Self-Denial in An Age of Indulgence

Lent is an interesting season. Historically, Lent has been a period of self-denial that allows us to focus on our sin and need for a savior. I half-joked on Sunday that often our attitude seems to be, “if I can give up Facebook for 40 days I can understand Jesus suffering on the cross.”

The truth is that our sacrifice is nothing like Christ’s, even when we practice self-denial during Lent. Christ’s sacrifice cost him everything. He literally had to deny himself. Hard stop. Not, “deny himself Facebook”, or “deny himself bacon”, but literally, “deny himself.” He had to set aside his claim as King of the Universe, he set aside his human needs, and he set aside his very breath.

Our environment and our self-denying sacrifices are much more like Adam and Eve’s if we’re honest. Adam and Eve had everything they needed. The only thing they had to deny themselves was the fruit from “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. God had essentially told them, ‘You don’t want to know what you are going to know if you eat from that tree’. But they indulged their own desires anyway.

That’s why Christ’s sacrifice on the cross matters so much. Where we fail he succeeds. Focusing on sin and repentance is fine to a degree. But without focusing on our need for a savior, we will only end up depressed because we believe we are worse than we actually are, or self-righteous because we believe we are better than we actually are. What we ought to be focusing on during the season of Lent is the goodness of Jesus, his saving work on the cross, done on our behalf so that we could be free.