Lent 1 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 21, 2021
Genesis 22:1-18, James 1:12-18, Mark 1:9-15


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            Why is it that Christians moved the primary day of worship from the Jewish Sabbath Day of Saturday to Sunday?  What happened on Sunday that we celebrate each week?  Jesus rose from the dead.  Each Sunday is a little Easter as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection over and over again throughout the year.  At our voters’ meeting last Sunday our congregational president, Matt Franke, remarked how each Sunday is also a little Epiphany as Jesus’ true identity is revealed again and again. 

            We have entered the season of Lent starting last week with Ash Wednesday.  Lent is a penitential season; a time to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, and to be penitent; which is to be feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong.  Lent is a time to sorrow over your sin and repent; a time to turn away from sin and turn back to God. 

            There is a tradition of giving something up for Lent.  This can be a spiritual exercise of self-denial and self-control.  Fasting and prayer during Lent can be helpful in meditating on what Jesus has done for you. Extra scripture reading can be added. What you do during Lent is up to you. 

The Roman Catholic Church requires their people to not eat meat on Fridays during Lent.  From what I could glean this is done to remember that Jesus died on a Friday. Rome requires a fast from eating meat from warm-blooded animals, but it is okay to eat meat from cold-blooded animals like fish.  Apparently other cold-blooded animals would also be acceptable, but I don’t think the Friday snake fry or alligator fry has caught on except maybe in Louisiana.

            I think it is good to give something up for Lent but instead of something like chocolate or beer, how about giving up sin for Lent?  What better way to show sorrow over your sin than by giving it up? Repent and believe the Good News that Jesus has died for your sins.  Lent is about baptized children of God living like baptized children of God.

            Now giving up sin for Lent is easy…to say, but it is hard to do.  You are, as you confessed earlier, by nature sinful; by nature unclean.  You sin with thoughts.  You sin with words.  You sin with deeds.  Giving up sin is challenging because you live in a world of sin.  You are in this world, but you are not of this world.  You are by nature sinful and unclean but God has declared you to be holy, blessed and innocent because of what Jesus has done for you.  Therefore you are holy, blessed and innocent.  As a holy, blessed, innocent child of God you are called to stand firm.  James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[1]

            In our Epistle lesson today James is writing to Christian brothers and sisters scattered around the Mediterranean world.  He is teaching about how to live as a follower of Jesus.  A little before our reading today James teaches that trials, temptations and testing are good for your faith.  James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.[2]

            It is worth noting that there is only one Greek word in James for trials, temptations and testing.  English translations like to pick one of the three in various places but that may be more specific than the writer intended.  We probably should look at the broader range of meanings.  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials, temptations or testing of various kinds.  In James 1:12 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under [trial, temptation and testing], for [being genuine] he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. [3] “Being genuine” is a better translation than “when he has stood the test.”  “Being genuine” is the literal translation of the words here.  Being genuine is being a Christian.  Being who you are.  God has promised believers the crown of life. 

            So for Lent give up sin.  Remain steadfast.  Don’t make excuses for sin.  Don’t blame God.  James 1:13 (ESV) 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.[4] Blaming God for sin is popular. Adam used this in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:12 (ESV)12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”[5]  It is popular these days to say, “God made me this way.  It’s God’s fault.”  James teaches us; don’t blame God.

            James then gives us the progression of sin.  James 1:14-15 (ESV) 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.[6] 

Sin begins with desires so battle sin in your thoughts.  Be aware and be honest about your own desires.  Know which desires are against God’s will.  Be aware and honest about what triggers you to lose your temper, to go to the dark side of the internet, to get drunk, to steal, to indulge your lusts, to be hateful, to be prideful, to be lazy.  What triggers you to give up delighting in God’s will and walking in His ways and instead conform to the ways of the world?  What prompts you to take your sin from a desire to words or actions?  Know your triggers and break the pattern of sin.  Change your behavior and remain steadfast.  Give up sin for Lent.  Stop making excuses…battle sin in your thoughts. 

Sinful thoughts will come to mind.  This is proof you are indeed a sinner, but do not indulge them.  Do not welcome them and dwell on them.  As Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”

            Battle sin in your thoughts.  Don’t let the sin-bird build a nest and take up residence.  Remain steadfast.  1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.[7]

Often, you are successful in resisting temptations and remaining steadfast through trial and test.  You have a sinful thought and you reject it out of hand knowing that it is evil.  You are often successful and you often fail. As you try to give up sin for Lent you will find, in the words of C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, “When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him.  When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.”  Also, “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good; a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.”  So as you intensify your struggle against sin you will learn that you truly are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  Knowing this, keep up the struggle, because you do not belong to the world of sin and evil.  You are a baptized child of God.  Live life being genuine to your identity in Christ.

            Remain steadfast through tests, temptation and trials.  When you fail to remain steadfast, repent and remember who you are in Christ.  Return to the Lord, your God.  Sorrow over your failure but remember you have a Savior and Redeemer who has overcome testing, trial and temptation.  You have been ransomed from sin, death and the devil by the Son of God Himself, the Lamb of God, who overcame the Devil and who sacrifices Himself to save you.  Remember it is not about you; it is about Jesus for you. You are forgiven by Jesus who generously pours out forgiveness on you in His Word and in Baptism and Holy Communion. In Christ you are holy, innocent and blessed.

            You may or may not be giving something up for Lent or adding something like Bible reading and prayer; that is all a part of your Christian freedom. But I call on all of you to give up sin for Lent.  Give up sin because you are a baptized child of God.  Remain steadfast in the truth of God’s word.  Be genuine to your “born-again in water and Spirit” identity.  Give up sin for Lent.  And, come to think of it, just like every Sunday is a little Easter and a little Epiphany, living a penitential life of sorrow and repentance shouldn’t just be for Lent.  Penitence is Christian life every day of the year.  Every day die to sin and rise to new life in Christ because you are a baptized child of God.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.