Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Matthew 5:4

Tom Pennington  •  October 9, 2011
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Turn with me again this morning to the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. We've just begun to work our way through the Beatitudes, and we want to continue that journey this morning. This past week I had the opportunity to watch a portion of a video from a famous trial. It was in 1961, in the city of Jerusalem. The trial was for the infamous Nazi and SS officer, Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann was the man who was entitled Transportation Administrator of what was called "the final solution of the Jewish question." That meant that Eichmann was in charge of organizing all of the trains that carried the Jews to death camps in Poland. After the war, Eichmann managed to escape, concealed his true identity, fled to Argentina. There he was eventually captured (I believe it was in 1960 if my memory serves me correct) by the Israelis. He was brought to trial in Jerusalem in 1961. One of the witnesses that was brought against him at that trial was a man named Yehiel Dinoor. He was a survivor of Auschwitz. He had also been a primary witness at the Nuremberg trials, right after the war. But this time, and I read a portion of the transcript again last night–this time he got shortly into his testimony, just a very few minutes, and Dinoor began to sob uncontrollably. And then he actually fainted in the courtroom, and had to be removed. Of course, you can imagine the pandemonium that broke loose in the courtroom, the judge trying desperately to regain control, pounding his gavel. He eventually was able to regain that control, but Dinoor never was able to finish his testimony. What would cause Dinoor to respond like that so many years after the war? Could have been fear. It's hard for us to imagine the fear that seeing a man like Adolph Eichmann in your presence would bring, if you'd been a part of the holocaust. It could have been hatred—absolute hatred for the man who was responsible for transporting all of those Jews to their deaths. Could have been the flood of all of the terrible memories that were a part of this man's mind because of the time he spent at Auschwitz. But the truth was, it was none of those things.

Later, Dinoor was interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. At the beginning of that program, Wallace asked this question. How is it possible for a man to act as Eichmann acted? Was he a monster, a madman, or he was he perhaps something even more terrifying, was he normal? When Wallace, in the flow of the program, asked Dinoor what had caused him to be so emotionally overcome at Eichmann's trial, the answer was very surprising. This is what Dinoor said: "I was afraid about myself. I saw that I am capable to do this. I am exactly like he." In response to the interview, later in the program, Wallace uttered several times his now famous words—"Eichmann is in all of us. Eichmann is in all of us." As those of us who have come to understand what the scriptures teach about the power of sin in all of our lives, we understand that. But if you look around at the culture around us, it's hard for most people to come face to face with that reality. So, instead of facing the reality of the power of sin in their own hearts and lives, we live in a culture that runs from that reality—that tries to hide from it. It turns from its sin and the natural grief that comes from that sin to everything that's happy. It's extraordinary the pains that people take to avoid pain and sorrow. The philosophy of the world around us is 'be happy'. Forget about your troubles. Treat life as a kind of perpetual party, running from one high point to the next. Don't take time to think. Don't take time to measure the reality of what's in your own heart and soul. Live for pleasure. Live in perpetual amusement, perpetual entertainment. Turn on the video game. Go to the movies. Read a pleasant book. Distract yourself from those horrible thoughts.

There are even well-known men who call themselves evangelicals—a couple of them unfortunately right here in the state of Texas–who never mention sin in their sermons because it makes people unhappy. One of them said on a television interview, that people already have enough sadness in their lives. Here's what Amy Simms of Fox News reported back in 2004. "At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week, and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said that his goal is to "give people a boost for the week. I think for years there's been a lot of hell-fire and damnation. You go to church to figure out what you're doing wrong, and you leave feeling bad, like you're not going to make it" Osteen said. "We believe in focusing on the goodness of God." As we will learn this morning, the truth is exactly the opposite. Jesus says, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

