Happy Are Those Who Are Sad (Experiencing True Repentance)
|photo credit: NYCandre via photopin cc|
Before I came to Tennessee I was working at a chemical plant in New Jersey for a company that made ink for printers. One of the employees there was a man named Marty. He was the janitor. Part of Marty’s job was to purchase things the company needed like cleaning supplies, snacks etc. So Marty had a company credit card to purchase those things.
One day, it was discovered that Marty had been using the credit card to buy personal items. The manager called him into the office and questioned him about it but Marty denied everything. He said he had never used the card for personal purchases. At that moment the manager pulled out the credit card statement with all of the evidence that he had been purchasing personal things. Once Marty saw the evidence and he knew his gig was up, he decided it was time to confess. But it was too late. At this point it was abundantly clear that Marty wasn’t confessing because he was sorry, he was confessing because he got caught. In other words, he really wasn’t sorry for what he had done, he was just sorry that the company found out. So what does it mean to be truly sorry for sin? In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Now what exactly is Jesus talking about here? Is he talking to people who mourn because they have a hard life? Or is he talking to people who mourn spiritually? Well in verse three Jesus is talking spiritually. He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." He's not talking about real poverty there but spiritual poverty. In verse 5 Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek..." Meekness is a positive spiritual quality. Likewise, as you read on, the entire section of the beatitudes is spiritual so it wouldn't make much sense for Jesus to talk about spiritual things and switch it up to something literal in verse 4 alone. Now dont get me wrong, I'm not saying that those who mourn literally cant find comfort in this verse because literal mourning is always associated with spiritual mourning as well. But contextually, Jesus primary focus seems to be spiritual.
Now notice something interesting. The text is not saying blessed are those who have mourned or who are planning to mourn. It says blessed are those who mourn. The blessing is for those who live a life of mourning. To mourn means to grieve or to be sad. Blessed are those who live a life of grieving and sadness. How is that a blessing? Not only that but the Greek word for blessed, makarios, means blessed, happy and fortunate. Happy are those who are sad? Is that what Jesus is saying? What’s going on here?
Let’s look at the text again. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
The first thing to notice here is the word blessed. This word appears over and over again in Jesus sermon. You see, Jesus loves to bless. Sometimes we picture God as someone we have to convince to bless us. But the God of the Bible doesn’t need to be convinced. He loves to bless. A preacher told the story once of one of his sons. He was about 8 or 9 years old at the time. They had just finished having family worship when the young boy went up to his father and asked, “Father, can you give me a blessing?” The father was moved. He had never had someone say that to him before. So he had his son kneel in prayer, he placed his hands on his head, and he prayed a prayer of blessing over his son. He was so moved by this experience. His heart was filled with joy. “My son asked for a blessing!” How exciting! And when he was done, as he sat back down he heard the voice of God whisper, “that’s exactly how I feel when you ask me for a blessing.” Jesus himself said it, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Luk. 11:13)! I could be talking to someone this morning who is in need of a blessing from God. Don’t doubt His love. God loves to bless his children.
You see, the Greek word for blessing means happiness. Jesus is offering happiness to you and me. The chief desire of every person in this world is to be happy. Everything we do, we do simply because we want to be happy. The family whos going through a divorce is just looking for happiness. The girl whose sneaking out of the house at night to go to a party is just looking for happiness. The man who walks into a bar, the drunkard, the drug addict, the gambler, the criminal – all of them are just looking for happiness. The kid who burns 8 hours a day playing video games, the guy who spends his nights poisoning his mind with pornography and violence is just looking for happiness. All of us are looking for happiness. And you know what’s funny? None of us ever find it. Oh sure we pretend we have. Sin pretends to give us the happiness we look for but every time we get it its short lived. In the bottom of our hearts there is a void that we cannot fill. The best we can do is learn to ignore it but it doesn’t go away. We go to bed at night feeling lost, lonely, unfulfilled. There’s nothing worse than being unhappy. There’s nothing worse that living with the reminder of your past and feeling lost and hopeless. But Jesus loves to make us happy. True happiness is only found in Jesus. You see, God created a perfectly happy world in Eden and he is on a mission to restore the happiness of Eden. He doesn’t like war and famine and death. He can’t stand it anymore than we can. He wants to restore happiness to this world. And the secret for true happiness is not more money, more cars, more booze, or more women. The secret for true happiness is peace with God. Only those at peace with God know what true happiness is. The storm can come, the house can fall, the job can vanish, the health can deteriorate but when you are at peace with God you don’t have anything to be afraid of. You are at peace. Happy. Halleluiah.
Jesus then moves on and says, “blessed are those who mourn.” Jesus is talking here about spiritual mourning. Spiritual sorrow is feeling sorrow for sin. Now there are two kinds of sorrow. The first I call the Judas sorrow. The second I call the Peter sorrow.
Both Peter and Judas turned their backs on Jesus just before the crucifixion. Judas handed Jesus over to the temple guards to be arrested. When Judas realized that Jesus was going to be crucified the Bible says he felt sorrow because he betrayed innocent blood. However, Judas didn’t repent. Instead he took his own life. Judas sorrow was false repentance. True repentance leads to change. True repentance isn’t feeling sorry because you got caught, or feeling sorrow because you feel bad, or even feeling sorry because what you did was bad. True repentance is sorrow because you hurt God.
Peter on the other hand denied who Jesus was. He denied he ever knew him. But when he realized what he had done the Bible says he wept bitterly and in sorrow for what he had done he ran to the mount of olives and he wept before the Lord and asked for forgiveness. Peter wasn’t sorry because he got caught. Peter was sorry because he hurt the son of God. In his moment of loneliness. During the greatest trial of his life when he needed Peter the most, Peter betrayed him. Peters heart was broken that he had hurt Jesus and in true repentance he confessed his sin and sought God’s forgiveness.
Understand this. There is no comfort for those who are simply sorry that they got caught. But Jesus will comfort all who come to him, with their souls stained with sin, and honestly repent. I don’t know where you are this morning. Maybe you have sinned and you know you need to repent. Maybe you have felt bad because the sin made you feel bad. But that’s not repentance. Maybe you have felt bad because you got caught. But that’s not repentance. True repentance is not for the consequences of sin, but sorrow for the sin itself. But you cannot manufacture this sorrow on your own. It is a gift of God. Where are you today? Do you need sorrow for sin? Christ will give it to you, but not only will he give you sorrow he will also comfort you. And when it’s all over, the burden on your soul will roll away. You will notice colors on the trees and butterflies that you never noticed before. The sky will seem bluer than ever and you will begin to experience true happiness in Christ.
I may be the only person in this room who has had this problem problem, but you see, I was once a slave to sin. I’m still a sinner of course, but when I say I was a slave I mean that my life was a constant rebellion against God. On the surface I looked good. I went to church. I preached. But on the inside, in the secret place, I was a slave to sin. And I’ll never forget the moments when I would look to heaven, after having turned my back on God for the millionth time, and say “Jesus, I want to come home.” I was tired of being so far from him. I needed to be close to him again and to feel the happiness and joy that comes from being at peace with God. Maybe you want to pray that prayer this morning. Maybe you also feel like you need to come home. For you Jesus has a promise, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”