Matthew 5:1-12 Part 2

“Blessed those who are mourning, for they shall be comforted.” (verse four)

            I have often wondered what it would be like to have the Biblical faith really well-defended in an interview with a well-known reporter on national television.  For example on a Barbara Walters special in which she spends twenty or thirty minutes exploring a person’s attitudes and beliefs.  Even though this country was founded on Christianity, and it’s still, by far, the most widely-professed religion among two hundred and fifty million people, the national networks ignore it, and the Faith has never been reported except at its scandalous worst.  And that’s because the world order hates it.  This is a major issue in society today. 

            But, I fantasize anyway.  And this is how some of that interview might go:

Barbara says:                 “Whoa!  Wait a minute!  You’re using some words that nobody understands!  I don’t  know what “epistemologically self-conscious means!”

And the interviewee says:  “I know that!”

And she says:               “Well, what does it mean?”

And he says:                 “I’m so glad you asked!  And I’ll be glad to explain it.  Put very simply, it means the knowledge of the true relationship between God and man!  And it has to do with the condition of mankind with respect to Him, and under what conditions man can approach Him!

You see, God says that all men are fundamentally depraved and desperately wicked; and that, left to their own devices, all of them will only continue to exhibit their own depraved natures.  They are blind and existing in darkness, and it isn’t a part of their conscious acknowledgment that they are at enmity with God and are under His wrath and curse!  That's a denied reality!”

Barbara says:                “What a terrible philosophy to live under!”

Interviewee:                  “Yes, it is despised.”

She says:                      “But what does that all have to do with so-and-so – whatever it is – self-consciousness?”  It looks to me like, under your system, everybody’s condemned.”

He says:                       “Under God’s system, He’s given it to some to see the utter hopelessness and futility of their present and eternal condition, and He brings them to a position of, as Jesus said, poor in spirit – or, poverty of spirit.  In other words they become self-conscious, or aware, of their own despicable natures, and they flee to God’s remedy – which is the sacrifice of His Own Son for our sin.  So, epistemological self-consciousness is simply being aware of one’s own condition vis-à-vis Almighty God!”

Then Barbara says:       “Well, personally I can’t see that everybody’s so bad; your thinking sounds like Puritan pessimism to me.  But one thing you said I know every body would disagree with, and that is that God would give this knowledge only to some!  That makes it a rather exclusive group, doesn’t it?  I mean is that fair?”

And the interviewee says:  “Yes, I know where you’re coming from.  And God does describe His Own character as exclusive and discriminating!  Let me give you an example of that.  Jesus Christ, God’s Son, turned His back on Israel and went to the Gentile pagan nations to preach the Gospel of repentance, and to establish His Kingdom.  And they received Him!  And do you remember what I said about being conscious of one’s own sin and being poor in spirit?  Well, guess what Jesus’ first sermon in the pagan nations was?  The Sermon on the Mount?  ‘Blessed the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of the Heavens.’

                                                And at the preaching of Jesus, many Gentiles saw themselves truly, that they were sitting in death and darkness; and they became poor in spirit.  And Jesus blessed them.  On the other hand, the Jews saw themselves as already righteous rather than depraved and poor in spirit; and Jesus turned away from them and pronounced judgment on them!”

Barbara says:                “You may not know that I’m Jewish.  Are you anti-semitic?”

Interviewee:                  “Barbara, God’s judgment is upon Jews.  And He will not submit to the world’s definition of racial fairness.  Judaism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, and, unfortunately, much of what is commonly called ‘Christianity,’ hasn’t submitted before God in poverty of spirit.  And God commands you, and all other Jewish people, and the nations and tribes of the Gentile world, to see the hopeless extent of their separation from God and seek refuge from His wrath in the blood sacrifice of His Own Son!  Repent!  For the Kingdom is at hand!”

Now, I’m not going to go on with that any longer, but wouldn’t it be a joyous occasion to see and hear the Gospel of God proclaimed to a watching nation without sniveling cowardice?