We've just begin studying this Sermon on the Mount together.. Jesus begins this sermon, as we've noted, with the beatitudes, as we call them. They are eight qualities that define the character of His true subjects—those who are actually in His spiritual kingdom. The moral imperatives in the rest of this sermon are really only for those who've already become His true subjects, and if you want to know who His true subjects are, you look at these eight qualities. They define those who are truly Christians. All true Christians manifest these qualities. At the same time that Jesus spoke these beatitudes, these statements of blessing, He also, Luke makes it clear to us, presented the opposite of these qualities and pronounced woes on them. So then, understand that the beatitudes are those qualities that define what it means to be a Christian. Their opposite defines what it means to be an unbeliever. So Jesus begins, then, each of these eight beatitudes (notice as you just glance at your Bible, verses 3 through 10) you see the first word of each verse is the word blessed. Now, as we learned last time, that word does not mean happy. Instead, Jesus is building on an Old Testament Hebrew word and concept. There are two Old Testament words for blessed, and the Greek word that Jesus uses here in Matthew and in Luke 6 translates the Hebrew word eshere. Several of you asked what that word looks like, and so, I put it up there for you to see—eshere. Now this word eshere that's used often in the Old Testament and that Jesus picks up in the New Testament (it's used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and He uses that word here. This word does not describe God's blessing on an individual. It's not God blessed Abraham. That's not this word. That's a different Hebrew word. Nor does this word describe an emotional state, a feeling of happiness. Jesus isn't saying, you're going to feel happy if these attitudes describe you. Rather, this word, eshere, describes a person who is in an objective condition of well-being. They are in a condition of spiritual health and prosperity. They are in a condition worthy of other people's envy. In these eight beatitudes, Jesus declares that there are certain people who are in the enviable state of spiritual prosperity. They are blessed. They are enviable. They are spiritually healthy. They are spiritually whole. They are alive, they are true Christians.

Last week, we examined the first of these eight qualities. Look at verse 3. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The essence of this, as we learned last week, is that every true Christian has an awareness of his personal spiritual poverty before God. We have been reduced to beggars in spirit. All we can do is beg. We have nothing to offer God. We have nothing He wants. We have nothing to achieve a state of righteousness before Him. We have absolutely nothing. We are beggars in spirit. And out of that spiritual poverty, we beg for God to extend grace to us. The beautiful picture of that first beatitude, as I showed you, is in the story Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the tax collector. And the tax collector, who wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his chest and said God, be merciful to me the sinner. I have nothing you want. I have nothing to offer You. I'm just begging.

Now, today we come to the second beatitude. Notice Matthew 5:4. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." As we study this beatitude together, I want us to, as we did last week, answer two key questions about it. The first question is, what does it mean? What does it mean to mourn? There is in this verse a paradox. G. K. Chesterton defined a paradox as "the truth standing on its head, calling for attention". And in this beatitude, there is a divine paradox. To sort of capture that paradox, we could translate it something like this. "Happy are the unhappy." Or better, "spiritually prosperous are those who mourn their spiritual poverty." Let me say that again. Spiritually prosperous are those who mourn their spiritual poverty. You see, the second beatitude is intimately connected and tied to the first. The first beatitude is an awareness of our spiritual poverty. It is primarily an intellectual awareness. We come to realize that we are spiritually bankrupt. The second beatitude is a response to that spiritual poverty. It is primarily emotional. We mourn that spiritual poverty.

Before we consider what this really means, and sort of unpack it a little more, I want to first consider what it does not mean. I think we need to clear the ground a little bit here, and make sure that we don't have a misperception of what it means to mourn. There are certain ideas that are certainly not what Jesus meant. First of all, it does not mean blessed are the spiritually depressed. There are times in our lives when we find ourselves in that condition. Elijah, you remember, after the high point on Mt Carmel finds himself in the desert asking God to take away his life. And God deals with that. He takes Elijah to Mt Horeb and there shows him Himself, and re-energizes him for the mission that's before him. But spiritual depression is not a good thing. It's not a blessed state, and so that's not what Jesus is saying. Nor is He saying blessed are those with an absence of joy. Blessed are the somber, or as Lloyd-Jones puts it, our Lord is not saying blessed are the grim cheerless Christians. God save us from grim cheerless Christians. That gives no attractiveness to the gospel. A third thing Jesus is not saying here is blessed are those who never experience any circumstantial happiness in this life. You know, it would just be good if you went through life and you only had trouble, you only had misery, and you never had those circumstances that bring you happiness and joy. That's contrary to the Spirit of God. What did Paul himself say? God freely gives us all things, what?—to richly enjoy. That's not it either. A final thing He does not mean is blessed are those who sorrow and mourn over the difficulties of this life. Life is filled with trouble, and blessed are you if you go through those troubles, those times of mourning. And we'll look at why it can't mean that in just a moment.

