Summary: It's time to stop practicing fake Christianity during Lent. Let's give up something meaningful - the sin of pride
The season known as Lent is starting this coming Wednesday, with Ash Wednesday being the first day of Lent. What is Lent to you? Let's be honest, for many of us, Lent is really, nothing - it's just another time of the year. On Wednesdays many of your churches have extra midweek church services, and some of you are able to discipline yourself to actually go to those special midweek church services, which is good. If you go, you will be blessed by hearing God's Word. And if you don't go, well, then you won't be blessed.
So what is Lent to you? For some, Lent is a time of self-denial. During the days after Ash Wednesday, leading up to Easter, some people give up things for Lent. Some people give up things that are meaningless, like chocolate or soda or fast food. "I will not eat chocolate from now until Easter." Way to go! Some Christian denominations give up eating meat during Lent, which is where the idea of fish fries came from for the Catholic denomination. Have you ever given up something for Lent?
What if we were to ask Jesus about this? Jesus, do you really want us to give up something during the season of Lent? When you study the Bible, you learn pretty quickly that Jesus does want you and me to give up something not just during the Lenten season, but really throughout your whole lives - what is it? It's a sin. What exactly is the sin that Jesus wants us to stop doing? It's a sin that causes so many other sins. It's a sin that Jesus spoke against again and again - everyone struggled with that sin in the Bible, and you and I here in this school struggle with this sin today. Do you know what it is?
Maybe it's one of the 7 deadly sins - have you ever heard of those? Many years ago in the Christian church they picked 7 sins that seemed to give birth to all the others - these 7 sins were wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Which one of those did Jesus speak against more than all the others? Which one do philosophers and religious thinkers believe is the sin the source of all the others. It's the one in the middle - it's pride.
What is it that made Jesus so mad at the Pharisees? It's the fact that they thought that they were better than everybody else. It's the fact that they thought there was nothing wrong with themselves. That's why Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector - the Gospel lesson that is traditionally read on Ash Wednesday - "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable…" Jesus was very much against the sin of pride.
Do you remember which disciple struggled with the sin of pride, more so than all the others? "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33). The Apostle Peter thought he was so strong, so smart, so full of faith in God, that he would never fall into sin. And Jesus told him that he would deny him three times. Peter is a great example of the passage from Proverbs that says, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Prov. 16:18.
Do you have pride inside of you? It takes different forms. For some of you, the pride inside of you says, "I am too smart, I am too strong, to do something bad, like that person over there. I would never fall into a sin like that. Never." And then you end up doing something really dumb, kind of like the Apostle Peter. Do we have any prideful people walking around the building today? I think we do.
For others of us, pride looks a little different. Someone gets into trouble and you say to yourself, "I'm glad I'm not like that person. That person is bad and needs to be punished. But I'm good. God is way happier with me than he is with that person." Do we have any Pharisees walking around the building today? I think we do.
"I don't need to pay attention in religion class or chapel. I don't need to go to church. I already have a strong faith." That's pride. Do you know who has pride? The teachers. The students. The parents. The athletes. The 4.0's. The musicians. Everybody in this room. If you don’t think you have pride, that's a sign that you have pride.
It is time to repent of the sin of pride. Jesus doesn't really care when people give up eating chocolate or meat during the season of Lent. What good is it, if someone does something like that and yet keeps committing the same sins over and over again? Jesus said, " 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: