I didn’t have to think very long about which of the seven serious sins should go with Palm Sunday. The chief priests and the Pharisees, all the religious leaders envied Jesus’ popularity and power, His authority and influence. People were flocking to Him. In the face of Jesus’ greatest miracle, raising Lazarus after being dead for four days, their response was envy and jealousy and unbelief. Such is the power of sin in our hearts to resist clear evidence and turn us away from the truth and into evil. Notice their motive. “If we don’t stop Jesus He will disrupt everything, we will lose our place and our nation. If we don’t bring Him down, He will bring us down.” They disguised their sin by saying they were looking out for everyone’s good, preserving the social and national order. Their love for the public good covered their hatred of Jesus. We see how strong the sin of envy can be when they were compelled to act against someone who had done them no wrong. Lazarus had done nothing wrong to anyone. He was just living, but his very existence was enough to drive them into a frenzy of envy and hatred. Three years of pent up frustration and envy are coming to a head. They are tired of being in Jesus’ shadow, they despise Him. Everything He did was successful, good, praised. It galled them to see their enemy triumphing. “Look, the world has gone after him.” Envy exaggerates. The religious leaders didn’t just want what Jesus had, they didn’t want Him to have it. They wanted Him dead.
Lent is a penitential season when some Christians take stock of their spiritual lives. Think about how a doctor asks us questions about our diet, what we eat and drink, habits like smoking, caffeine and alcohol intake, do we exercise. We don’t mind him asking too much, it’s a bit personal but we know he is asking because he cares about our health and he is probing to find areas of concern and suggest steps to improve. But what about when the pastor asks about our spiritual health, what if he raised a series of seven serious spiritual concerns, how would we respond to that kind of probing? My desire in our series on seven serious sins is our spiritual health and well-being. We can’t grow in love and faith and fruitfulness when there are obstacles and hurdles in the way. So we are knocking down seven of those this Lent. Are we humble and open to the sanctifying work of the Spirit to open our eyes and expose the iniquity in our hearts. My prayer this Lent is this will be for us a path to forgiveness and freedom and joy.
Well, friends, you are in for a treat this morning. I have an awesome sermon, one of my best efforts, no brag just fact. What can I say, when you’re as good as I am, it’s hard to be humble. And here is where you start running for the doors to avoid the lightning strike. Gregory the Great said pride is the root sin, the poisonous root from which all the rest grow. Jonathan Edwards called it “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all sins.” C.S. Lewis called it the great sin and said all the other sins are fleabites in comparison. Calvin begins his comments on this passage saying simply, “there is no more deadly disease than pride,” it’s so deeply rooted in us that it’s almost impossible to root out. Of the seven things God hates pride is the first sin listed in Proverbs 6. Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. We are starting this morning with the deadliest of the deadly serious sins.
Last week on Cadet’s Sunday we talked about getting into the game and running the race and fighting the good fight of faith. We talked about setting joy before us as the goal and following Jesus and the great cloud of saints to that reward. We talked about how the race is made harder by obstacles in our way, and weights and baggage that we carry and sin that clings so tightly to us. I announced then that we are going to spend the next couple of months doing this very thing, putting off weights, shedding a few pounds, to help us run the race better, with greater hope for greater joy. We are going to look at seven serious weights or obstacles, seven serious sins. What I really want to talk to you about is the joy that is set before us. I want to talk about the pleasure that is ours in God through Christ, kept in heaven for us. I want to talk about the grace that is ours because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. But we can’t know the joy until we know the sin that clings so tightly to us and we throw off its weight. I take up this topic of the seven serious sins to fight for and advocate for our joy. Our best pleasure and our greatest joy will only be found in Christ and in the paths of righteousness and holiness. As our text says, so as your brother, I am calling us to examine our hearts to see if there is any secret or hidden or overlooked sin in us and to turn to the living God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Until we really grasp our sinfulness, we cannot grasp how great is God’s love and grace and forgiveness and salvation. Everything we hold dear in our Christian faith depends on our understanding our sinful hearts.