But those are things it does not mean. Let's consider what it does mean. What does Jesus mean by mourning? Well, first of all, we have to start with the word itself. The Greek word translated mourn occurs 45 times in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint. Which, by the way, was translated between 100 and 200 years before Christ, and it was the Bible of the time of Christ and the New Testament church. It wasn't in Hebrew. Most people didn't read Hebrew at that time, so instead it had to be translated out of the Hebrew language in which it was originally written into Greek. And it was that Greek translation that the early church primarily used. When you look at the Septuagint, this word mourn, this Greek word, occurs 45 times. To give you a little sense of what it means, let me show you how it's used in the Old Testament. This word mourning, or mourn, is used of the mourning of Abraham at the death of his wife Sarah. It's used when Jacob mourns his son Joseph when he thinks he's been killed. It's used of David's mourning over his son Absalom's death. It's used of Judah and Jerusalem mourning over the death of King Josiah. When you come to the New Testament the sense of the word is basically the same. This same word is used when the disciples mourn over the death of Jesus, before they realized He's going to be resurrected. In fact, of the nine Greek words in the New Testament that express grief or sorrow, this word is the strongest. It's the most profound. That's why it often refers to lamenting the death of someone you love. This is not shallow grief. This is not surface sorrow. This is deep retching grief—deep sorrow that grips the heart. In fact, Bishop Trench in his book on synonyms in the Greek New Testament, of this word, says it means to grieve with a grief which so takes possession of the whole being that it cannot be hid. Ever gone through a time like that? Have you ever experienced a sorrow that's just overwhelming, like the death of someone you love. That's the word Jesus uses. Now, instead of mourn, the word used here by Matthew; Luke, in translating out of the Aramaic, the language Jesus probably spoke this sermon in, into Greek, Luke uses a different word. He uses the word weep. Luke 6:21 says "Blessed are you who weep now" You see, the word mourn speaks of the depth of internal grief. The word weep speaks of the outward expression of that grief, often with tears. They often go together. One is the depth of sorrow that wreaks the heart, and the weeping is the outward expression of that sorrow. So, if you take all of that together, we could interpret the second beatitude something like this. Spiritually prosperous are those who mourn like they're mourning the death of someone they love.

Now that brings us to another important issue, and that is to consider what it is they mourn. There are few commentators who argue that Jesus is talking here about mourning over the sorrows and the difficulties of this life—over the miseries that we encounter in this life. And we do sorrow over those. We do mourn those. But that is not what Jesus means here. That absolutely cannot be what He means. Because, remember the context. We're in the beatitudes. Jesus is describing the character that distinguishes those who truly belong to Him. That means the mourning here cannot be merely mourning over the troubles of this life, because everyone on the planet experiences that kind of mourning at some point in their lives in this world, and clearly not everyone on the planet is in Jesus spiritual kingdom, and will be comforted by God. So Jesus is not talking here about mourning over the personal disasters of this life. In context, Jesus' statement is crystal clear. In fact, the first beatitude gives us the interpretational key for the rest of these beatitudes. The first beatitude, Jesus is not talking about natural or financial poverty, but what? spiritual poverty. So these beatitudes are not about natural realities but spiritual realities. The same must hold true for the second beatitude. So when Jesus said "blessed are those who mourn" He did not mean blessed are those who mourn over personal disasters for they shall be comforted. Instead, He was describing our spiritual response to the reality that we are poor in spirit, that we are spiritually bankrupt. So the mourning here in the second beatitude is in response to the spiritual poverty in the first. We are mourning over our sin.

Sadly, even to say that seems disconnected and out of touch in our culture, doesn't it? Even the Christian culture. This quality of mourning over sin is not nearly as profound in the church today as it used to be. If you doubt that, pick up a copy of the collection of Puritan prayers called Valley of Vision. If you don't have it, you ought to have it. It's of great spiritual benefit to me almost every day. But read the prayers in that book about sin and repenting for sin, and you will find a depth and a profundity and a mourning over sin that you just don't hear today. Or listen to David Brainerd, who, in his journal on October 18, 1740 wrote this entry. (Remember he was a missionary to native Americans) He says, "In my morning devotions, my soul was exceedingly melted and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness." I think the primary reason for our deficiency in this area, is that we have two problems. We have a shallow understanding of the biblical doctrine of sin, and we have an absolutely unworthy understanding of the holiness of God. But, in spite of our weakness in this area, what Jesus is saying in this beatitude is that to some extent, all true Christians do mourn over their sin—over sin. When you look at the rest of Scripture, we learn that we mourn over our sin in two distinct ways. First of all, we mourn over our personal sin. You see this in so many places, but if we had time I'd take you back to Psalm 32. I encourage you to read Psalm 32 as David is pouring out his heart, his repentance, his mourning over the sin in his life. An even better example is Psalm 51, where David sort of opens his heart and lets us see the grief and the mourning and the turmoil that was a part of the guilty experience because of sin in his life. And let me show you a New Testament example. Turn to Romans 7. The true believer mourns over his own sin. In Romans 7, the first half of the chapter is a sort of spiritual biography of the Apostle Paul before conversion. He explains how it was the tenth commandment, "you shall not covet" that showed him that all of his externalism wasn't enough, that he hadn't met God's standard, because he couldn't keep from coveting inside. And when he realized that, the law killed him, he said. It convicted him. It showed him that he was spiritually dead. He could never meet God's standard. The second half of Romans 7 continues to be Paul's spiritual biography, but it's his biography as he writes this letter, almost 30 years after his conversion. And he still knows the reality of sin. Look at verse 18 of Romans 7. "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;"

