The Sermon on the Mount begins with the eight progressive steps of the blessed, abundant life that is kingdom living. R.T. Kendall has called this kind of living “the rule of the ungrieved Holy Spirit in our lives.”
The first step is to be poor in spirit. These are the people who recognize their spiritually bankrupt condition and turn to Christ for life—and meaning in this life.
The next step focuses on those who mourn. The Greek word pentheo is in the present tense, indicating continuing action. To mourn continually means to have godly sorrow. It is the strong and intense cry of the soul to God. D.A. Carson calls it the emotional counterpart to being poor in spirit. It is not simply an outward expression—that can always be counterfeited. To mourn is not the feeling of pain because we did something wrong, but the heart expressing genuine sorrow because sin is wrong by God’s standard.
In our contemporary world, it is easy to become so comfortable with sin and evil that we do not give it a second thought. David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians in the 18th century. He died at 29, giving his life in service to God. He wrote in his journal: “In my morning devotions, my soul was exceeding melted and bitterly mourned over my exceeding sinfulness and vileness.” Those words illustrate what it means to spiritually mourn.
Why would those blessed by Jesus mourn? They recognize we live in a fallen world that affects everything and everybody. Sin grieves God. Jesus died a violent and sacrificial death because of sin. To mourn means to have a sensitive spirit. Abundant living involves mourning over the sin and evil in us and in the world. Those who have a sensitive spirit are also promised comfort: God’s encouragement, instruction and consolation.
Pride, guilt and fear will keep a person from admitting the need for help. Those who mourn know they need help and understand that only Christ can help.
In Matthew 5:5, the next step in the blessed life identifies the gentle (humble or meek). To be meek or gentle means to have a teachable mind. It means to have strength under control. A.T. Robertson called it “the gentleness of strength.” Gentleness is not weakness, but it is the opposite of pride. To be meek is to be God-trained or God-molded. The Greek word was applied to the domestication or training of animals. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus said he was “gentle and humble in heart,” and in Numbers 12:3, Moses is described as “very humble.”
W.E. Vine defined gentleness as “that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.” Anyone can quote Romans 8:28, but the gentle believe it. The promise to the gentle is that they will inherit the earth—the new earth that is coming in God’s redemptive plan.
Intense spiritual desire is the idea behind the next step: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Those who live with a profound sense of need are promised a great blessing: “They shall be satisfied.” Augustine said that those who mourn also hunger and thirst for the Righteous One: Jesus Christ.
Righteousness involves integrity, purity of desire, and correctness in thought and behavior. We need God’s Spirit working in us to have this spiritual desire and to experience it in our daily lives.
The hungering and thirsting for life that is right and approved by God is the attitude of growing Christians. It is a deep and continuing desire to be more like Jesus. That kind of intensity has a great result: satisfaction. It is a word that was used for the fattening of animals. It means to be filled. This is what Jesus promised in John 10:10: “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” We cannot experience abundant life without Christ, and, in the Beatitudes, Jesus describes what abundant living is like.
— Rudy Gray is editor of the Courier.