Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
There is something about me that always wants to be in control. If I am sick, I want to outlearn the disease and overcome it. If relationships start to fail, I want to be able to charm them back to life. We all desire control. I think this is why we buy into so many fad diets promising snake-oil results. I do not say this as a judgment on eating right; it is a wise thing to do, but how much of it stems from the desire to bend reality to fit our ideals. If there is something I can do, then it is something I can control. “I am the master of my ship.” This desire to govern this world has even found its way into Christian circles. “If you can muster enough faith, all will go right. Positive thoughts create positive results.” The problem is, it is not true. We could do all of this, and it could still fall apart. We are not the masters our destinies.
The storm around me reminds me of this. I realize, with every peal of thunder, that I am not the center of the universe. When it comes to orchestrating the master plan for creation, I am no more special than the other 7 billion people on the planet. We all tend to live as if we are, but it is a delusion. You and I could come into contact with something in this fallen world that could end our lives within a matter of days, and there is nothing we could do about it.
Once we are gone, our co-workers would remember us and then replace us. Sure, they may even put up a picture for a few years to commemorate our contribution, but they would be able to continue without us. Our demise would most likely hit our family the hardest, but our children would move on with their lives just like we would want them to. Even the one we love, if the Lord wills, would find someone else to love and with whom to share the rest of their life.
I do not like to think about these things, but it is good. It reminds me that the world is not yet the way it should be, so I should not put my trust and hope in it. There is something eternal that deserves my devotion and attention. Something else should be my refuge.
Though the storm swells around me, I have found salvation in the cleft of the rock: Christ Jesus. All the sins that caused me to be fearful of God have been forgiven. The great and righteous judge of the universe has reconciled me to Himself through the cross. Yes, I, a sinner, am a friend of God. In fact, He calls me His child.
One of the problems is that we often interpret being a child of God to mean that we are now co-sovereigns with Him, but that is not the case. When the omnipotent God makes us His child, He does not stop being God. He does not hand us the reigns of the universe. Instead, He continues right on with His plan, and we should be grateful.
What tends to bother us, is that He still keeps much of his plan hidden. The hidden things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). His judgments and ways are past finding out, and none of us have been his counselor (Romans 11:34). He has not told us everything He is doing. He is operating in a fallen world in a multitude of ways that are unseen and unknown to us, but He has given us some revelation. One of the things revealed is that he will return and set all things right. We sometimes complain that He has not done it yet, but it is His patience that causes Him tarry (2 Peter 3:9). If it were not for His patience, none of us would be saved. The day He returns in glory will be a day of great trembling and delight for His child, but it will be a day of terror for those who do not know Him. Though we should desire His return, it is not something we should rush because he is still gathering his people.
Our salvation involves so much more than what we are currently experiencing, and even creation groans waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-23). Though we are to strive to give people a glimpse of glory in this life, it is only a dim reflection. We cannot place all our hope in what we are experiencing now. He has given us the Holy Spirit, and we know this is a guarantee of what is to come, but what we are experiencing now, in this life, is not the consummation of our salvation.
Everything could fall apart. The darkest things imaginable could happen, except one: that He would lose one of us who have been saved by faith and fail to complete the work He has begun in us. We will see Jesus face to face in all of His glory. One day, all believers will inhabit a place without sickness, without tears, and without death. A place where it can no longer come undone, but this is not it.
If we think that everything must fall into place right now for our salvation to be real and our faith to be true, we have a short-sighted view of both salvation and faith, and our understanding of God is too small. True faith will trust God even if He does not do what we want Him to do immediately. What He is doing is bigger and better than what we could ever imagine, even if we don’t fully understand it. One day the hidden things will be revealed, and we will stand in awestruck wonder at the wisdom of His plan. No matter how dark and painful it gets, children of God win in the end because we will stand in the presence of Jesus. It could all fall apart, and that’s OK. Deep and abiding faith in God has the ability to look at the worst possible scenario and still see our Lord’s goodness. From there, nothing we face can cause us to fear. God has not ceased being God, and he will be faithful to His promises. He is conforming us to his image and he will bring us home.
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. – Isaiah 54:10
I am somewhat baffled by the fact that cursing cancer has become a thing. Do not get me wrong, cancer is a terrible product of the fall, and it is a natural evil that deserves our contempt. I am not surprised by the fact that so many people want to voice their hatred for it; especially if they have lost a loved one or are fighting the disease themselves. However, what is the motivation for people who usually conduct themselves with a sense of dignity to fasten an expletive to the window of their car in hopes to defeat the disease?