He's differentiating here between the new person he's become in Christ (this is what you'll hear back and forth) the new person he's become in Christ, and his flesh, that is, the part of him that remains unredeemed, that has its beachhead in his body. So, he's struggling with this profound issue in his life.

. . .for the willing is present in me (verse 18) but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

Paul here isn't excusing himself. He's explaining what's really going on. His new true self in Christ, the new person he is in Christ doesn't want to sin, but that part of him that remains unredeemed still does. Verse 21

I find then a principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (by the way, clearly that means Paul's not talking about an unbeliever here. No unbeliever joyfully concurs with the law of God in his inner man.) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

Now, understand, so far this is (while there's some emotion in it) this is intellectual. He's explaining this struggle of sin. He's acknowledging sin in his life. What I want you to see though, is how Paul the apostle, some 30 years after his conversion, responds emotionally to that sin. Look at the next verse. "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" He's overcome by the knowledge of his sin. He mourns it. He doesn't want it to be there. And I love verse 25. Who's going to set me free? "Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." When Jesus returns, Paul says, over in chapter 8, when the groaning is done, and He redeems my body, and I'm fully redeemed, I'll be delivered from this struggle. But in the meantime, verse 25 "on the one hand, I myself with my mind, (with my new person) am serving the law of God, (the person I've become in Christ. But that remaining part of me) my flesh is serving the law of sin." (That remaining part of my sinfulness) So, that's how the believer responds. Does that passage reflect your own heart? That's how believers respond to the sin in their lives.

Go over to James chapter 4. You'll see another example of this. In James 4:1-10, James is dealing with conflict. And by the way, if there's a lot of conflict in your life, in your relationships, in your marriage, in your home, let me encourage you to go online and listen to the exposition of this passage, because this is what James is addressing, and you'll be shocked at what he brings out in this passage, the real source of those conflicts in your life. But when he gets to the end of it he calls us to repentance. Notice verse 8.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double minded (Now watch how to respond to sin. In this case, the sin of conflict and quarreling) Be miserable and mourn (Those have to do with what's going on inside), and weep; (there's the outward expression) let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

This is how true Christians respond to sin in their lives. And it's far more than just regret. It's far more than just regret over the consequences of their sin.

There are examples in Scripture of those who just had regret, but weren't Christians. Esau is a great example. The writer of Hebrews says that Esau found no place for repentance though he sought for it with tears. Or consider Judas. Matthew tells us that Judas felt remorse—sorrow—disappointment, and he returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. But Judas didn't belong to Christ. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 7, Paul distinguishes between two kinds of sorrow. There's an earthly sorrow that stops with the feeling of sorrow and regret, and it only produces death. It doesn't produce spiritual life. There are plenty of people who are plenty sorry for what they've done—the mess they've made of their lives. But that's earthly sorrow. Paul says there's a true Godly sorrow, 2 Corinthians 7, and how do you know? How do you know whether you have earthly sorrow or true Godly sorrow? Paul says where there's true Godly sorrow, it always inexorably leads to repentance. If you're not willing to repent over your sin,, then what you have is damning earthly sorrow, and not true Godly sorrow. J. C. Ryle writes "A right knowledge of the way to heaven is to feel that we are on the way to hell. To be sensible of our corruption and abhor our own transgressions is the first symptom of spiritual health." I love that. Let me read that again. "To be sensible of our corruption and abhor our own transgressions is the first symptom of spiritual health. We must know the depth and malignancy of our disease in order to appreciate the great Physician." True believers mourn over personal sin.

