Below are a few excerpts from a book titled Devotions for Lent:
For some Christ followers, sin and death weave so familiar a narrative that we’ve become numb to their sting. For others of us, the wages of sin and our subsequent spiritual death weigh so heavily that we refuse to accept God’s gracious mercy.
The balance in which God calls us to rest is certainly dissatisfied with both extremes. As we begin to understand our current spiritual story through the eyes of Christian history, we grieve as we own the sins of humanity yet rejoice with the saints in the climax of our shared salvation story.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,
that even though we were dead because of our sins,
he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.
The Smell of Sin, by Timothy G. Walton
One early American preacher traveled from town to town preaching the gospel message. It was witnessed that as he approached the outskirts of a town, he would pause and say, “I smell hell!” If we were sensible to it, would the world smell like hell to us? Hell is an entirely foreign concept today. Yet that strange smell – the smell of decay, corruption, and filth – permeates this world we live in because of the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s sin.
People have all kinds of creative ways of dealing with sin. They deny it. They minimize it. They make excuses for it. They blame others for it. The duke, a character in James Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks, admits, “We all have our little weaknesses; mine just happens to be that I am evil.”
Why is sin sinful, not just a “little weakness”? Who says sin is sin? One of the words the Bible uses to refer to sin means “to miss the mark,” implying that there is a mark or target that has been missed, so the word sin itself implies a standard. If a highway patrolman stops you for speeding, it implies that the official government has set a speed limit, and you violated it. Similarity, the moral standard for all humanity comes right out of the holy character of God. His glory, his holiness, is the standard we fall short of.
This world that smells like sin also smells like death. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin leads to death. There was death in the Garden. Adam and Eve didn’t drop dead the minute they ate the forbidden fruit, of course, but death made two instant inroads: First, the seed of physical death was planted in them. Two perfect individuals created to be forever young began to grow old and eventually would die. Second, they died spiritually. Their intimate and friendly relationship with the Lord died. The next scene in Genesis 3 finds Adam and Eve hiding from God in the bushes. Though they didn’t realize it at the time, their only hope was for God to do something heroic to rescue them and bring them back into a healthy relationship with him. When God sacrificed two animals (Genesis 3:21) and proclaimed the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior (Genesis 3:15), he did just that.
Modern life offers many luxurious “perfumes” to cover up the smell of eternal death. When we are enjoying our favorite foods and entertainments, it can be easy to forget the decay of sin and death all around us. Lent helps us to remember that there is only one who actually reverses decay – The God who raised the dead.
21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 24 ” ‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’ “
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.’ 11 For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. 12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord– the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.
John 11:45-56 – The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?”
God our Father,
you always work for our ultimate good,
and now we rejoice in the great love
you have for your children.
Our Lenten journey has brought us here.
May we continue to diligently seek you
as we celebrate the Passover week.
We are ready to enter this week
with a mind and heart that has been renewed.
We will each rejoice that Jesus died “for me”
and that His death is the ultimate victory over sin and death –
my sin and my death.
Christ the Lord makes us into a new creation.
Let us call upon Him and say:
Lord, renew us in your grace.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, clothe us with compassion, kindness and humility,
– help us to be more patient with others.
Teach us to be true neighbors to all in trouble and distress,
– and so imitate you, the Good Samaritan.
Grant us the gift of your mercy,
– and thank you for forgiving our sins.
May your eternal watchfulness keeps me safe from harm.
I am filled with
a great happiness whenI feel your endless love for me.
Thank you for your care for me, one of your children.
Please continue to pour out your blessings
on all of your children.