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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Lent: A time for self-examination and repentance

We are now in the season of Lent. And Lent is especially a time for us to examine our lives in the light of the Ten Commandments. It is a time to pray with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23, 24).

But what if I’m someone who lives a decent upright life? Does that mean there is no sin in my life to repent of?

In God’s eyes our sinful thoughts and attitudes are just as bad as the act. Take the sin of malice for example. Malice can be defined as the desire to have suffering, pain, humiliation or distress inflicted on another person. Maybe the malice is caused by jealousy in someone who out shines you in a matter you cherish. Maybe it’s because you did not get the credit you thought you deserved for something. Or maybe it’s because you got snubbed or insulted.

Take a moment to examine your life this Lenten season. Have you ever had malicious thoughts toward another person? Have you ever spent part of your day taking pleasure in thoughts of suffering, pain, humiliation or distress inflicted on another person? St Paul says: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor 5:7,8). And again: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Phil 4:8). Next time you’re thinking about another person, pay attention, you might be guilty of malicious thoughts toward them  – desiring the evil towards them that you would not want on you.

That’s why we need to hear the message of Lent and Easter. We need Jesus not just when we came to faith the first time but every day. We need Jesus because in Him we have forgiveness for our sinful thoughts too. He became guilty of all our sins. He suffered and died on the cross, to pay for all our sins and the sins of the whole world. He arose on Easter morning and won for you and me and all people forgiveness for every, last, one of our sins, even the sins of malice. In Jesus we have the forgiveness of all our sins. And we can claim that forgiveness as a free gift by faith alone. (John 3:16) And then too in Jesus we can be more loving and forgiving towards others.

We will battle our sinful nature as long as we live. St Paul says: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14). And again: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:19, 24, 25).

Happy to know that Jesus has won the struggle over sin, so I can go to heaven, just like you! 

Pastor Jacob Hanneman is the pastor at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Terry. 

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