Last week I started a series exploring the Beatitudes and the Salt and Light passage at the beginning of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5. I noted that the Beatitudes can only be produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. In this way, they are similar to the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23, and also the three cardinal virtues of the Christian faith: faith, hope, and love (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

Now, although the Beatitudes emerge in the believer’s life as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work, the believer is still responsible for applying effort to cooperate with the Spirit in producing them. So the Beatitudes are not just a one-time thing, but a lifestyle, a way of living, an on-going work of the Spirit conforming the believer to the image of Christ.

The same can be said of the Galatians 5 fruit of the spirit, and of the cardinal virtues of Christian faith, hope, and love. For example, a believer exercises faith, and continues to increase in faith through regular trust and prayer; a believer places hope in Christ, and nurtures hope in the promises of God; a believer acts lovingly, and makes greater sacrifices to love even greater.

When considering the Beatitudes, a believer enters the Kingdom of Heaven through acknowledging his spiritual poverty. As the believer progresses in maturity, he continues to see the depths of spiritual poverty, and thus places ever increasing dependence upon the grace of God. We will see that same sort of on-going cooperation with the Spirit in today’s Beatitude: blessed are those who mourn.

Blessed are those who mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5:4, ESV

Each Beatitude should be read and understood within context to the other Beatitudes. Here, mourning is grief over sin, the root cause of spiritual bankruptcy.Martin Luther, the great German Reformer, demonstrates the connection between spiritual poverty and mourning in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount:

“A man is called “spiritually poor,” not because he has no money or anything of his own, but because he does not covet it or set his comfort and trust upon it as though it were his kingdom of heaven. So also a man is said to “mourn and be sorrowful”—not if his head is always drooping and his face is always sour and never smiling; but if he does not depend upon having a good time and living it up, the way the world does, which yearns for nothing but having sheer joy and fun here, revels in it, and neither thinks nor cares about the state of God or men.” (Martin Luther, The Sermon on the Mount (Sermons) and The Magnificat, p. 19)

According to Luther, spiritual mourning is not a depressed mood or sad state-of-mind, nor is it sadness over pain or suffering in life. Rather, mourning is the conscious awareness of rejecting the search for hope and happiness in anything other than the kingdom of heaven.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and seminary professor martyred for his active resistance against the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s writes in his book on the Sermon on the Mount called Cost of Discipleship that mourning “means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity.” Similar to Luther’s definition of mourning, Bonhoeffer says mourning “means refusing to be in tune with the world or to accommodate oneself to its standards” (p. 20).

From these brief two commentaries on Matthew 5:4, we can see that spiritual mourning involves:

  1. mourning the loss of living according to the world’s standards and values (the idols of the world), and
  2. mourning the presence of sin (the fruit of idolatry).

“Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Heinrich Bloch

The Good News is that Jesus doesn’t stop with the mourning bit, but turns the expectations of the world upside down!

In the kingdoms of this world, happiness is coveted and pursued at any cost without regard to its source and sometimes even its ethical or moral implications. In the Kingdom of Heaven, believers in Christ mourn sin and reject sources of temptation, and in so doing miss out on what the world covets, lusts after, and pursues. Paradoxically, it is in this self-denial and mourning over sin that believers experience the true comfort of God.

Do you mourn?

Do you mourn over sin? Are you comforted by God? Here are some reflection questions for you to consider:

  • Do you mourn over the sin in your life, or have you become comfortable with its presence?
  • Do you experience the joy and happiness of a clean conscience before God and man, or are you burdened by secret sin and private idols?
  • Are you comforted by the knowledge that God fully forgives you and extends His mercy to you in His Son, Jesus Christ, or are you trying to penalize and punish yourself?
You will know whether or not you are truly mourning if repentance, contrition, and confession are regularly practiced, and the grace, mercy, and unconditional love of God are regularly enjoyed in your life.

Take the next step (5 minutes)

  • Take 5 minutes right now to confess to God every sin that comes to your mind. Seek His forgiveness and His comfort. Throw yourself into His great, Fatherly love!

In this series

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