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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lent for Dummies

Guilt is more than a feeling. You can be guilty whether you feel it or not. Preachers often think that guilt is a feeling that we are supposed to eradicate. Well, yes and no. A lot of the time, it is our job to make people feel guilty. And that's a good thing. We comfort the terrified and terrify the comfortable.

The fact is that every person stands guilty before God. We are all - apart from Christ- objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Though this is not a popular message in our churches, it is the truth.

Some popular diluters of the faith, such as Rick Warren, will say that "God doesn't expect you to be perfect (Purpose Driven Life, p.92)." But that contradicts the clear words of Jesus Himself. "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48)." It is part of our fallen nature that we want to reduce the demands of God's law, to soften it. Why? To make it seem like we can attain God's favor on our own - even if we give lipservice to sin and grace.

"Gloom, despair and agony on me..." (a special prize to whomever can identify the source of that line)

Ash Wednesday is useful because it graphically proclaims our mortality. "I am nothing but dust and ashes," Abraham said (Genesis 18:27). Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. All who sin must die. This is the curse on the Adam in all of us.

We are sinners not because we commit sins. But rather, we commit sins because we are born sinful. Unless we drive this point home, the crucifixion of Jesus seems like overkill. Why did Jesus have to die? Because at that moment, bearing your sin and mine, he deserved to die. Was the Father unjust by slaying an innocent man? No. Jesus had to die because on the cross He became the vilest sinner on earth. "He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)."

Your justification is not just a legal fiction. You are righteous and holy on account of Christ. But in this life, you are also a sinner. It's a paradox, I know. I'm cool with that. So let's have a good lent. No one likes to consider his sinfulness and mortality. But we need to do that so that we can make sense of the cross. Not that your self-mortifications make you holy. But the Crucified One is your holiness.

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John said...

Hee Haw

so do I get my chocolate pudding?

Bob Waters said...

Yes, but you'll probably spill it.

paul, in south park said...

"deep dark depression, obsessive misery" i get an extra special prize for adding a close approximation of the next line?

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