Cursing is becoming more and more mainstream, so the rise of its use in this context is not surprising. When I say I am baffled, I am not talking about people who’s language is regularly laced with vulgarity. When they do it, they are doing nothing out of character. I am interested in those for whom cursing is not the norm, but when it comes to cancer, they feel it is the appropriate thing to do. What inner reasoning drives that? It is as if cancer is such a blight that it demands them to step out of their usual decorum. What amuses me the most is that when they put the sticker on their car, in many cases, they still refuse to spell out the full curse word. They simply put the “F,” or they replace the “u” with another symbol like a skull and crossbones. It is as if they are saying, the evil of cancer deserves this, but not to the point where I can actually spell it out.
Cursing really only has one pragmatic use. The act of being boorish has a way of waking people up when they have stopped paying attention. In the case of cancer, when we are not alert to its evils, using a swear word does have the effect of making people snap out of it and take notice. For the first few people who cursed cancer, they may have received their desired effect. The problem is that it only works for a short time. After it becomes common, that utility is no longer viable, and we find people driving around with vulgarities on their car that fail to deliver. This is a major problem when profanity in general becomes common; it becomes meaningless. Of course, some people will continue to use it as a shibboleth to distinguish themselves as part of a specific tribe or group.
As Christians, I believe how we communicate is of the utmost importance, and using the Lord’s name in vain is always off limits. However, when it comes to slang, the rules are not as hard and fast. Outside of using the Lord’s name in vain, profanity unusually involves one of three modes. The first is taking something that is vulgar and applying it to things that are not. Scatological terms come to mind here. The other form is taking something that is not necessarily crude, like the term used for a female dog or donkey and applying it to a human or something else. Both are attempts to degrade or shock. The third usually involves using obscenities as an expression of fear, wonder, or some other emotion.
When it comes to cancer, using a word that denotes violent sexual activity to express disdain seems to degrade the communicator more than the disease to which it is being applied. There are times when words that highlight violent sexual activity are appropriate. Rape should be called rape when that is what it is. I will leave it to your Christian liberty to determine if you think it is ever appropriate to use the other word, but in the case of both words, intentionally misusing them reveals more about our lack of character than the thing we desire to demean. It is almost as if we are allowing cancer to win twice. Not only has it hurt us, or those we love, but we are allowing its pain to settle so deeply into our soul that it causes us to act in a way that also decays our virtue. If we want to express righteous indignation, it seems counter-intuitive to use profanity.
Perhaps this post is less about cursing and more about our cultural context. The real determination of whether there is any problem with vulgarity comes down to what we think it means to be human and to have dignity. I am aware that many, maybe even most, people who read this post will think this is the ridiculous pontification of a prude. The worldview of many is secularism which fails to establish a real basis for profanity. The biggest problem with this failure is that a worldview that is unable establish curses can have no real foundation for blessings either. When you lose one, you lose the other, and that is a major step backwards when it comes to human dignity.
Am I overthinking this? Maybe, but as Jesus said, it is not what goes into our mouth, but what come out of our mouth that defiles us (Matthew 15:11). In light of those words, a closer look never hurts.
Social media is brain poison. That is what runs through my mind every time I see one of the those nicotine commercials. Yes, I see the irony in that there is a good chance you found this post on social media. I am not saying that every aspect social media is negative. There are good things that social media can do for us, but my time on social media usually cost me more than it gives me. What I am getting at is that most people are not aware of how this relatively new tool is effecting them.
T. David Gordon, in an episode on the White Horse Inn called “Distracting Ourselves to Death,” pointed out that you cannot use a tool without that tool shaping you and the culture in which you live. For example, imagine a nomadic hunter-gatherer culture being introduced to good land and a shovel and a plow. If this group of people begin to use these tools repeatedly it will change them. The muscles used working these tools will develop. Their backs could grow stronger and their hands could end up with new callouses, and they would begin to spend more time in one place instead of moving around.
If the use of these tools is effective enough, it could even change the values of the culture. Once, the lean quick hunter was the most valuable body structure because it could provide food. Housing and supplies that could be quickly packed up and moved would also have been more valuable than those that are permanent. Now that these new tools have been introduced, and the people are settling into a specific place, the easily moved supplies are no longer as important. Along with that, the stocky strong body becomes better able to provide than the lean quick body. All of this change happens because of the introduction of new tools.