But the scripture also makes it clear that in addition, a true believer mourns over the presence and power of sin throughout this fallen world—sin that's not even his own. For example, Psalm 119:136. The Psalmist says "my eyes shed streams of water" And what do you expect him to say? Here's what he says. "My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep your law." He was overcome with sorrow and mourning because the people around him were dishonoring the God he loves. There's a fascinating passage in Ezekiel 9. The destruction of Jerusalem is coming, and in that passage God speaks to a man clothed in linen. Most commentators agree it's a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. So here's the Father, speaking to a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, the Son, and He says to Him, I want you to go through the city of Jerusalem before the Babylonians get here, and here's what I want you to do.

"Go through the midst of the city (this is Ezekiel 9:4) even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst." He says, alright, Father to the Son, I want you to go through the city and I want you to mark out those who belong to Me. And I'm going to protect them when this comes. How do you know? How do you know who belongs to Me? Here's how you're going to know, the Father says to the Son. Mark the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed its midst. That's how you'll recognize a true follower of mine, is they mourn not only their own sin, but even the sin around them.

Our Lord did that, didn't He? He mourned over the sins of the people of Israel, the city of Jerusalem. We're commanded to do that. Look at 1 Corinthians 5. In 1Corinthians 5 Paul's writing about the terrible sin of incest. They were tolerating a man in the Corinthian church who was committing incest. Chapter 5:1.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles (He didn't mean it never happened. He means it was not tolerated even among pagans) that someone has his father's wife. You have become arrogant, (and watch this)and have not mourned (And he's talking here to the whole church–you as a church have not mourned this sin)so that the one who has done this deed would be removed from your midst.

The church was responsible to mourn over the sin of someone else. Paul did this, look at 2 Corinthians 12:21 He's telling the Corinthians he's going to come visit them again, and he says:

"I am afraid that when I come again my God may humiliate me before you, and I may mourn over many of those who have sinned in the past and not repented of their impurity, and immorality and sensuality which they have practiced." Paul says I'm going to show up and I'll find people who've sinned, and they've not repented of it, and I am going to be compelled to mourn over their sin. This is how true believers respond to sin. Listen carefully. Those who belong to Jesus' kingdom are not only intellectually aware of their spiritual poverty and the spiritual poverty of others, but they emotionally mourn over their own sin, as well as the power and presence of sin all round them. So that's what's meant by mourning.

But that raises a second key question that we need to answer this morning. We've learned what Jesus meant in the first half of this beatitude. Let's look at what He meant in the second half. Why are those who mourn blessed? Look at verse 4 of Matthew 5 again. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." For, because, here's the reason. Jesus is saying, here's why I am telling you that those who mourn enjoy true spiritual prosperity. "because they (and in the Greek text they is emphatic–we could translate it because they and they alone) shall be comforted." Now, if you remember English from however long ago it's been that you studied English, you'll recognize that that's what's called a passive verb. The doer of the action is unnamed. Who will comfort those who mourn? This is what theologians call a divine passive. It means God is the doer of the action, but He's unnamed. So here's what's going on. Jesus is promising those who mourn over their sin, that God Himself will comfort them. I love that. But what does that mean? What's it mean that God will comfort them? How and when will God comfort them? Well, Jesus doesn't really develop that idea here, but it is developed in other places in scripture.

It's clear from other passages that this comfort Jesus is talking about comes to the believer in what we could call three tenses. First of all, it describes comfort in the past tense. You see, at the moment of your conversion, if you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the word of God were at work in your heart, and they brought you under a weight of conviction for your sin. You understood your poverty of spirit at that moment. You understood you were a beggar who had nothing to offer God. And at that very moment, you mourned over your sin. And in response to that, God comforted you with complete and comprehensive salvation. In fact, I love the way the prophet Isaiah says it when he introduces the second half of his book talking about the Messiah, the servant of Jahweh who would come to bring that comfort. In fact, in Isaiah 61:2, Jesus is described as the one who will comfort those who mourn. But as he introduces the second half of his book, listen to what Isaiah writes in Isaiah 40 verse 1. "Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God. Speak kindly and call out to her (here's what you're to say to my people, comfort her with this statement). . . her iniquity has been removed." That's what we're talking about. At the moment of your conversion you mourned over your sin and God said, let that one be comforted, because their sin has been removed. That's comfort in the past tense.