            Luke records just such an occasion, which Matthew leaves out, that precipitated Jesus’ moving from Nazareth to Capernaum, as He began His preaching to the Gentiles.  And it is recorded that Jesus went into the Jewish synagogue in Nazareth to teach!  He had just turned His back on Jerusalem and Judea, and He uses this occasion to demonstrate that rejection, and to show the extent to which the Jews had been cast into outer darkness.

            And they loved Him at the synagogue until He began to teach them from Isaiah chapter sixty-one, where Isaiah prophesies the Christ preaching the Gospel to the poor in spirit and those who mourn, and then, right there in the Jewish synagogue, Jesus makes application of that prophecy to the Gentiles, to the exclusion of the Jews.  And Luke says that the Jews in the synagogue were so filled with wrath that they attempted to take Jesus to the edge of a cliff and throw him over.  So, instead of acknowledging that they were desperately wicked, and instead of casting themselves down in poverty of spirit, instead of throwing themselves at the feet of God’s Son, begging for mercy, they rose up in denial of their depravity and exhibited hearts full of murderous intent!

            And this same contrast with the world order is graphically illustrated again this morning in the second point in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Those who mourn are pronounced blessed by Jesus, and the promise is that they shall be comforted.

            But it is utterly ridiculous to the world order that one who mourns is judged by Jesus to be happy, content and joyful – blessed!  Alive!  The bearer of life itself!  One who is mourning!!  The philosophy of the world is “don’t worry – be happy!”  Of course the content of that statement is “pleasure mania.”  Denial.  A complete absence of reality.  No epistemological self-consciousness.  No eschatological self-consciousness.  A denial of the real world by covering it up with entertainment, and drug and alcohol dependencies, and addictive perversions, and insanities, and whatever else helps to deny what’s really going on.

            And I’m very sorry to say that the same type of thing is happening on the inside of the Church, rather than just on the outside.  And I’m not just speaking of those apostate organizations which no longer preach the Gospel, but in those Churches which vigorously claim the Trinitarian faith as well.

            Now, this world philosophy may not be manifesting itself in the same way inside the Church.  Certainly there is not the level of “pleasure mania” in Trinitarian Churches as there is in the non-churched world order.  But the “poverty of spirit” and “mourning” about which our Lord preaches is denied in other ways besides the addictions and perversions of the non-professing world.

            But it, too, arises from a bitter denial of man’s hopeless condition, inside the Church!  For it is repugnant to man that he is utterly depraved and unable to effect change on his own behalf.  And this bitter denial of reality has manifested itself in the Churches as a massive loss of poverty of spirit and a lack of mourning.  And what has replaced it?  Let’s call it the “pseudo-joy syndrome.”

            Now, I’m not the best observer of all the factors and events involved in this modern church phenomenon, and maybe I haven’t even given it the proper name.  But there are at least three streams of thought converging to comprise this pseudo-joy syndrome, and you can probably think of some others.  And all I want to do is identify them, rather than giving them a thorough examination; I probably couldn’t do it very well anyway.

            But the first stream is the ever-present, effervescent Pentecostal holiness movement with its mystical contact with the spirit world, its hysterical babbling in tongues, and its magical healing.  Its presentation to the public is super-spiritual love and joy, based on the gifts of the spirit, an anachronistic outmoded – no longer needed.

            The second stream is one which is sometimes called the dominion Christianity movement.  This isn’t the same as the dominion Theology which we normally associate with Postmillennial reconstructionism; this movement believes that each individual believer has dominion over the spirit world.  Since God is in us, and God is stronger than Satan, then we are stronger than Satan.  And, therefore, we can control Satan and his activities.  This movement is associated with the big, independent churches with the big bands playing Christian rock music, and the fast-paced production designed to keep everyone excited and joyful.  And since Christians, they say, are always supposed to be joyful, people are urged to smile and “glow” with the radiance of Christ.

