Sadness Turned to Gladness

When you young people have a sad look on your faces, when the twinkle in your eyes is not there, when your usual smile is gone, while you are actually in good health and have no bodily pains, we know that there is something wrong in your soul. You have troubled thoughts and aching hearts. And it is going to take some good news to bring back that smile, that twinkle of youthful life in your eyes and evidence that you are happy once again.

Now we trust that you believe that we, your parents, your elders, deacons, ministers of the Word of God, your teachers in school, we the senior citizens and older members in the congregation do want to see you happy, and that it hurts us when we see you downcast, suffering in your souls and walking with heavy hearts. What a thrill it gives us to meet with you at your singspirations, your convention meetings and your choir programs to hear you sing from the bottom of your hearts. Yes, it makes us a bit envious. We are not envious in a sinful way so that we complain to God for the fact that as the flower of the grass we fade and lose our strength and enthusiasm. We see that so clearly when we stand next to you and mingle with you (Although there is no “generation gap” in the church the way there is in the world). We know that we deserve worse conditions and limitations than those we are experiencing. Did we not last time agree that we are worthless and wholly undeserving of any of the blessings of God’s kingdom? By His grace we are poor in spirit so that our mental attitude is that in ourselves God ought to destroy us, not bless us with the joys and wonders of His kingdom. But believe me, we do want to see you happy and with Solomon we say, “Rejoice, O young man (and young woman) in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the way of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9.

There is, however, one sorrow that we do want to see in you, one kind of mourning that we pray that you may have. It is the mourning of the second Beatitude, namely, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Now that statement in itself could include all kinds of mourning and refer to all kinds of people. All by itself this statement of Jesus would seem to speak of a “common grace” that He has for all people in their state of mourning. But we may not so deal with Scripture. No text may ever be taken by itself and apart from what precedes, follows and is written elsewhere in Scripture. We may not consider these words of Jesus to refer to all who mourn because of the death of a relative or friend. They are not all going to be comforted. They are not necessarily all citizens of the kingdom of heaven. That mourning is not a sign of belonging in that kingdom where there will be no sorrow nor tears at any time. Those who mourn and are blessed because they shall be comforted are those who mourn over their sins.

You see these Beatitudes do not speak of seven kinds of people that pretty soon we will find in the kingdom of heaven. No, they present the citizens of that kingdom from a sevenfold point of view. In other words, each citizen of God’s kingdom will have all seven of these characteristics. Those that mourn and will be comforted are those that are poor in spirit, and—looking a bit ahead—are the meek who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Few mourners in this vale of tears there are that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Few mourners there are therefore who are blessed and will be comforted. Let no one try to teach you that God loves everybody and has a certain “common grace” for all in sorrow, suffering and woe. That suffering, sorrow and woe God sent as part of the punishment upon sin. Why did He send it to that individual, if He were graciously inclined to that person and had a “general benevolence” toward him? Why do they die and through death enter hell fire? Cannot the almighty God prevent that, if He actually has some grace for them? And why is it so temporary that He lets them die and be cast into a place where there is surely no evidence of His grace at all? Can an unchangeable God do that?

But to return to the mourning of which Jesus speaks, you cannot have that mourning unless you are poor in spirit, and if you are poor in spirit you are going to have this mourning over sin. The one who truly sees his worthlessness, yea how worthy he is of the opposite of being blessed by God, will mourn over the sins which cause him to see and understand his worthlessness, his utter and abject poverty as far as works are concerned that will earn for him a place in God’s kingdom. Indeed, in the measure that we are poor in spirit we will mourn over our sins. Let me explain that to you.

Let us go back to that parable of Jesus called The Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee had such a good opinion of himself that he rejoiced in all the works which he performed, and though he did not say it in so many words, he told God that He ought to be glad that there were such good people on earth! There was no mourning over sin there. There was no mourning over the sin committed in that very conceited, proud and sinful prayer! But the publican, seeing himself as the sinner, seeing that he had of himself no good works that would assure him of a blessing, threw himself on God’s mercy, and in sincere mourning over his sins struck his breast and cast his eyes to the ground. He had comfort, for Jesus said, in applying the parable, “I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.”

The question, therefore, young peo­ple, is whether you feel badly about your sins. It is so easy to laugh about them. It is so easy to make jokes about them. It is so easy to seek to be entertained by the world by their portrayal of sin in books, drama on the TV screen as well as theatre. It is so easy to seek it and even to label it as innocent fun and a good work, quite in harmony with the Word of God. Remem­ber that Jesus said in this same sermon on the kingdom, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me ye that work iniquity.” But let me tell you something. If you touch a hot pan and it hurts your hand, you are going to be careful not to touch it again. If eating a certain food gives you hives and there are big, red raised and itching swellings all over your body, you are going to avoid those foods. And if you really mourn over your sins, and they trouble you, you are not going to seek them and make plans to walk further in them. How about it? Do you mourn over your sins? Do you know them as sins? Let us look a bit more closely at this matter.

There are two questions we ought to ask and to which we ought to give ourselves an answer. Do you feel badly about what you did because you realize that you displeased the God Whom you love? It is not a question as to whether you regret what you did because it could bring upon you the terrible punishments of hell. Satan can have that kind of sorrow and regret. No, do you love God? Does it hurt you that you have gone against His will and not walked in love toward him? Then you are blessed and will be comforted. For then your mourning is the kind of mourning of which Jesus speaks in this second Beatitude.

The second question you must ask yourself and to which you must give yourself an answer is whether your heart is sorry. It is one thing to say that you are sorry and quite another to feel miserable about your sins. It is one thing to say you are sorry and another to be sorry. We are such hypocrites by nature, and so accustomed to use phrases and expres­sions that do not speak the testimony of our hearts, so outwardly polite and “civilized” that we say “Thank you” to the police officer who gives us a ticket for breaking a traffic law. But God reads the heart and never goes merely by what the lips say.

What, then, young people, do your hearts say? Do they tell you to prepare and train yourself for jobs and careers which give good pay but take you away from the church and from a path of truth and righteousness? Who are the friends your heart has chosen for your fellowship? What kind of husband and wife are you seeking? One that will most certainly help you stay away from these deeds that displease the God we love? Or is it one who will pull you along to do those evils that should cause you to blush and have shame? Remember two verses which the psalmist penned down in Psalm 119:63 and 136, “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.” And again, “Rivers of waters run down my eyes, because they keep not Thy law.” It takes that kind of heart to mourn over sin.

Those with such hearts will be blessed. Those whose hearts mourn when they have fallen into sin, and when they see the sins of others, will be blessed. They will be blessed with all the joys and happiness of God’s kingdom. But they are blessed now as well. Each time Jesus says, “Blessed are. …” And indeed, it is a blessing to know that this kingdom is ours. Still more, it is a blessing to be able to mourn over sin. To mourn over sin is a blessing which God gives to His elect children on the basis of the cross and in the way of a rebirth and work of sanctification by the Spirit of Christ. It is a gift of sovereign, eternal, unchangeable, saving grace.

Therefore, those who mourn over their sins because they love God are blessed with a sign that Christ did indeed die for their sins, and that the guilt has been removed because He paid for these sins in full! They are blessed with the knowledge that the kingdom of heaven with all its joy and singing is theirs; that ahead of them awaits a realm completely free from the curse not only, but a world without all those sins that now bring misery to the new man in Christ.

Indeed, what a blessing to know all this now. And what a blessing it will be in the days ahead when those who find joy in sin bring it to an even higher degree of development with more crime and vio­lence than we now know and see (and that is plenty!). Indeed, the mourner’s sadness will be turned to gladness.