But there's also comfort in the present tense. Every day, as a believer, you sin. And you confess and mourn over your sin, and as you do that, God extends the comfort of forgiveness to you. Read the penitential Psalms. Read Psalm 32:5 where David writes "I acknowledged my sin to You, and My iniquity I did not hide; I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord; and You forgave the guilt of my sin." I was groaning and burdened and feeling the weight of my sin and I confessed it and I sensed Your comfort. You forgave the guilt of my sin. Same thing in that familiar passage in I John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." There is an ongoing comfort of God as He pronounces forgiveness and gives us a sense of that forgiveness.

But I think what Jesus intends primarily, here, is neither the past tense nor the present tense. I think He means comfort in the future tense. Let me show this to you. Turn over to 2 Thessalonians 2:16. One of the doxologies as he writes to the church in Thessalonica, Paul says

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us (what?) eternal comfort (We have comfort that's still in the future) and good hope by grace"

May that God who's given us comfort in the future tense give us comfort in the present tense. May He comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word But my favorite passage that describes comfort in the future tense is in the book of Revelation. Turn over to Revelation 7. John sees this great multitude. It turns out they are believers who have been killed in the midst of the tribulation period. And verse 14, they're described as the ones who come out of the great tribulation; they've washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. So while this is describing specifically tribulation saints, in a very real sense it describes all of us. Because we've washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb as well. And notice how God treats them. Verse 15.

For this reason they are before the throne of God; they serve Him day and night in His temple; He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. (in other words, He's going to engulf them with His presence. They're going to live in His tent, as it were) They shall hunger no longer, nor thirst any more; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to the springs of the water of life; (and I love this) and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.

They shall be what?—comforted. But it's not just for the tribulation saints. It's for all of us. Look over at Revelation 21. Jesus destroys the entire universe as we know it at the end of chapter 20. He has the Great White Throne of Judgment when He judges all of those who failed to believe in Him, casts them into the lake of fire, as it's described, in verse 15. And then he creates a new universe, a new heaven and a new earth. And notice how it's described, and its conditions, verse 4. "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; (that is, from His people) and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; (of any kind for any reason) the first things have passed away." Blessed are those who mourn now, for what?—they shall be comforted". How could Jesus make this promise? It's because every person who truly mourns his sin, will turn to God in repentance. And whenever a sinner turns in repentance to God, God always brings the comfort of forgiveness and peace. In the past tense, the present tense, and the future tense. Let me put it like this. No-one will ever truly believe in Jesus Christ unless he has first seen his spiritual poverty and then mourned over it.

But folks, mourning over sin doesn't stop when you're saved. You mourned your sin when you came to Christ, but if you're a true Christian, it didn't stop then. You continued to mourn. In fact, if you look at this statement in the Greek text, Jesus says blessed are the ones mourning—not the ones who used to mourn, but those who as a constant practice, mourn. A.W. Pink picks up on this as he's describing this beatitude. Listen to what he writes. "This mourning is by no means to be confined to the initial experience of salvation, for observe the present tense of the verb. It is not have mourned, but mourn—a present and continuous experience. The Christian himself has much to mourn over. The sins which he now commits are a sense of daily grief to him, or should be, or will be if his conscience is kept tender. An ever-deepening discovery of the depravity of his nature, the plague of his heart, the sea of corruption within, ever polluting all that he does, deeply exercises him. Consciousness of the surgings of unbelief, the swellings of pride, the coldness of his love make him cry, O wretched man that I am." That's what true believers demonstrate. At conversion they demonstrate a mourning over sin. And that mourning over sin never stops until the day we're in the presence of Christ and we're perfect. And then He wipes away all tears. Then we shall be comforted.

