“Blessed are those who mourn…” -Matt. 5.4a
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most staggering portions of Scripture.
Oswald Chambers noted that it was calculated to throw our humanity and self-sufficient religiosity into despair, for there is no soul- however impressive their spirituality may seem- who can meet its requirements without an infusion of supernatural grace.
Indeed, when we peer into this sermon we are stricken by the wisdom of a heavenly milieu; a resurrectional mode of being. Are we living in the reality of this awesome message?
The remarkable thing is that Jesus had a no-holds barred, intensely deliberate motive when He sat down on the hill and opened His mouth to speak. He was jealous for His followers to come into the quality and depth of life that He was introducing, and He believed that His own obedience to the Father would provide the way for us to do just that. I wonder how much less intentional we’ve been in the hearing of the Sermon than He was in the giving of it.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that one of the greatest schemes of the devil was to convince believers that the Sermon on the Mount was not to be literally applied to their lives. He believed that the low quality of moral living, the lack of the fear of the Lord in much of the Church, the absence of joy in the life of the believer, the prayerlessness that still prevails in most places, and the general superficiality that most of our ministries are marked by could all be linked on some level with the Church’s inadequate consideration of what Jesus gave us in this awesome Sermon.
Over sixty years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer unintentionally tripped over the truth and landed face down on foundational ground. The simple revelation that struck his heart was this: the Sermon on the Mount was actually meant to be lived out by those who are following Jesus.
For decades the scholars had been mystifying its statements, critically examining its origins and relishing in heady, intellectual conclusions on the Sermon. To many of them, it had lost its fire and been robbed of its cogency. They examined it technically and symbolically, and though they were neck-deep in studious labors, many of them were far from touching its true vitality. Dietrich’s heart was awakened to its freshness, and the radicalness of its demands and promises. Consequently, he gave us his masterful work, The Cost of Discipleship.
Leonard Ravenhill called Matthew 5-7 “the greatest sermon ever preached by the greatest Man who ever lived.” Have we held it in the same esteem, or has it become mere flourish to us? Have we read it with trembling hands and rejoicing hearts, or do we fly through it as we would fly through the newspaper ads or some other fleeting subject?
These are eternal verities, weighty and buoyant, and it will require an entire surrender of heart to hear them rightly.
T. Austin Sparks tells us that:
Truth received and not responded to brings spiritual declension and loss of capacity.
In what manner are you hearing His words? If we think we’ve got it all together, or that we need not heed a word given because we’ve heard it before and it has become familiar to us, we have made ourselves eligible for a despicable numbness of heart that is capable of taking us downhill fast. The words of Jesus are Spirit and they are Life, and if they cease to bring our hearts to a place of awe, the chances are that we are not hearing Him rightly.
“…take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” (Lk. 8.18)
THE MOURNING ONES
Within the majesty of the Sermon on the Mount there are statements that have been heralded more loudly and frequently, and there are more subtle statements that are not considered as often. This statement, “Blessed are those who mourn”, falls into the latter category. Most of the time it is quoted and expounded in times when we are seeking to console and comfort the grieving. We hear this verse at funerals and memorial services, and it has been of great spiritual help during such times. Still, I am convinced that while this manner of mourning is valid and even Godly (e.g., Acts 8.2), there is a call to mourning that Jesus is issuing here, and it is something much deeper than most of us have been willing to engage.
Without a doubt, the word “mourn” is used most often in the OT in reference to the death of a loved one. But there is a mourning in spirit that Jesus was encouraging here, and throughout history, whenever God’s servants have been chronicled, this mourning can be found in their lives without fail. I am concerned that the frivolity and lightness of our pleasure-seeking, entertainment-centered culture has all but snuffed out this reality in the Church in our day, and we need to cry out to the Lord until we see its restoration.
This mourning is something more than the natural human response to personal tragedy. It is more than the pain we feel when we lose someone or something that we love. The mourning that Jesus was commending in this beatitude has everything to do with allowing our hearts to be consumed with the passions of God Himself.
A.W. Tozer once said that “America is laughing her way to hell.” Our culture, which is tragically man-centered and largely oblivious to the heart of God, thrives on that which brings immediate entertainment, amusement, and gratification. Tens of millions of souls fill the bars and show-houses of our cities every weekend, drinking and amusing themselves into a stupor. Their hearts have a gaping hole that can only be filled by God, and they have seen very little reality in the Church to convince them that there is a heavenly alternative.
While the powers of darkness continue to rock this generation with lies, much of the Church casually jogs along, drinking in the spirit of this age, running headlong into many the same compromised pursuits. As a corporate witness, we are mostly chasing after the wind- fat, happy, and indifferent to reality as God Himself sees it.
