Pastor Mike Castelli’s Ash Wednesday message very powerful to me and a practical, refreshing application to Lent. He talked about how Lent is a great time to focus on Jesus’ call to “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Our culture thinks of Lent as a time of self-denial—can I get through the next 40 days without eating cookies? But Lent isn’t about not eating cookies or not eating meat on Fridays (many of the restaurants around our area offer Lent meal options and Friday fish fries). Self-denial and denying self are not the same thing. Self-denial can be a part of denying self, but they are different.
Actually, as Mike was talking, I thought about how self-denial can so often make me even more focused on me, whereas denying self is a focus on Christ—walking in obedience and doing what He calls me to do, instead of what I want to do.
So, Mike suggested a different approach to this Lenten season. He reminded us of what the church for centuries has termed “The Seven Deadly Sins.” His suggestion: take one each week (the partial week with Ash Wednesday was week #1) and ask, “How can I deny myself in relation to pride (envy, anger, etc.)?”
I’d like to mention that we also can’t just “give up” something without “putting on” something else (Luke 11:24-26; Eph 4:22-24). The list below gives the Seven Deadly Sins with the antidote to each one. For example, how can I “put on” contentment when I feel the Green-Eyed Monster rising up within me?
Pride … Humility/Yield (Feb 10-13)
Envy … Contentment (Feb 15-20)
Anger … Gentle/Kind (Feb 22-27)
Slothfulness … Serve (Feb 29 – Mar 5)
Avarice … Give (Mar 7-12)
Gluttony … Fast (Mar 14-19)
Lasciviousness … Purity (Mar 21-26)
Mike referred to the sins as “leaven” (as Paul does in 1 Cor 5:6-8), and ended the evening with this challenge: if Christ is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, what if we asked Him to remove the leaven from us—could He do this in way that is well beyond what we could imagine?