Last Wednesday we had the opportunity to attend another Lenten service offered at the Lutheran Church near us.
They are doing a series based on lyrics of old hymns and the text of the sermon that evening was from When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts.
Someone new to the faith or church life might recognize some of the lyrics from the newer rendition by Chris Tomlin that is entitled The Wonderful Cross.
Both versions of this beautiful hymn of the Church contain the same first verse and it was these words that were the focus of the pastors teaching.
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss…
and pour contempt on all my pride.Isaac Watts
For it is with our contemplation of the what the Cross meant for Jesus and for God and for us that we realize how contemptible our pride really is.
As we explored the life of Israel as they longed to be like everyone else and wanted an earthly king, it hit close to home in our day and age.
The leadership after Samuel was faulty and flawed, filled with corruption.
The culture around the Israelites was attractive and offered comforts and pleasures that were appealing to their appetites.
They had become distant from God and enamored with what others had and they wanted to be like everyone else.
They wanted to fit in and have the options available to them that they saw other nations had access to possessing.
And in their minds, the answer was a king.
It was appealing to them to be part of a kingdom they could see with their eyes and touch with their hands and that others would recognize as legitimate.
It’s hard to follow the leadership of an unseen God who is not acknowledged and to be a people who are not of this world, isn’t it?
The pastor pointed out that we can relate to that in our own nation.
He questioned us with this thought:
How many candidates would run on a platform of godly principles and being a person who seeks God’s wisdom and discernment and direction for our nation as the entire basis for why we should vote for him or her?
And if someone did, what are the chances he or she would be elected?
Slim to none, right?
But we who follow Christ will not answer for our culture or our government.
We each one stand before God based on how we lived within both of those parameters.
One of the quotes I jotted down in my notes from the sermon was this:
“Lots of culture and very little devotion to God is the battle we are fighting in America.”Pastor Eric Trickey, St Paul’s Lutheran Church
The challenge is not how we adapt to the culture.
The challenge is not how loud we make our protest against the government or the culture.
The challenge for you and for me is how we will look deeply down inside our own souls and find the places where pride has formed in us…where we are either cherishing our sin or looking with disdain on the sins of others.
Where we are seething because we don’t deserve the way we are being treated or we are preening because we know we would never do as that one over there does.
Where we have rejected God’s rule over us and have gone our own way.
And then we must drag our pride in who we are, what we have, what we do or don’t do wide out into the open area at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ and pour out all of our contempt on THAT ugliness.
We must be responsible for our own path of repentance and returning, our own confession and seeking forgiveness and then turning away from what has been revealed as an area of pride in our own lives.
Our pride is worthless and deserves our scorn and it needs to die the ugly death it merits.
Heavenly Father, during this season of Lent I pray You would expose the deceptive ways I have allowed pride to take hold of my heart. As I have more opportunities during this time of year than any other to focus my attention of the Cross and to meditate on what the sacrifice of Jesus meant for all of us, I pray You would reveal to me the places where I continue to be more enamored with the world around me than Christ who saved me. Make my heart more like His every day. I ask in His Name and for His glory. Amen