Tomorrow night at Vertical Church Burbank (a church plant in Burbank), I will be teaching the second lesson in a series for a Peacemaking Culture, Blessed are Those Who Mourn. Here is the first section:
Blessed are those who mourn
For they shall be comforted.
To mourn is to be blessed
What sort of mourning is blessed?
What hinders mourning?
What does it mean to be comforted?
How does this relate to peacemaking?
I. What sort of mourning is blessed?
A. You mourn when you lose something you love.
1. A lost coffee cup. You mourn little because you love the thing lost little.
2. A lost child: Jacob in Genesis 38: “No, I shall go down to Sheol mourning.” Jacob mourned greatly because he loved greatly. Other examples, David and Bathsheba’s son. 2 Sam. 12:16. Absalom 2 Sam. 18:33. Jesus and Lazarus John 11:35.
B. Mourning exposes the true treasures of our heart. It is easy to fake words, smiles, deeds. But one cannot fake true tears. Mourning is an x-ray of the soul, it exposes our true love. There is a direct line from the depth of the heart to our tears.
1. Not all mourning is for a good cause: 2 Kings 21. Ahab covets Naboth’s vineyard. When Naboth refuses to sin and lose his family’s land, Ahab mourns the loss of his wicked coveting. He was “vexed and sullen”. 2 Kings 21:4. Ahab’s coveting exposed the wicked coveting of Ahab’s heart.
2. Mourning is a truth-telling mechanism. The Proverbs warn us against the man who “winks with his eye.” Prov. 10:10. We can easily be taken in by pleasant shows.
3. Inside the church, the trick is called hypocrisy. Jesus speaks of the hypocrite who pretends to sorrow:
a. Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)
16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
b. Do you see what the hypocrite loves? He does not love the praise of God, but rather loves the praise of other people. What I want you to see now is that he can only pretend to mourn — he does not actually mourn. He wears mourning like a coat to pretend that he loves the praise of God.
4. We know that God will not bless Ahab’s mourning. Psalm 5 says that God does not delight in wickedness. We know that God will not bless the hypocrite’s false mourning.
C. Since mourning reveals the love and treasure of our heart, we know that God will only bless those who love the things which God loves. What love does God seek to reward: Note the shift: God does not reward because we are merely sad: otherwise Ahab and the hypocrite would be rewarded. God rewards us because our sorrow flows from a right love.
D. Context for the promise that God will bless mourning.
1. The immediate context: This promise comes between poor in spirit and meekness. Poor in spirit means to be completely empty of self-righteousness and self-importance. Meekness is to be led by God.
2. It comes after Matt. 4:17 which marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”It comes after John the Baptist’s call for repentance.
3. The Epistle of James can give us insight into the Sermon on the Mount, because it is largely derived from the Sermon. In James 4:6-10 we find the same combination of repentance, mourning and humility as the ground for God’s comfort:
James 4:6–10 (ESV)
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 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.
Here we see mourning tied to repentance.
4. In the remainder of the Scripture we see the relationship between repentance for sin and mourning:
a. Psalm 40:12 (ESV)
12 For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
b. The entire book of Lamentations works out this relationship between sin and mourning at great length.
5. Mourning in repentance will be blessed.
a. Since blessed mourning is the mourning of true repentance, we know that such mourning is a gift of God.
b. Thomas Watson on the proper object of spiritual mourning:
There are two objects of spiritual mourning—sin and misery.
The first object of spiritual mourning is SIN; and that twofold, our own sin; and the sin of others.
1. Our own sin. Sin must have tears. While we carry the fire of sin about with us—we must carry the water of tears to quench it! (Ezekiel 7:16). ‘They are not blessed’ (says Chrysostom) ‘who mourn for the dead—but rather those who mourn for sin.’ And indeed it is with good reason we mourn for sin, if we consider the guilt of sin, which binds over to wrath. Will not a guilty person weep, who is to be bound over to the penalty? Every sinner is to be tried for his life and is sure to be cast away—if sovereign mercy does not become an advocate for him.
The pollution of sin. Sin is a plague spot, and will you not labor to wash away this spot with your tears? Sin makes a man worse than a toad or serpent. The serpent has nothing but what God has put into —but the sinner has that which the devil has put into him. ‘Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?’ (Acts 5:3). What a strange metamorphosis has sin made! The soul, which was once of an azure brightness, sin has made of a sable color! We have in our hearts the seed of the unpardonable sin. We have the seed of all those sins for which the damned are now tormented! And shall we not mourn? He who does not mourn, has surely lost the use of his reason. But every mourning for sin is not sufficient to entitle a man to blessedness. I shall show what is not the right gospel-mourning for sin, and then what is the right gospel-mourning for sin.
The Beatitudes, Sermon 6.
c. True spiritual mourning will only come we have a love which is fixed upon the right object, and we realize that we have lost something we love. We mourn because we have sinned God, and thus rightly incur God’s judgment. We mourning because we have thrown away holiness, “without which no one will see God”. Heb. 12:14. In sin we have lost both God and our own life.
d. Even as believers we are still in a state where mourning is appropriate, because we still continue to sin and could even be said to presume upon the grace of God:
A man who truly faces himself, and examines himself and his life, is a man who must of necessity mourn for his sins also, for the things he does. Now the great experts in the life of the spirit have always recommended self–examination. They all recommend and practice it themselves. They say it is a good thing for every man to pause at the end of the day and meditate upon himself, to run quickly over his life, and ask, what have I done, what have I said, what have I thought, how have I behaved with respect others? Now if you do that any night of your life, you’ll find that you have done things which you should not have done, you will be conscious of having harbored thoughts and ideas and feelings which are quite unworthy. And, as he realizes these things, any man who is it all Christian is smitten with the sense of grief and sorrow that he was ever capable of such things in action or in thought, and that makes him mourn. But he does not stop merely at things he has done, he meditates upon and contemplates his actions and his state and condition of sinfulness, and as he thus examines himself, he must go through the experience of Romans 7. He must become aware of these evil principles that are with in him. He must ask himself, what is it in me that it makes me behave like that? Why should I be irritable? Why should I be bad tempered? Why am I not able to control myself? Why do I harbor that unkind, jealous and envious thought? What is it in me? And he discovers this war in his members, and he hates it and mourns because of it. It is quite inevitable. Now this is not imagination; it is actual experience and true to fact. Is a very thoroughgoing test. If I object to this kind of teaching, it just means that I do not mourn and therefore I am not one of the people who, or Lord says, are blessed. If I regard this as nothing but morbidity, something a man should not do, I am simply proclaiming the fact that I am not spiritual[.]
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed Are They That Mourn”.
E. A Mourning Mixed With Longing
The spiritual mourning which God blesses, is a mourning for the loss of the beloved — but also a mourning which moves toward the beloved. We mourn over our sin because it entails the loss of God, but that mourning clears our soul and moves us toward God. Repentance also turns from sin and to God.
True Gospel-mourning which God blesses is a mourning which desires God.