Social media is a new tool, and we must be aware of how it is changing us. Christians especially. Changes brought on by new tools which are positive or neutral are fine, but if you see changes taking place that move you away from what Christ has called you to be, it is time to either change the way you are using the tool, or abandon it altogether.
There have been enough studies conducted on the use of social media that the negative effects are unquestionable. Long use can cause anxiety, depression, unhealthy sleep patterns, negative body image, and unrealistic expectations. One of the most counter-intuitive effects is loneliness.
Social media is also addictive. Have you ever posted something and repeatedly gone back to check to see how many likes and comments it is getting. This is not something that has happened accidentally. It was designed to get you to do that. Posting is like inserting a quarter to a slot machine hoping you hit the jackpot. You sit and watch the wheels spin to see what is going to happen. One more quarter, one more post, yet the viral jackpot rarely ever arrives, but there are enough little wins to keep you coming back. It is addictive, but did you know it can also diminish your ability to concentrate?
When was the last time you spent 20 minutes on social media and had sustained concentrated thought on one subject? That is not how it was designed. It was designed to have your mind flit from one unimportant piece of information or entertainment to the next, rarely spending more than 30 second on each new thing. What this does is it trains your alert attention to be at full strength; constantly looking for the next shiny object presenting itself for your consideration. All this happens without a single deliberate thought. If you do this for hours and hours, your alert attention grows stronger, but your executive attention grows weaker.
Your executive attention is your ability to stay focused on one topic or task at a time. Nicholas Carr, in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, points out that long hours on social media, and even our constant alerts and notifications on our smart phones, programs our brains to be more focused on alerts, while at the same time diminishing our ability to concentrate. If you find it more difficult to maintain deep thought on something for a sustained period of time, social media may be one of the reasons. The good news is that this can be reversed by changing your habits. Knowing this, it is easy to see how social media effects productivity in more ways than one.
I could go on and on with example after example of the negative effects of social media, but let me end with just a few more points. Social media was supposed to help give a voice to the people, which is does to some effect, but have you noticed that we seem to have made it more of a megaphone for fools?
Social media has become a bullhorn for ignorance, and it is our fault. This is how it works. Some person, way off their kilter, says something ridiculous, and they hold an opposing political view to our own. In order to show how stupid the other side can be, and to lump our opponents all into a nice stereotype, we share this person’s stupidity with all our friends and followers just to point out how bad the other side is. Our followers, in-turn, share it, and before long, this unknown person who has no grasp on reality has gone viral, and not everyone will think their idea is ill-advised. And we gave it a voice.
The fact that social media can be a megaphone for ignorance is one thing, but it leads to a greater problem because, as mentioned earlier, people are always hoping their next post will hit the viral jackpot. As they look around, they begin to notice that sane and normal thinking does not gain much traction in the likes and comments department. If you want your posts to rise above the noise, you will have to stoop to the level of social media, which usually involves half-truths, outrage, offense, and quick demeaning comebacks for the other stupid people on social media. It seems not even our president is immune.
Finally, have you ever noticed that cowards are courageous on social media? That is what trolls are. That is because social media gives a false sense of authority without vulnerability, and functioning this way will always fail to satisfy. As Christians, we are called to function with authority and vulnerability. The anonymity of the internet often causes us to act in ways we would never act in person. Social media, even with the good things it can bring, is mired in a cesspool of powerless tyrants. Then again, maybe they do have some social media authority because we continue to use social media like it is a tool we cannot live without, and they have figured out how to get their voice heard. Get enough of them together and you have an social media mob. This leaves us with a few options, either stoop to what works for them, or begin to devalue the importance of social media by changing the way we use it, or by abandoning it altogether.
Lets also not forget that these platforms are collecting all of your activity into a persona so they can market to you. They exist because you are a commodity. That is how they make money. They offer you their tool at a price, and that price is information about yourself harvested and sold. These platforms are also becoming more authoritative in the types of speech, or should I says views, they will allow to be communicated. Christian beliefs often fail to meet their standards of conduct. Even if you do have a multitude of followers and influence, if you continue to communicate the truths of scripture, it could all be taken away in a moment.
