Christ Died for Our Sins According to the Scriptures—Day Twenty-Eight: Two Observations and a Confession

A few days ago I contributed a post about the Noah movie. In the post I talked about one particularly intriguing critique I had read about the movie, and I remarked that even though I had previously thought I was going to wait to watch the movie till it came out on DVD, the critique had made me want to see it earlier. So I said I was going to try to see the movie in the next two or three days, and then report back on the blog with regard to my assessment of the movie and of this particular critique. However, before I actually see the movie (hopefully, this coming Monday) and report back, I need to make two observations and a confession.

Observation #1 – Since Ash Wednesday, the only posts I have put up on the blog, other than the one on the Noah movie, have had to do with Lent. It had been my intention to post every day, but, alas, with the pressures of the semester, I did not make that goal. Through yesterday, I had made eight posts under the rubric, “Christ Died for Our Sins According to the Scriptures,” and four posts for the Sundays of Lent, days which do not actually figure in the enumeration of the forty days of Lent, and which I put under the heading, “The Resurrection of Christ.” So, there have been eight posts focusing on the suffering and death of Christ, and four posts on the resurrection. By far, the most hits any of the posts have gotten during this period has been the one on the Noah movie. I don’t know for sure what this says, but in my own mind, I can’t help but wonder if this in any ways reflects a bit of evangelical attention deficit disorder. During that time of year when our thoughts should be particularly focused on the passion and death of our Savior, how easy it is to be distracted by the sensational.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.

What, could you not keep watch with me one hour?

Confession – When I started this blog on Ash Wednesday, I had resolved in my own mind that the only thing I was going to post on during this Lenten period was the passion and death of Christ. “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” No posts on hermeneutical theory. No posts on biblical theology per se. No posts on homosexuality. No posts on hot-button issues. I was giving these up for Lent. And then that Noah movie came along—and that critique. Then my own ADD kicked in. I gave in to distraction. I gave in to temptation. The post, in itself, was not wrong. But I had resolved. So, I’m going to see the movie on Monday. But I won’t be posting on it till after Lent and Easter.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.

What, could you not keep watch with me one hour?

Observation #2 – There is a lot of daily devotional Lenten literature out there in the form of blogs, internet sites, books, booklets, daily emails straight to your computer, etc. Much of it is very good. But quite a lot of it also troubles me, because it seems to take this form: (1) A passage from one of the gospels which may or may not be related to the sufferings and death of Christ; (2) Perhaps a couple of quick sentences of explanation; (3) Maybe a poem or hymn that seems to be at least somewhat loosely related to the passage; (4) And then comes the heart of the devotional: how this all relates to your life. The devotional turns into “what this means to you” and “how you can use this to help you in all the problems you are dealing with,” rather than focusing on what this meant to Christ, and of the love, worship, and devotion toward Christ which should be engendered by meditation on his great sacrifice for us. To be sure, there are practical applications to be made in our lives from the death of Christ. But it seems to me that, too often, much of the devotional Lenten literature surrenders to the “tyranny of the pragmatic,” rather than engaging in a “royal waste of time,” worshiping and entering into a deliberate and sustained meditation on what Christ’s experience meant, first of all, for Christ himself, and then only afterward, going on to make practical application beyond that of worship itself. Would you agree? Disagree?

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.

What, could you not keep watch with me one hour?

Jerry Shepherd
Lent
April 5, 2014

6 thoughts on “Christ Died for Our Sins According to the Scriptures—Day Twenty-Eight: Two Observations and a Confession

  1. It occurs to me that not only is your second observation correct, it applies not only to most Lenten devotional material in the evangelical world, but also to many Good Friday sermons and services in the evangelical world.

    In fact, even as I think about it now, it applies to most devotional material and worship in the evangelical world. Why is devotion not an adequate application for a devotional?

    I wish that, at least sometimes, my heart were stirred by the theme of Christ’s nobility as much as by the theme of how to get through next week… Indeed, I need to know how to better express my love for my neighbour, but please not at the expense of being moved to express my love for my Saviour who calls me friend.

    • Very good reflections, Eric. Indeed, it seems that more and more, devotional literature for Christians has been reduced to “what’s in it for me?” rather than promoting our vital union with Christ. Thanks.

    • Hi Pastor Samuel. The word “lent” comes from a word that means “spring,” and became the name which Christians used to refer to their preparatory time for the celebration of Easter, which came in the spring of the year, to distinguish it from Advent which came during winter. As far as the origins are concerned, we know that very early, at least as early as the second century AD, Christians started the practice of fasting a few days before their special annual celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Over time, Lent began to take on a number of additional elements. But the main idea was for Christians, as a corporate body, to focus on the passion, suffering, and death of Christ. Eventually, churches extended this preparatory time to 40 days, probably as being representative of Christ’s forty days in the wilderness, which was itself anticipatory of Christ’s passion. Lent, as such, is not in Scripture. But, of course, there is nothing wrong with denominations or individual congregations adopting practices which would glorify God, and promote devotion toward, and union with, Christ.

  2. With respect to Ob #2 – for my part, I wouldn’t worry, since yours is actually the only Lenten devotional (if we can call it that) that I am following :-)

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