paul…

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Only one kind of sorrow does, and that is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. True sorrow over sin committed against our Lord. Jesus is referring to a sorrow over sin. For the one who is sorrowful over sin, mourning over sin, he is the one who is comforted. 

A great example of this type of sorrow is David in Psalm 51. When David committed a terrible sin with Bathsheba, and against her husband Uriah, having him murdered, David recognized his sin and mourned very deeply over it.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight, 

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1-4, 10-12)

And in Psalm 32 David says…

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)

Blessed are those who mourn, who mourn over sin, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who truly see their sin the way God sees their sin, who agree with God over sin and the seriousness of it. Blessed are those who come clean with God regarding sin. These will be comforted. The sad then become happy.

Mourners are those who are happy because they are forgiven. Everyone else lives in endless guilt and shame.

The happiness, the blessedness Jesus speaks of does not come from the mourning itself, the sorrow itself, it comes from God’s response to the godly sorrow. There is nothing happy about mourning itself, but in forgiveness there is great joy and happiness.

David shed a lot of tears, and yet he said, “Blessed are those whose transgression is forgiven.” There is the comfort, comfort that can only come from our God.

The Bible instructs us to mourn. Mourn over sin, mourn before God, understand true sorrow over offending our holy God who is so gracious to us, mourn and you will be happy. 

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

There is this theme that runs all throughout the Scriptures that teaches us to see our sin for what it is, and as we do it should drive us to godly sorrow. And when it does, then there is God, standing ready to do what? To comfort, to forgive, to give grace, to bring joy to our hearts, to lead us into happiness in Him.

Do we mourn over sin? When is the last time we expressed true, deep sorrow over our sin? Not everyone else’s sin, but our sin, personal sin. Are we too busy to mourn? Do we take the time?

How do you mourn? What is behind your mourning? Is it godly or is it worldly? Is it a mourning over what God hates, or is it mourning over not getting what you want? Are we sensitive to our sin, or are we passive about it? Do we laugh at it, or do we weep over it? Do we even take time to consider our sin and how offensive it is to the Lord, or do we just brush it off as, “Well, everybody’s a sinner”? Is our heart broken as God’s is over sin?

If we do not mourn over our own sin, then nor will we have a real, exuberant joy over forgiveness. If sin is no big deal to us, then neither is forgiveness. Do we experience real peace and joy, real happiness and comfort that comes to a forgiven, cleansed, purified sinner? We mourn and God comforts!

We mourn God’s way as we understand ourselves, poor in spirit, as we understand God, holy, just, perfectly loving, as we understand salvation, getting what we could never get on our own, being relieved of what we deserve which is hell. We mourn rightly as we embrace God’s love for us and as we cultivate a deeper, more passionate love for Him.

I’m convinced that when God is at the center of our lives, we will mourn rightly over our sin, and we will rightly receive His comfort.

How are we doing with mourning over sin, and then letting it go as Christ comforts our hearts? As He says to us, “This is why I came, because you’re sinners.” This is why He came and died, to forgive sins and to make us clean before the Father!

Blessed [happy] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)