Summary: If a Christian is to experience to the full, the joy of their salvation, they must learn how to walk in the victory that have in Christ over sin.
As we have looked at the Beatitudes, we have pointed out that the word translated “blessed” here literally means “happy.” The promises and principles laid out here by our Savior present us with a blueprint for experiencing true happiness in life - not the kind the world gives and can easily be taken away by changing circumstances - but the lasting happiness that only God can give - the kind contentment and satisfaction that changing circumstances can never take away.
We have also pointed out that they are progressive in nature; that one builds on the other. Last time we looked to verse three, where we are told that the journey that leads to experiencing happiness in this life as well as the next begins when we gain the proper perspective on salvation - when we acknowledge our spiritual poverty and appropriate God’s saving power through faith in Christ. Now today, I want us to look to verse four to notice the next step Jesus says we need to take in our journey to experiencing lasting happiness.
It has been pointed out that what Jesus says here appears to be a tremendous paradox. To paraphrase this beatitude, Jesus says, “Happy are the sad.” How can the sad be happy? What kind of mourning results in greater happiness?
The fact that there are nine different verbs in the Greek language (all used in Scripture) to express the concept of grief indicates that there are all kinds of reasons to be sad. There is sorrow over discouragement, sorrow over death, sorrow over missed opportunity, sorrow over having been done wrong, sorrow over the hurt of another, and we could go on and on. But there is only one kind of sorrow which leads to true happiness - sorrow over sin.
But in thinking about sorrow over sin, we must be careful to distinguish between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Paul spoke of this when writing to the Corinthians: Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while - yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” - 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NIV)
A. Worldly sorrow focuses its attention on self, while godly sorrow focuses its attention on God.
B. Worldly sorrow is sorrowfulness for having been caught, while godly sorrow is sorrowfulness for having sinned.
C. Worldly sorrow thinks in terms of appeasing one’s conscience, while godly sorrow thinks in terms of pleasing one’s God.
D. Worldly sorrow looks upon sin as something to be covered up, excused, or justified, while godly sorrow looks upon sin as something to be repudiated, confessed, and repented of.
Sorrow which leads to the happiness of which Jesus speaks is godly sorrow over sin. As we think today about gaining a proper perspective of godly sorrow over sin, there are two things we should consider.
1. The reason for godly sorrow - v. 4a
The reason for godly sorrow is sin. Not sin seen in the light of human imperfection, however. When we view our sin in light of human imperfection, we tend to excuse, justify, and cover it up.
“We wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” - 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT)
Godly sorrow comes, not from comparing myself to the human imperfection of others, but as a result of seeing our sin in light of God’s perfection. As we realize that God is pure, righteous, and holy, we likewise realize our sin is filthy, repugnant, and inexcusable. This produces godly sorrow for our sin. Consider some biblical examples:
A. Job - “I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You. Therefore I loathe [my words] and abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” - Job 42:5-6 (Amplified)
B. Isaiah - "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." - Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)
C. Daniel - “So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak. Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground.” - Daniel 10:8-9 (NLT)