But what do unbelievers demonstrate instead of this? What's the opposite of mourning over sin? What do unbelievers do to sin instead of mourn over it? Well, if you want to know how Jesus Himself would describe you if you're not mourning over your sin, turn to the parallel passage—the other version of the Sermon on the Mount, in Luke 6. Because remember, there, Jesus announces not only the blessing but the woe. Luke 6:21 is the beatitude itself—the second half of verse 21. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh" I love that. But there's the opposite side. Second part of verse 25 "Woe to you who laugh now." You know what Jesus is saying? He's saying every other approach to sin except truly mourning it, in God's eyes, is like laughing. It takes different forms. For some people their laughter at sin is just ignoring it, or treating it lightly. No big deal; God will get over it. They rationalize it; they rename it with comfortable euphemisms, so an outburst of anger becomes frustration. Drunkenness becomes alcoholism. Fornication becomes premarital sex. Adultery becomes an affair. Homosexuality becomes gay. They redefine it as good. But in the end, they are laughing at sin. Clearly Jesus is describing here those who are not a part of His spiritual kingdom. Jesus is black and white. He says there are only two possibilities. You are either in My spiritual kingdom or you're still in Satan's kingdom. And if you truly belong to My spiritual kingdom, you are not only painfully aware of your spiritual bankruptcy, but you mourn over your sin from your heart. If you still belong to Satan's kingdom, Jesus says, you don't mourn over your sin. You respond to it in some other way, like laughing. Spurgeon said, if you can look on sin without sorrow, if you can look on sin without sorrow, then you've never looked on Christ. Instead of mourning over their sin, unbelievers laugh, both at their own sin as well as the sin of others. If you doubt that, just turn to the comedy channel on your television. But notice what Jesus says in verse 25 to those who don't take their sin seriously. Folks, these are some of the most sobering words I've read in a long time. In Luke 6:25 Jesus says "woe to you who laugh at your sin now, for you shall mourn and weep". Jesus says you better get all that laughing in now, because the day is coming when you will mourn and weep forever. In fact, seven times, in the gospels, Jesus describes the place He calls hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Weeping and wailing. It won't be in true repentance for sin. It'll be instead because of lost opportunity, because of regret, because of unimaginable spiritual and physical suffering. Jesus says, on the one hand, those in My kingdom, blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. On the other hand, those who are not a part of My kingdom, woe to you who laugh now for you shall mourn and weep.

What do we do with this? How do we respond to this beatitude? Very briefly. If you're here this morning and you're in Christ, let this beatitude give you confidence that you belong to Jesus, that you're part of His spiritual kingdom. If you mourn over your sin, if you are broken over your sin before God, then you will be comforted. Jesus Himself says that. If you take your sin seriously, and you mourn it before Him, and you long to be done with it—not just one sin that messes up your life, but all of your sin. You want to be like Jesus Christ. Then be comforted, because you will be; Jesus promised. Also, believer, let this beatitude encourage you to manifest a lifelong pattern of mourning over your sin. What are we taught in the Lord's prayer? Jesus said every day you ought to pray what? Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Our lives ought to be a process of mourning and confession of sin. The first of Martin Luther's 95 theses is this. "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

But what if you're here this morning and you just don't know—or you know you're not?

Listen, use this beatitude as Jesus intended, (like the others) to be a test. Do you claim to be a Christian? Here's the test. Have you ever truly mourned your sin? Or do you instead make light of it, and rationalize it, and rename it with some euphemism, ignore it, laugh at it. Listen, these beatitudes demolish the delusion of every false claim to know Jesus Christ. Jesus completely exposes the sham of those who have sat in church all their lives and give all the right answers. You can go up to them and say, okay what's the gospel? They can rattle it off. They can give you verses for it. You can say, okay, so how do I come to know Christ? And they can give you the right answers, repent and believe, and they yawn. Jesus says, listen, I don't care what you claim. If you are not characterized by a mourning over your sin, then you aren't a Christian. You're not in My kingdom, and you'd better get all the happiness and laughter out of this life that you can because you will spend eternity mourning. Now if that describes you, what do you do? Well, there's good news. If you're aware of your poverty of spirit, if you're aware you're a beggar and you have nothing to offer God, then before this day is done, do what the tax collector did in that parable. Get alone with God. Fall on your face before Him. Acknowledge your poverty. Mourn over your sin, and plead for His grace and forgiveness in your life. Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for our Lord's words. Thank You for the encouragement that it is to so many of us. Lord, thank You that You don't require sinlessness to be in the kingdom, but rather You require an awareness of our poverty, and a mourning over our sinfulness. And Lord, we acknowledge that we can't even produce that–that that's only because of Your grace. Lord, we bless You for this encouragement. Encourage the heart of every true Christian who truly mourns over sin, with the promise that Jesus made that we shall be comforted. Father, I pray for those here this morning who have never really mourned over their sin. Instead, as Jesus said, they've laughed at it. They've taken it lightly. They've excused it. They've rationalized it. They've ignored it altogether. Father, may our Lord's words be the call to their souls to turn in faith and repentance to Him—to find true forgiveness and grace in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray it in His name. Amen.