Sin, Sorrow, and Salvation

The awareness of sin and sorrow at the time of salvation never goes away in this life, but intensifies as we grow closer to God. 

There will be in every follower of Christ a deepening awareness of all-pervasive sinfulness that cries out with desperation and follows up with celebration –

  • Romans 7:24 – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death (my imprisonment to sin)?
  • Romans 7:25 – “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

The indwelling presence of God’s Spirit at salvation brings comfort and joy, but (as Romans 8 teaches), it is precisely because we have the deposit of the spirit that we groan with expectation for full and final salvation. 

  • “Already, through the indwelling presence of God’s spirit, we have been transferred into the new age of blessing and salvation; but the fact that the spirit is only the first fruit makes us daily conscious that we have not yet severed all ties to the old era of sin and death. There is a healthy balance necessary in the Christian life, in which our joy at the many blessings we already possess should be set beside our frustration at our failures and our intense yearning for that day when we will fail no more when we shall be like Him” (Douglas Moo, W.E.C. Romans, p. 557).
  • We must not expect that mourning over sin will all end at salvation. I am deeply concerned that we do not misrepresent the Christian life as unending joy and bliss. There is an emotional variety that intensifies and should be understood and accepted.
  • “Some Christians seem to imagine that, especially if they are filled with the spirit, they must wear a perpetual grin on their faces and be continuously boisterous and bubbly… The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them” (John Stott).

Weeping and godliness

  • There can also be a mourning stimulated by broader considerations. Sometimes the sin of the world, the lack of integrity, the injustice, the cruelty, the cheapness, the selfishness, all pile onto the consciousness of a sensitive man and make him weep. The Christian is to be the truest realist. He reasons that death is there, and must be faced. God is there, and will be known by all a savior or judge. Sin is there, and it is unspeakably ugly and block in the light of God’s purity. Eternity is there, and every living human being is rushing toward it. God’s revelation is there, and the alternatives it presents will come to pass; life or death, pardon or condemnation, heaven or hell. These are realities which will not go away. The man who lives in the light of them, and rightly assesses himself and his world in the light of them, cannot but mourn. He mourns for the sins and blasphemies of his nation. He mourns for the erosion of the very concept of truth. He mourns over the greed, the cynicism, the lack of integrity. He mourns that there are so few mourners” (D.A. Carson, Sermon on the Mount p. 19).
  • Joy is a distinguishing characteristic of the godly, but it often coexists with tears and sorrow. The Psalmist said: “My eyes shed streams of tears because men do not keep thy law” (Ps. 119:136). God’s faithful people are described as those who: “sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:4). The godly scribe Ezra prays and identifies with the sins of the people in confession, weeping, and casting himself down before the house of God.
  • Jeremiah (the weeping prophet) said: “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night. For the slain of the daughter of my people! O that I had in the desert a wayfarers lodging place; that I might leave my people, and go from them! For all of them are adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men. And they bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord.”
  • The apostle Paul wrote about many “of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).
  • The emotion of the eternal God was recorded in Genesis 6:5-6, “the Lord saw that the wickedness or man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart.”
  • Although the gospels never record the laughter of Jesus, they do record his anguish and tears ( Mt. 26:34-38; Jn. 10:35; Heb. 5:7-9). The prophet Isaiah identified the coming messiah as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who would bear our grief and carry our sorrows.

A defective sense of sin

  • “I cannot help feeling that the final explanation of the state of the church today is a defective sense of sin and a defective doctrine of sin. Coupled with that, of course, is a failure to understand the true nature of Christian joy. There is the double failure. There is not the real, deep conviction of sin as was once the case; and on the other hand there is this superficial conception of joy and happiness which is very different indeed from that which we find in the New Testament. Thus the defective doctrine of sin and the shallow idea of joy, working together, of necessity produce a superficial kind of person and a very inadequate kind of Christian life” (Lloyd-Jones, Sermon on the Mount). (cf. 1 Cor. 5:2- “should you not have rather mourned?”)
  • Of course, “We are prepared to walk with Jesus through Matthew 23 and repeat his pronouncements of doom; but we stop before we get to the end of the chapter and join him in weeping over the city” (D.A. Carson, Sermon on the Mount, p. 19).

Comfort for some

Those who mourn with the sorrow of the world rather than being comforted will end their self-centered sorrow with the weeping of final judgment (Mt. 13:42,50, 23:30). But those who mourn with godly sorrow will be comforted —in this life, as they receive the comfort of sins forgiven. And, even this great comfort will be surpassed one day in a new heaven and new earth, the kingdom of God will be consummated, and God himself will wipe away all tears from the eyes of those who once mourned. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away (Rev. 21:4) (see: D.A. Carson p.19).

Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning and in our mourning!

Words for deeper reflection

  • “Blessed are those who mourn” is, paradoxically, a more necessary message than “Rejoice in the Lord always,” because there can be no true rejoicing until we have stopped running away from mourning (Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes). 
  • We will never experience the angel of comfort until we can enter into the mourning. … The admission of what is deepest within us can be done only with an angel of comfort. This angel comes to us in the appearance of a total stranger or an absolute friend (Michael H. Crosby, Spirituality of the Beatitudes).
  • Mourning cannot be limited exclusively to expressing sorrow for one’s sin … or grief surrounding death. … Rather, “those who mourn” has the more comprehensive sense of an inclusive grief that refers to the disenfranchised, contrite, and bereaved. It is an expression of the intense sense of loss, helplessness, and despair (Robert A. Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount).
  • The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the Cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him. This is their comfort, or rather, he is their comfort, their comforter. … This alien community is comforted by the Cross (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship).
  • In this beatitude, Jesus praises … those who can enter into solidarity with the pain of the world and not try to extract themselves from it (Richard Rohr with John Bookser Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World).
  • He calls blessed even those who mourn. Their sorrow is of a special kind. He did not designate them simply as sad but as intensely grieving. Therefore, he did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn” (John Chrysostom, “Homily 15.3”).
  • It is not enough for us … within the arena of the world’s pain merely to know of a God who sympathizes. It is not even enough to know of a God who heals. We need to know of and be connected with a God who experiences with us, for us, each grief, each wound. We need to be bonded with a God who has had nails in the hands and a spear in the heart! (Flora Slosson Wuellner, Weavings)
  • Every suffering can be blessed because it hollows out a place in us for God and his comfort, which is infinite joy. (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue)
  • It is impossible for one to live without tears who considers things exactly as they are. (Gregory of Nyssa, De Beatitudine)

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Blessed are those who mourn, Godly sorrow, Poor in spirit, Sadness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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