I have personally given too much of my life to social media. I have since made significant changes to how I use it. I only check my accounts once a week, and I spend no more than 15 minutes doing it. I still post continually throughout the week, but that is done through a scheduling tool which allows me to schedule posts without directly interacting with anything else on these platforms. I know you may actually be using these platforms for the sake of the gospel, or some other worthy endeavor, but that can continue without spending long periods of time scrolling through infinite feeds. Since I have made the change, it has been wonderful. I have been freed up to focus on things of greater importance. What about FOMO (the fear of missing out)? Well, I don’t fear missing out on brain poison.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.-Judges 16:20.
No matter how we try to read the story of Samson, from a literary perspective, it is a tragedy, and like all tragedies, we must take heed. Israel again had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years (Judges 13:1). The Lord had brought chastisement on His people for their sins, but it was now time to set them free, so the Lord sets his plan in motion to send a man to be a deliverer. That man was Samson.
Samson was a promised child to his parents, a man set apart for God through the Nazarite vow, and even as a young man the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him (Judges 13:25). From there, we are all familiar with his great feats of strength. From pulling out the gates of Gaza, posts and all, and carrying them away to a hill in front of Hebron (Judges 16:3), to his defeat of 1000 Philistines with jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15), all of it was done because the Spirit of the Lord had rushed upon him.
Perhaps you can think of times the Lord has worked through you to accomplish something significant. Maybe you have been used in ministry or accomplished something meaningful at your job. You may also have seen Him move in your family, or use you to comfort someone who was hurting. Whatever it is, you know that the only reason it happened was that the Spirit of the Lord was upon you, and in it, you greatly rejoice for the favor God has shown you. Like Samson, you have every reason to take pleasure in the goodness of God in those situations.
However, great moments with God in the past do not guarantee we will not fall in the future. There can be no resting on our laurels because we have walked closely with Jesus up to this point. We have not yet entered our rest, and we still have an enemy prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
Though Samson kept his life pure in so many ways, he had a weakness involving lust, and worse than that, he seems to have let God’s work in his life stir his pride. Why else would he tell Delilah the secret of his strength if on three prior nights she had attempted to make him weak by taking advantage of what he told her; unless he thought that it would not make a difference if she cut his hair. Perhaps he was strong in his own strength. Maybe he didn’t need God to continue to be the great Samson.
As we now know, Samson was nothing without the Lord. He woke up, ready to shake off his bonds, but he was no longer the man he used to be. He didn’t even know the Lord had left him. The deception of Delilah, which Samson fell for because of his own self-deception, led to his subsequent humiliation, blindness, and the enemies of God rejoicing.
We all know how the story ends, one last shot at redemption, and the Spirit of God gives him the strength to take down the palace filled with 3000 Philistines, a feat which ended his life as well. It is here you might say, “See, it is not a tragedy because God gave him back his strength,” but that is looking at the situation with one eye closed.
Samson wasted his blessing, and he wasted his gift. His life was cut short. He could have done more for the Lord, and he never would have had to suffer the way he did. There is an extremely clear message here for all of us, and too often it is missed. We must continue to guard our hearts.
We must never rest in what the Lord has done through us in the past, or see them as an indication that we are something special. We should cherish those sweet moments we have spent with the Lord, but we should never begin to think that we no longer need them going forward.
Have you grown distracted from the things of God, is there some sin you continue to play with while you think, “God has always shown me favor in the past, and I will never fall like Samson.” Or have you already quenched the Spirit and you have failed to notice that His abiding presence with you has been missing for some time? If that is you, you may very well be playing into the hands of your own lusts and into the hands of the enemy. You are primed for tragedy.
Any inclination to begin to see ourselves as the champion, the great deliverer of Gods people, is a pride that is sure to lead to a fall. There is only one Promised Child who can truly set us free, and we are entirely dependant upon Him for everything; He is not dependant upon us. It is in Jesus, that we live, move, and have our being.
There is only one way we can avoid a similar tragedy in our own lives, and that is by clinging to our Savior daily. No matter how great a woman or man of God people think we are, every one of us should get down on our knees at this moment and say, “Lord, save me from myself. If you do not keep me, I have no hope.” Holding fast to Christ in contrition is the only place we are safe, and He has promised that He will give grace to the humble.
We must never forget, at the end of the day, we have all wasted blessings, and we have all wasted His gifts to us, but Jesus took our tragedies upon Himself on the cross, and then He rose for our justification. We have no reason to boast. This fact is all the more reason we should say, “Jesus, keep me near the cross.”