            Now the third stream has two rivulets running side by side.  And this stream has its focus on positivism.  One rivulet teaches growing healthy and wealthy by thinking positively.  And the other one teaches that Christianity should not dwell on negative things.  Worship should be positive, preaching should be positive, and the image shown to the world should be joyfully positive.  I’ll say some more about that in a minute.

            But, the world order denies reality by open rebellion and perversion.  And the Church is denying the very same reality with the pseudo-joy syndrome.  By emotional self-manipulation!

            But what saith the Scriptures?  What does our Lord Jesus Christ preach?  And what do we say if we look at what the Churches are saying and doing , and then look at what the Scriptures say, and they don’t match!?

            Jesus says, “Blessed the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of the Heavens is theirs!”  “Blessed those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!”  The Church is to be the place where the mourning people of God are, and they are a blessed people.  Jesus says they, they alone, are the ones blessed – happy, content and joyful.  Filled with the life of Christ.

            So, if this is what the Scriptures say, then why are the Churches affecting an appearance of brightness and joviality?  No negative thought?  If Jesus begins His ministry by describing His blessed people as ones who are poverty-stricken in spirit because of their innate perversity, and mourning their sin against God, then why are the Churches filled with glibness, and superficiality?  It’s fake and put-on.  There’s an absence of true mourning over sin.  It’s a defective sense of sin and depravity.  And it produces an inadequate Christian life and a terrible view – a non-Biblical view – of the Church to a watching world.

            The Church is filled with it; and it has failed in its evangelism and its discipling; and it has failed to establish the Kingdom of Christ.  There’s no impact on society.

            That’s why the Gospel preaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is so important.  This is the essence of the Gospel!  The epistemological self-consciousness of my perversity and the glorious perfections and holiness of God my Father.  Those who are poor in spirit are blessed by Christ.  The ones who are mourning are blessed by Christ.  That’s why Jesus, after describing the nature of His people, preaches through the Law of God.  So that men might be crushed by their own iniquity.

            People fail to see that they must be constantly convicted of sin in order to experience Biblical Joy and contentment. True blessing and joy can never be obtained without it.

            People are searching for joy – both inside and outside the Church.  And inside, they search for it through positivism or through some special filling of the spirit.  But Jesus says it comes through a deep awareness of personal sin.  Which one is right?

            Others search for it through fellowship, and love, and activities, and entertaining, joyful worship.  But Jesus says it comes through grief and misery of heart.  From the chilling, aching, sickening sense of sin, comes one who is wounded, heavy-laden and undone.  He sees himself as repulsive and offensive to God – he has contempt for his own nature and his own sin, and it is a consuming, bitter cup.

            But Jesus says, “Come unto Me you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

            The Churches say, “Let’s don’t do or say anything that people might consider negative; the people need to be encouraged.  Smile.  Give positive reinforcement.  Sing and clap and move – let the band carry you along – do joyful things.  People, it’s not Biblical – therefore it’s fake!

            The Old Testament Scriptures portray the Lord Jesus as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  And, as we all know, the New Testament Scriptures literally fulfill that.  And Jesus wept and mourned over the grave of Lazarus.  Not, as you’ve heard, because he loved Lazarus and was sorry he was dead.  Why would He do that when He knew He was about to resurrect Him?  Jesus was mourning over the sin of the world that was the cause of the rotting and stinking of death.  And the same was true as He wept over the city of Jerusalem.

            There was no laughter in Jesus’ life.  No brightness and joviality, or joking or light-heartedness. 

            The apostle Paul wrote to the Churches:  “Imitate me.”  And it was this man who cried out against his own sin – “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  And, grief-stricken, he agonizes – “In me dwells no good thing.”  And again, “The good that I would, I do not.  And what I would not do, that I do.”  And even when He comes to the eighth chapter of Romans, the greatest chapter in all of Scripture, and which concerns victory in Christ, he cries, “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption of our body.”  In First Corinthians five he says, “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.”

