Lent will soon be over, for which the children will be most pleased. Matty gave up drinking juice in an attempt to train himself to drink more water. Molly gave up candy. I gave up the usual wine, and attempted to begin an exercise regimen, as I seek to develop more of the self control that I so dearly want. This Lenten season has been enlightening for me. It came in a way that I would not have expected, but in the daily devotions I do with the children, I learned something new / old, simple / profound. We are currently going through Training Hearts, Teaching Minds and we came to the catechism question that says, "What is sinful about man's sinful condition?" The answer says:
The sinfulness of that fallen condition is twofold. First in what is commonly called original sin, there is the guilt of Adam's first sin with its lack of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature. Second are all the specific acts of disobedience that come from original sin.
I looked up from the book to see four brown eyes blinking at me with a quizzical "huh?" Thankfully, the text of the devotional explained it saying, "...not only do we do things that are sinful, we are sinful." Right. That was explained to us with the gospel, the thing that propelled us to the altar, to get ourselves right with God, the whole bit...except I never really got the part that I am sinful. I understood clearly that I am a sinner because I sin. I just never fully grasped the understanding that everything in me is inclined to sin and without God's grace, I cannot please him. This is not because I exited the womb slashing and burning and sinning all over the place. It was that my heart, from the outset, was bent on turning away from God and setting myself and any number of idols in that place where He alone should be--Lord of All. I get it! (At least today I do.) It's one of those "got it" moments when I understand on a molecular level--not just in my mind, but a "know in my knower" kind of feeling. Of course on a logical level I could have explained this to any Joe on the street at any point, I mean after all, I've been a Christian since I could sit upright. But today, I know.
So all through lent, I watched the children work very hard at finding substitutes for what they lacked. Matty drank more milk, or lemon water--anything with a little flavor to help curb his craving for juice and flavored drinks. Molly's constant question was, "Do cookies count as candy? Does cake count as candy? Do brownies count as candy?" It was the onset of legalism in its purest form--I shall strive in my flesh not to sin against God by messing up, and in so doing will set up lots of little idols in the place of sacrifice. I saw how the desire for something we ought not have grows so strong in us when we are denied that thing. It is impossible for us to do otherwise, except by the transformation of grace in our lives--the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:3 says, "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." I was an object of wrath, incapable of pleasing God without taking upon myself the nature of his Son, the only one who was born sinless and lived a sinless life, yet paid the price for the sin of mankind. But now when He sees me, he sees something completely different--an object of grace and mercy--so the rest of that passage makes sense:
Ephesians 2:4-9 "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."