Seven: Finding Freedom from the Darkness Within

A Lenten sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins

Why the Seven Deadly Sins?

Once there was a man named Evagrius who lived a long time ago in Egypt. He and a group of his friends were very committed to Jesus and they longed to live holy lives free from sin. So they decided to move out into the desert and live in primitive lodgings so they could get far away from the temptations and wickedness of the world and be closer to God. It was a noble idea.

But what do you suppose they found? Unfortunately, the evil they were trying to escape came along with them, carried in the tightly sealed containers of their own hearts. In this isolated, pure ascetic community, Evagrius and his friends discovered the darkness of their own sinful desires and inclinations. They couldn’t get away from what was “out there,” because they discovered it was “in here.” It was Evagrius who first wrote about the “Seven Deadly Sins,” which would go on to be a formative way the church has thought about sin for 1500 years.

In February we leave the season of Christmas and Ephiphany and enter into the season of Lent.  Lent is the period of the year in which we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Good Friday and Easter.  Traditionally, Lent is also a time that we especially focus on examining our hearts, confessing our sins, and reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ death for us. Think of it as sort of “Spring cleaning” of the soul; you need to sweep and clean all year round, but you might have a concentrated focus on deep cleaning at special times of the year.

It’s vital that we do this, family. So far this year we have been looking at the exciting story of the book of Acts, and seeing how Jesus calls us to join him in his mission to redeem the world by his grace and restore all things. This is indeed true! As our mission statement proclaims, we are called to “love and transform the world through Jesus Christ.” But even as we rise to the desire to join Jesus in his transformative mission, we must keep in mind that Jesus has another group he is out to transform: us. The world is not just “out there”- it is in us.

With that truth in mind, we are beginning new sermon series this Sunday on the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Envy, Anger, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony and Lust. A couple of factors make this traditional accounting of sins “deadly.” One is that our society has tended to glamorize these sins and even made them into virtues. But the other thing that makes them so deadly is how unspectacular they are. These are not horrible and outlandish sins of maniacs as portrayed in the movie “Seven.” These are incredibly ordinary, pervasive propensities that are so rooted in our nature that we tend to not even notice them. Or if we do, we may rationalize them, such as calling greed “healthy ambition” or gluttony “a deserved reward.” These sins are the roots of so many other distortions that prevent us from living as the people Jesus died to make us become.

So yes, we are on mission with Jesus led by the Spirit. Exciting times are ahead! But let’s slow down a bit during Lent and let Jesus do some surgery on our souls. Let’s ask him what darkness may be hiding in our hearts that we may be ignoring or rationalizing. And let’s open ourselves up to his transforming love.

--Corey Widmer

STUDY GUIDES for each sermon will be available on Tuesday morning, along with audio, located by clicking the banner image on the homepage, or going to the Learn/Sermons page.  We encourage all small groups to use these resources to foster self-examination in community in addition to privately, and as a way for our whole church to be participating in this season of preparation together.

Join the Conversation

Looking beyond our walls, our sister congregations, Christ Presbyterian and City Church, are joining us in this series on the Seven Deadly Sins, partners with us in repentance and renewal, as well as in sharing the gospel.  

Pastors Corey Widmer, Kevin Germer, and Erik Bonkovsky are hosting a collaborative blog where they and readers can contribute additional thoughts and responses to the scriptures and sermons we'll hear during lent.  If you'd like to join that conversation, click below.

Series Schedule

February 15 -- From Pride to HumilityProverbs 16:18,  Corey Widmer

February 22 -- From Greed to Generosity: Proverbs 28:25,  Corey Widmer

March 1 -- Sanctification Takes Practice: Colossians 3:12-25, James K. A. Smith (a one-week break in our series)

March 8 -- From Sloth to Stewardship: Proverbs 13:4, Rick Hutton

March 15 -- From Gluttony to Gratitude: Proverbs 23:20, Corey Widmer

March 22 -- From Envy to Contentment: Proverbs 14:30, Richard Haney

March 29 (Palm Sunday) -- From Anger to PeaceProverbs 19:11, Corey Widmer

April 2 (Maundy Thursday) -- From Lust to LoveProverbs 11:6, Corey Widmer**

April 7 (Easter Sunday) -- From Death to Life, Corey Widmer

**The Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday) service dealt forthrightly with lust, one of the most pervasive and perhaps the most obviously destructive of the deadly sins. Parents should consider how and when to engage their children in this conversation. 

Click for a larger image

above: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, ca. 1500, by Hieronymus Bosch. Oil on wood, 47" x 59"

The images we'll be using throughout this sermon series come from an unusual painted table top created by Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch (or his most talented student) around the year 1500, only a few years before Martin Luther launched the reformation, and during a time when many were appalled and convicted about the corruption and moral decay both within and outside the Church.  Bosch, himself, frequently painted works that put human sin and folly on full display--along with images of sin's eternal consequences--as admonitions to turn from sin to the righteousness and salvation of Christ.  Notably, Bosch pictured the deadly sins in scenes from everyday life, including that of people who are self-consciously religious. Done in oils on wood, it was eventually purchased by King Philip II of Spain for the monastery of El Escorial north of Madrid, where its unusual format allowed viewers to move all the way around it to contemplate its visual contents--an artistic invitation to self-examination and repentance.

The Seven Sins are shown on the central disc, with wrath at the bottom and then, moving clockwise, envy, greed, sloth, lust, and pride.  The four smaller circles show scenes of "Death of the Sinner", "Judgment," "Hell," and "Glory." Finally, the two banners cite Deuteronomy 32: 28-29, with "For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them," above, and "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" below. At the center--the "pupil" of he eye of God--is the risen Christ along with the admonition "Beware, beware, God sees."

Details and comments on iconography will be included with the Prepare for Worship posts for each sermon and with each sermon audio.  For additional views, see the wikipedia article here, and for much more on the history and provenance of the painting, click here.