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Fasting from overly focusing on Sin or our brokenness

This Sunday at St. James', Pastor Mary will continue to unpack the theme we're exploring for Lent this year, that of a negativity fast.

Pastor Mary will be referring to this commercial for DirectTV, you know, the one where the voiceover says, "When your cable is on the fritz, you get frustrated, when you get frustrated, your daughter imitates, when your daughter imitates, she gets thrown out of school..."

It's a clever and humorous commercial, but - as Pastor Mary will point out - it makes a rather serious theological point.

When we make a mistake, or when we fall into Sin, as we all do, there are a couple of different options available to us.

One option is to dwell on the mistake, or to focus on our sinfulness. To enter the downward spiral humorously outlined in the commercial: "Omigod-I-did-this-I-can't-believe, how-could-I, I-should-known-better-that-was-stupid-of-me-there-I-go-again..."

That's the option preferred and encouraged by Satan.

Why? Well, you notice how many first-person-singular pronouns are used when we take that route?, I, I, me, me, me...

Satan - the spiritual force that rebels against God, the principality and power that corrupts and destroys the creatures of God - has one agenda, and that is to "draw us from the love of God."

In other words, our Adversary's sole agenda is to keep us from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

And ironically, one of the most effective ways that the devil does that is to get us to overly focus on our sin and brokenness.

As I said in my Ash Wednesday sermon, did you ever stop and wonder why Jesus would tell us to pray a daily prayer in which we would pray daily for the forgiveness of our sins, unless he knew that we (being mortal, being human!) would in fact sin on a daily basis?!?

We're not God, and God knows that.

We sin...God knows that.

So get over it.

Why? Because someone who is constantly thinking about their own sinfulness...someone who is filled with self-loathing and low self-esteem and is always thinking of how unworthy they are is NO DIFFERENT than an ego-maniac, pride-filled person...because both people are focusing on themselves, their SELF, and not on God and on others.

Which brings us to the second option.

This is the God-preferred and God-encouraged option.

God wants our focus on what God has done for us, and then (freed by, and launched out of that forgiveness) what we can do for others.

You wanna blow your mind? Chew on this a while:

If what God did in Christ - redeemed humanity, justified (made right) sinners - was, as we believe, effective/efficacious for the sins of people who had not yet been born (future people, not just people living at the time or past people), then what God did in Christ was also effective/efficacious for the sins of present people that have not yet been committed (our future sins, not just our past or present sins).

In other words, our sins - all our sins - are already dealt with. Already put away "as far as the east is from the west." Already forgiven.*

Not because of anything we've done or not done to deserve this forgiveness but because of Grace. Because that's just the way God, being God, chooses to be.

(By the way, while I'm on this topic, may I make one thing clear? When we say "we are not worthy," as we do in the Rite I Prayer of Humble Access, it does NOT mean "we are worthless." To think that is borderline blasphemy and an insult to God: the truth is, we are created by God and we "are gloriously and wonderfully made." Rather, "we are not worthy" means this whole sin-forgiveness relationship between us and God has nothing to do with concepts of "worth" at all; it is not transactional, because God is a god whose "property" (essence, nature) is "always to have mercy.")

All this is rather deep theology for a Friday afternoon, I realize.

But I can't think of any more important words to give you as a reminder why a negativity fast should begin with ourselves.

When you start to hear those destructive, negative tapes play in your mind, when you start to obsess about yourself, stop.

And start listening to the Truth about yourself: That you are wonderfully made and even more wonderfully restored, forgiven, redeemed, set free: a new creation, dead to Sin and alive to God, in Christ.

*If you’d like the scriptural basis for what I am saying here, Romans Chapter 6 is a pretty good place to start. Careful, though! Talk about blowing your mind


  1. John, I like your thinking. I even liked your thoughts at 5 years old. This is your kindergarten teacher writing. I am proud of tthe man you have become. Your parents would be so proud as well. God bless. Ina Van Duyn

    1. Wow! Thank you, Mrs. Van Duyn; thank you for reading and for your wonderfully encouraging words.

  2. This is inspiring! you might as well have been talking directly to me, thank you, and thank you God.


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