The last way to address moral dilemmas is to argue that there is a hierarchy built into God’s moral law, and at times, some laws supersede other laws which is meant to handle these conflicts. This view is called graded absolutism. It is held by theologians such as Norman Geisler, Stephen Mott, and Millard Erickson.
The graded absolutist starts out with the explanation that some laws are weightier than others (Matt 5:19), and some commands are greater than others (Matt. 23:23). This position can be explained quite simply when we think of civil disobedience. According to scripture, we are to obey the civil government, but what if that civil government commands us to worship a false god. Built into God’s absolute moral law of obeying government is the idea that we should do it only if it does not contradict God’s law. This is because obeying God is much greater command than obeying the government.
In the case of the midwives who lied in Egypt or Rahab who lied to hide the spies, the proponent of GA says that God actually deals well with them for their lying (Exodus 1:20). In these situations the greater command, to which lying must yield, is the protection of human life. GA differs from the conflicting absolutist in two ways. First, the conflicting absolutist says you must choose between the lesser of two evils, and second, when you do it you have sinned. The graded absolutist says you must choose between the greater of two goods, and when you do it, even if it involves violating a lesser good, you have done something commendable. The proponent of GA does not merely say that in a situation like this that lying is allowed in the sense that to do it is to be held innocent. They go further and say that the lie is virtuous, and to not do it would be wrong.
In the case of the mother with the tumor (see previous two posts), they would say that to try and save the mother is the greatest good because you seek to save both in spite of the minimal percentage of success in protecting the child. To attempt to save both lives even at the cost of losing one is the greater good than letting one die without any effort to save them both.
Strengths of this position
1) It has quite a bit of scriptural support for its graded view. Even the Ten Commandments seem to be listed in order of weight.
2) It sees God’s moral law in its entirety as absolute without waiver or conflict. The conflict only happens between specific commands.
3) It can answer many difficult passages in the Bible with ease, such as David eating the “bread of the presence” (see Mark 2:26)
1) It wavers on the absolute nature of specific commands.
2) It can appear to be a lesser version of situational ethics.
I realize these short posts cannot answer all the questions, but I hope you have found them helpful in priming the pump when it comes to understanding moral dilemmas as a moral absolutist.
“We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ than at making converts to our synagogue.”
“In the next place, we do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church-roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year. This is easily done, and there are brethren who use great pains, not to say arts, to effect it; but if it be regarded as the Alpha and Omega of a minister’s efforts, the result will be deplorable.”
“Teach gospel doctrines clearly, affectionately, simply, and plainly, and especially those truths which have a present and practical bearing upon man’s condition and God’s grace. Some enthusiasts would seem to have imbibed the notion that, as soon as a minister addresses the unconverted, he should deliberately contradict his usual doctrinal discourses, because it is supposed that there will be no conversions if he preaches the whole counsel of God. It just comes to this, brethren, it is supposed that we are to conceal truth, and utter a half-falsehood, in order to save souls. We are to speak the truth to God’s people because they will not hear anything else; but we are to wheedle sinners into faith by exaggerating one part of truth, and hiding the rest until a more convenient season. This is a strange theory, and yet many endorse it.”
“To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavour to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else.”
It is difficult to think of a verse more misused than this one. The number of times it has been used to censor Godly reproof would be impossible to count. If you are in the habit of reading the Word of God and upholding Godly standards, then you have most likely had this verse thrown your way while commenting on some behavior or trend of which God does not approve.
This verse, to many people, means that no one is ever allowed reprove or correct someone’s behavior or beliefs. If you speak, even in love, against things like sexual deviancy, drunkenness or false religious beliefs, then according to these people, you are a judgmental Pharisee. Of course, this is a judgment they are making about you, which means if their interpretation of this verse is correct, then they are also judgmental in their reproof. After all, if they believe that telling people they are wrong is intolerant, they should stop telling judgmental people it is wrong to judge.
With only a small amount of exegesis, we will see that Christ is not saying that it is always inappropriate to reprove someone with the word of God. In fact, this is something we are commanded to do, and it is something for which the Word of God is intended. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So what then is Christ telling us? He is telling us of a difference between those who think they are above the law and those who see themselves as under the same standard as the person they are correcting. We are all under the same requirements, and we should not act as if we are exempt from the rules we apply to others. This understanding of judging is seen in the following verses when Christ tells us to remove the plank in our eye before looking at someone else’s speck.