Yet, as John “Praying” Hyde, missionary & intercessor to India once declared, “Our Lord still agonizes for souls.” Are we agonizing in spirit? Friends, what has become of the mourning ones?
I am not opposed to the enjoyment of life. I love to watch my children carry on hilarious conversations. I love to play games with them, to hear them sing and to watch them dance. I delight in going on dates with my wife, laughing together, talking about life and enjoying one another. I am thankful for friends. Life is full of God-given things to taste, watch, hear and feel, and the “Father of Lights” has given us wonderful gifts that fall upon both the righteous and the unrighteous.
But what can be said of a Church that is mostly frivolous, indifferent to eternity, and virtually never mourns in spirit? If we have been made into a company of souls who are stewards of the heavenly mysteries, yet so very little of what Christ died for has been realized in the earth, how can we glide through life on this earth so smoothly? How can we not mourn until His Kingdom comes in full?
AN INADEQUATE VIEW OF SIN
As soon as the church adopts a benign or common view of sin, she opens the gate to all kinds of deceptions. Authentic, God-breathed joy is replaced by a hokey, hollow, performance-based joviality. Once we tolerate sin in our own lives, we are forced to maintain a plastic happiness, for this is what we believe a Christian looks like. He is smiley, happy, and a good old boy who everyone likes to be around.
Our pastors, worship leaders and door greeters are pressured to put on a kind of external performance that doesn’t line up with the true condition of their lives. They are cornered into a way of living that is much more professional than it is an expression of the life of God working within the heart.
Leaders and believers alike often find themselves harboring secret moral failings, and they are maintaining a feigned happiness at public gatherings and ministry events, lest they give anyone the impression that they are struggling in any way. They have grown loose in their view of sin, the fear of the Lord has departed from them, and the blessedness of mourning- in the way that Jesus encouraged it- has become a foreign concept. Sin is still in the camp, and if we do not align our hearts with the Lord and mourn over it, we become subject to a performance based ministry and life, and worse still, we cut ourselves off from the blessing of an intimate union with the Lord.
Our churches are in a critical need of this kind of mourning, for as long as the presence of sin is tolerated and swept under the rug, the powers of darkness will remain in our midst, unchallenged and unchecked. The greatest faith-healers may come through town, but a measure of sickness and death will always effect the people of God when sin is condoned, however subtle it may seem. A compromised, dry-eyed Church will never express the fullness of Jesus Christ. Saints, let us mourn until the light and holiness of God Himself breaks in!
I’m not encouraging some kind of a grumpy disposition, or saying that if you purse your lips and your brows are straining downward you have come into this reality. You can gripe about the church and self-righteously challenge other believers all you want. That does not make you a part of this company of mourning ones that Jesus calls “blessed”. There is nothing as far from true Spiritual mourning as a self-righteous, smug believer who walks around with a grouchy disposition and calls it spiritual sobriety. That is a sign that you are functioning out of human emotion and thought, and you are not walking in the abiding life of Christ. The Lord does not want to produce religious intimidators any more than he wants to produce senseless clowns. The Father loves, disciplines and raises up sons, and that is what you are if the Spirit of Holiness abides in you.
Nothing that the Lord has expressed in the Beatitudes can be established through natural means. Mourning in spirit, like all of the other qualities He speaks of in the Sermon, is not an affectation or something that we work up. It’s not a certain face that we make or a certain image of intensity that we carry for others to see and recognize. It’s a resurrectional mode of being, and it takes the dying of our own self-consciousness for us to receive life from the Father.
The mourning ones are those who mourn in the Spirit. Their hearts have been enveloped by God Himself, and they can do no other. They mourn because they have aligned their souls with the God who still weeps. He weeps over Israel. He weeps over the nations. He weeps over a church that has yet to come into the fullness of His Son. He is not depressed or sadistic. His mourning is a holy mourning, and as we align our hearts with His, it produces life in us and in those to whom we are called to bear witness. When was the last time you mourned, dear saint? When was the last time your heart cried out for the glorification of Christ in your own life, in your city, in Israel and the nations? How long will we look upon our cities without weeping as Christ wept over Jerusalem? O, how blessed are the mourning ones.
Some of you have allowed sin to creep back into your lives and you are no longer grieved by it. There is no mourning in your heart. You have such a guard up against condemnation that you’ve opened the gate to sin, and godly mourning has left you. The clear air of vibrant communion with the Lord has been polluted. The flame of His holiness that once burned in your heart has dwindled. It’s time to mourn!
