It will be the third Sunday in Lent soon. These have been some hard readings. Have you felt warned to turn away from sin? I have. I have tried, and I have failed. Every day I fail, and I feel it. The devil prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour, says Peter. Some days it seems like that evil lion has me between his teeth.
I am powerless against him. I try to resist, and I fail. I think that I am being smart, that I am avoiding sin and temptation because I had a good day. But I must not fool myself. Peter says to be sober-minded and watchful. Something that feels good one minute soon feels terrible the next. Watch out. He has me between his teeth.
Lent reminds me that I have been broken, utterly broken, by sin. My God might weep over what I do every day when I turn away from Him. I want my own way, not His. I want what feels good, not what He says is right. I despair of my sin, sin that has hurt me and the ones I love.
Yet Peter says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I am reminded that it is not up to me. I cannot save myself from this body of death.
Paul understood the struggle: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” He understood the only one to save me is not myself, but Jesus. Every day I must try to submit to His will for me, every day I must listen to Him, pray to Him for strength, and look to Him, and Him only, for mercy. “God, be merciful to me, THE sinner.” He is the only one who can give it to me. And as Pastor said yesterday, in truth, He is the only one who REALLY wants it for me. He wants it more than I want it myself. And so He did it for me, by dying on the Cross, taking my sins upon Himself, loving me more than He loved His own life.
“Do you want to get to Heaven? Yes you do. How badly do you want it? Can you put it in words? I tell you the truth: God wants you there even more than you want to be there. And He has done everything necessary to make it so by the blood of Jesus’ death and His glorious resurrection. So pray it joyfully: ‘Thy kingdom come.’ And when you say ‘Amen,’ understand–that God has made it happen.” –Pastor Horn
The joy of Lent is not an easy joy. It’s a joy that comes from going through sorrow and coming out on the other side, saved, not because we get better but because we have a God who wanted more for us than we ever wanted for ourselves. Thanks be to God.
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!