            In our text this morning – to mourn follows poverty of spirit by necessity.  It is inevitable.  As I confront God and his holiness, and contemplate the life that I am commanded to live, I see myself.  My self.  And that makes me mourn.  I must mourn the fact that I’m like that.  It’s my nature!  It is me!  It’s my nature!  And I mourn the sin that I do – and the things that I don’t do.  Self-examination, which is a necessity, produces grief and sorrow over being capable of doing and thinking such things, and harboring such thoughts and ideas.  I am quite unworthy.  And that makes me mourn. 

            And further – while contemplating the state and conditions of depravity, becoming aware of the evil principle within – why do I behave like that?  Why do I feel that?  Why do I think that?  What possesses me to lose my temper?  Why am I not able to control myself?  Why do I harbor unkindnesses and jealousies and envies?  What is it in me?  What is this hideous, venomous, oppressive thing that causes me to be the way I am?  I am constantly discovering anew the war in my members – and despising it, and mourning it.

            And even further – the believer mourns the sin of others.  He doesn’t stay just with self, but sees the same in others.  – concerned with brothers, and family, and Church, and all of society.  This isn’t disgust, but mourning over the moral condition and unhappiness and suffering of others.  Especially the Church!

            That’s why the Lord mourned over the grave of Lazarus and over the city of Jerusalem.  He saw this ugly, rank, horrible thing called death – and the thing called sin which causes it – and He groaned in His spirit.  Iniquity and its results – corruption and death and rotting.

            And so does His true follower mourn because of the nature of sin – and what its terrible results are.  He mourns because he has some understanding of what sin means to God – of God’s utter hatred and abhorrence of it – this arrogance and rebellion of men which, if it could, would stab the very heart of God.  It grieves the believer and he mourns over it.

            Mourning is the very antithesis of the world order; and it’s an absolute paradox to the world, which, as our Lord puts it, “laughs now.”  The world ignores the sinfulness of sin and seeks to solve its problems any other way than mourning its sin.

            Now, what does Jesus say about those who mourn?  They are blessed, and they shall be comforted.  Paradox to the world?  Yes!  The one who mourns can go on to say, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It is a secret satisfaction.  And it follows as surely as day follows night, because as man sees himself in his appalling condition with respect to God, the Holy Spirit brings comfort to him in the Lord Jesus Christ as his perfect satisfaction.  Through the Spirit, man sees that Christ has died for his sin, and is standing as his advocate in the presence of God!  He sees the perfect provision that God Himself has made, and, immediately, he is comforted.  You see?  Without the mourning there is no satisfaction for sin.  Without the mourning there is no comfort.  Every other means of satisfaction is false!

            And, people, this isn’t merely true at conversion, but it is continuing.  It is, and it shall be.  And it is also the blessed hope of the resurrection. – the redemption of our body.  There is an even greater glory coming, for Christ will come, and sin will be banished from the earth – and no longer will there be a necessity for mourning.  No more sighing and sorrow under the bondage of sin – nothing to detract from being wholly and entirely blessed.  We shall be comforted.

            As we close this preaching of the Gospel this morning, let me just very succinctly describe for you the man, or woman, or boy, or girl, who is blessed by Christ with the two things we’ve covered so far: What sort of person is he? Or she?

            First and foremost, he is one who is poor in spirit – lowly and beggarly in the presence of God; and he’s that way because he sees the difference in his depravity and the holiness and perfections of God.  And he knows the love of God through Christ Jesus.

            He is a sorrowful person.  Not pitiful, but sorrowful and grave.  And with his gravity, there is a warmth and attractiveness.  He is a serious person, but it isn’t an affected seriousness – it’s not fake – like in the long, dour, pharisaical facial expressions to let others know when he’s fasting.  One who mourns never has to put on the appearance of mourning.  He’s that way because he looks at himself, and the world, and life, seriously!  He sees himself, and he sees the world, through the eyes of the blessed.  And he has an understanding of the truth.  And because of that there is a “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” as Scripture describes it.

            He groans within himself, but yet he’s happy and content, for he is the bearer of life from Christ!  And he has the comfort of the Spirit.  And he has the anticipation of glory to come.