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psm. 51.1-2)
Perhaps your heart used to burn for the salvation of unbelievers and the transformation of sin-ridden cities. You’ve grown weary in well doing, and you no longer know what it is to weep for the lost in prayer. Mourning with the Lord on their behalf seems foreign and distant. Friend, it’s time to mourn again! We need to cry with Jeremiah:
“O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9.1)
Moses was a mourning one, for in all things he “cried out to the Lord.” Mercy was repeatedly extended to Israel as a result of his mourning.
Samuel was a mourning one. “Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.” (1 Sam. 15.11)
David was a mourning one. “My tears have been my food day and night…” (Ps. 42.3)
Daniel “wept bitterly” and fasted in Babylon during a time of national judgment upon Judah. Though we know of no consistent sin in his life, he mercifully cried out on behalf of his nation, “Lord, we have sinned”!
Jeremiah mourned and cried out to a people who were teeter-tottering on the edge of the cliff of Divine justice. All of the prophets were mourning ones.
Paul was a mourning one, weeping for the salvation of his Jewish kinsmen and groaning as a mother in childbirth, “until Christ be formed” in the churches that he had planted and nurtured. Every true missionary, revivalist and reformer throughout history has been a mourning one.
They were joyful men, but their hearts burned with the passions of Jesus, and they did not treat life like a fleeting game. They wept over lost souls and grieved over the condition of the Church. They cried out for a greater measure of the power of God, and mourned over shortcomings in their own lives. They mourned until grace came down afresh. They mourned until the Spirit was poured out. They mourn yet today on our behalf. O friends, we cannot afford to remove ourselves from this continuum.
One day soon, their mourning will cease. When the government of God has its cosmos-wide influence at the end of the age the mourning will be once and for all turned into dancing and holy jubilee. God will rejoice over Israel with singing (imagine the majestic reverberations when God sings for joy!), and He will quiet them in His love (Zeph. 3.16-17). Sin, sickness, death and demonic influence will be permanently uprooted and cast into the lake of fire. The Lamb of God will be worshiped and exalted in the earth like never before. My heart burns for this day, friends!
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…”
If you are comforted in a way that is not the result of God-inspired mourning, you are likely living in some form of deception. The spirit of this age is driven by the pursuit of comfort, happiness and pleasure in the midst of a staunch denial of all that God is. It is a sham. There is no true comfort apart from a holy alignment with the King of the ages. To come out of our own depravity, out from underneath everything in this world that manipulates and jerks us, mourning is a holy necessity.
Isaiah, a seasoned prophet, saw the Lord and mourned over the uncleanness of his own lips. He was utterly devastated. Undone. This is not an issue of “works”. We are not talking about justification only, as glorious as that is. We are asking what it means to be a Sermon on the Mount people; an apostolic Body through which the Lord delivers His own heart to Israel and the nations.
The Spirit of mourning upon the people of God is a catalyst for salvation and deliverance in the societies of the earth. No wonder the apostles were mourning men. They penetrated society because they were taken up with the heart of the Lord, and their ministries were “blessed” by God Himself. The Lord desires to put the same blessing upon an entire Body in these last days, and it will rest upon those who are poor in spirit, mourning in hope until the fullness of Christ is manifested in the earth.
Mourning in spirit is the gateway to the kind of comfort that only God can grant. The mourning ones will bring true comfort to the earth. Their witness and fellowship will produce life in the Church and in society. They will enjoy life, they will rejoice with those who rejoice, but they will not be mindless jokers. They will mourn in prayer and fasting until the Lord sees “the travail of His soul and is satisfied.” (Is. 53)
“Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.'” (Matt. 9.15)
Have you become satisfied with the things of this world? Is there a cry for the fullness of God in your spirit? Have you sought to circumvent or avoid the kind of mourning that still burns in the heart of the Son of God? Saints, we have not the time for playing games with our lives. We have one life to live. There is sin to be mourned over. There is a harvest to be reaped by laborers who go into the fields, weeping in faith and anticipation. There is a fullness to cry out for. There is an Israel to intercede for. There is a Living God to pant after!
I want to be found in that company of mourners, weeping in spirit in an anticipatory way until the glory of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. What about you?
Father, we ask you to align our hearts with Yours. However Your heart still mourns, we want to be enjoined with Your cry. Make us a house of mourning, that in our day souls may be comforted by the reality of Your salvation. Make us mourners along with the great host of heaven, that the Day of Your return may be hastened. We want to weep between the porch and the altar for the salvation of Israel, the transformation of the nations, and the release of Your judgments and mercies. Forgive us our self-satisfaction and empty religious performances. We lay our souls in the dust, O God. Abide with us, great Apostle and High Priest. Let us weep with You now, until we are able to rejoice with You in full, when Your Kingdom is permanently and indestructibly established in Jerusalem. Have for Yourself a people who mourn in spirit. Mark us with blessing, the high privilege of having hearts that are united with You. Amen.
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