Before Socrates, however, King David understood this need for self-examination.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 NRSV
The examination that Lent calls for, however, is not with an eye toward self-improvement, but rather to self-abasement. The examination – the life assessment – that Lent calls us to is with an eye to discovering sin in our lives. It is a plea to God to “shine his searchlight” into our hearts and minds to make us aware of anything in our lives that is not pleasing to Him, with the confidence that God will forgive sin. As the ancient Hebrews made their way to Jerusalem for the annual feasts of worship, they would sing Psalm 130 as a reminder of both their sinfulness and the forgiveness of God.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be feared.
Psalm 130:1-4 NRSV
These two truths – our need for forgiveness and God’s willingness to forgive – are also expressed in the collect for the first Sunday of Lent in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty and Everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Forgiving the sins of all who are penitent. Making in us new and contrite hearts. This is the focus of the Lenten season. Judson Van Deventer penned a hymn that leads us to penitence and contriteness of heart – I Surrender All.
All to Jesus I surrender; all to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender; humbly at His feet I bow.
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender; make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit, truly know that Thou art mine.
As God the Holy Spirit reveals sin in our lives, our first step is to come into agreement with God – that He is right – that we have sinned against God. This agreement with God is called confession and is followed by repentance – an active turning away from that which is sinful by changing both our mind and our behavior. As the church father Cyprian admonished:
Let us turn to the Lord with our whole mind, and expressing repentance for our sin with true grief, let us implore God’s mercy . . . He says, “Return to me with all your hearts, in fasting and in weeping, and in mourning, and rend your hearts, not your garments.” Let us return to the Lord with a whole heart . . .
I think this is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote:
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:24 NRSV
All to Jesus I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee.
Fill me with Thy love and power; let Thy blessing fall on me.
All to Jesus I surrender; now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation! Glory, glory to His name!
Examining our lives. Confessing our sins in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Repenting of our sin and yielding our lives completely to God. This is the invitation of the season of Lent.
I surrender all. I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
Music from SmallChurchMusic.com.
To subscribe and receive A SONG TO THE LORD in your email, just follow this link. And if you are interested in other devotional writings by Rusty Rabon, click here. T. M. Moore and Rusty Rabon host THE AILBE PODCAST, which you can find here. Rusty also hosts a Zoom book reading program called READING GREAT BOOKS five nights each week (Thursdays through Mondays). The Zoom link and current book information is available here.