There are a few different ways we can approach someone who is in sin. First, we could act as if all standards of conduct are relative, and not correct anyone except those who try to correct others. This self-refuting judgment, of course, is hypocrisy at its finest. Second, we could act as if the moral law does not apply to us and condemn anyone who violates it, but his type of condemnation is the actual definition of judging. Or finally, we could look at our own shortcomings under the moral law and approach the one who is erring by saying, there is a standard which God wants us to follow because of His love for us, and neither of us is above that standard. Along with both of us being under this standard together, we both fall short so let’s work on our shortcomings together. After all, His standards are an expression of His love.
When we think of a judgmental person, we also tend to think of their attitude as much as we think of their actions. This judgmental attitude is often seen in the first two approaches as well. The first person, the one who thinks that it is always wrong to reprove, usually ends up with a judgmental attitude, because as they criticize, they are acting as if they are allowed to rebuke when the person they are reproving is not. Hence, they are proudly unaware that there is a plank in their eye. The second person also tends to succumb to a judgmental attitude because they too fail to see their own guilt in these matters. Both will have tendencies toward harshness. Only the third person, the one who believes God’s moral standards can be known, that they themselves are not above the struggles with sin, and believes that a reproof is an act of love, will be able to avoid the judging that Christ is speaking of in this passage.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26
“Blessed are they that mourn.” This beatitude is clearly one of the great paradoxes of scripture. “Blessed” and “mourning” almost seem to be contradictory. When we think of mourning, we rarely think about blessing, Typically our minds think of death because mourning is something we do when someone dies, but here again, Jesus is showing us that there is a depth to the Christian life we need to take the time to understand.
What it does not mean
What does Jesus mean when He says, “Blessed are they that mourn? To understand this, the first thing we should do is clear away the debris by eliminating a few possible types of mourning that Jesus does not have in mind. First, there is some mourning that is sinful. Some people desire to fulfill their lusts, but they are unable to do so. These unfulfilled sinful desires could lead them to depression and mourning. Others have satisfied their lusts and have been caught and mourn the fact that they have been exposed and have to face the consequences, but they do not regret the sin itself. Scripture calls this worldly sorrow which leads to death (2 Corinthians 7:10). Second, it does not simply mean being sad that someone has died. Even haters of God do this, but they mourn like those who have no hope. There is no blessing in these kinds of mourning.
What it means
So what does Jesus mean? It is important to keep in mind that the beatitudes build upon each other. They are not things we do to be saved; they are changes in our nature worked in us by the Holy Spirit. The first beatitude was poverty of spirit, and when we looked at it, we understood that because we are sinful, we have no merit before a holy and just God. The mourning of the second beatitude flows directly from our poverty of spirit. If you have never known your poverty of spirit, you will never mourn spiritually over your destitute condition. With this in mind, we are aware that this mourning is a mourning over our sinfulness.
We first experience this at our conversion, but it continues throughout the Christian life. Do you hate your sin? Do you hate to see sin hurting those you love? Then you are experiencing this blessed mourning. Romans 8:23 says, “And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” This groaning seems closely related to mourning over sin. This mourning is an attribute of a blessed person because this mourning is a gift of God. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Conviction must of necessity precede conversion,” and conviction of sin is a gift of God. We should not be afraid of it.
The end of glibness
Glibness in the Christian life is done away with by this beatitude. Do you see life as a joke or merely one big party? Then maybe some self-examination is needed. There is a seriousness about the Christian life that needs to be part of our character. We are not to be morose or miserable. We can laugh, and we should have joy, but not regarding sin. It is important to remember, that one of Jesus’ titles was “Man of Sorrows.” If we have no spiritual hunger, and our lives are characterized by glibness, Jesus speaks directly to us in Luke 6:25. He warns, “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” If there is no mourning over sin in this life, there will be plenty of it in the life to come.
Those, however, who mourn over their sin now, will be comforted. Jesus is revealing Himself to them, and He will continue to do so. We will be comforted because our sins are forgiven. We are declared righteous in Him (justification) and He has also begun to kill the sin in us (sanctification). We are both mournful and happy because of Christ and the hope He gives us as the victor over sin and all its wages.
In the next post on the beatitudes, we will see how the poverty of spirit and mourning over our sinfulness produces in us a meekness that inherits the earth. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. How does this blessed mourning manifest itself in your life, and how is it a blessing?
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4