I grew up participating in Lent.
My parents never “made me” give up anything for Lent. They told me what they were going to give up, and encouraged me to think about giving something up too.
We ate fish or pancakes on Friday nights, and on Good Friday we fasted until dinner time.
Being the over achiever that I was (am), I embraced the forty days with zeal to be the best “Lent-follower” I could be. I would show everyone my holiness and in the process score some big points with God. I would be accepted and loved. He would be proud of me.
The problem was, I always failed.
Once I could drive, I ended up in the McDonald’s drive thru on Good Friday on my way home from school. (Remember, we fasted until dinner…) I was so hungry. I appeased my conscience by ordering the Filet-O-Fish instead of a cheeseburger.
But my dad still discovered the evidence.
No offense to my parents or my church…I just did not get it.
Instead of giving out of gratitude for my Savior, I was adhering to a list of do’s and don’ts…white knuckling it until Easter morning when I could eat dessert again.
I think many Christians do this. We either “give something up” for Lent because we are looking to earn acceptance from God or we feel “we should.” Guilt motivates us but quickly condemns us.
I would even go so far to say we focus our eyes on the cross (which, yes, is the wondrous act to atone for our sins) but forget about the victory that lies beyond it.
Easter is the great pinnacle of our faith because of the EMPTY TOMB.
Victory over death. Victory over sin. Victory that is available in this life and the one to come because Jesus rose from the grave.
Lent really IS the build up, the anticipation, the remembering, the celebrating of LIFE we have because of the resurrection.
Lent has become a celebration for me twenty years later.
Only because He rescued me at 18 years old from my sin. His grace continues to transform my heart to understand and desire the things of Him. I have a relationship with Him established not by my worth, but completely on His holiness.
When I remember who I once was and where I came from, I can’t help but celebrate from the depths of my soul the joy I have in His death and resurrection.
His love has given me a new set of eyes to see things that once were considered burdensome to see as practices of beauty and remembrance.
Lent is a practice of “fixing your eyes” on Jesus this time of year.
Just as we prepared our hearts at Christmas together to anticipate the birth of Jesus, let us now celebrate the victory and freedom we have through Christ by preparing our hearts for Easter!
This Wednesday, we will gather some ashes from our fireplace.
We will open our Bible to Isaiah 61:1-3. We will follow up with reading the parallel verses in Luke 4:16-21 where Jesus declared He had come to fulfill these scriptures.
We will make a cross on our foreheads not because we are mourning, but because Jesus “bestows on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”
And we will celebrate for forty days that:
WE ARE NOT SLAVES ANYMORE BUT FREE IN CHRIST.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
JESUS IS ALL THAT WE NEED. WE LIVE WITH AN ABUNDANCE OF HIM!
Whether I choose to abstain from something these next forty days or choose to do more of something, I’m choosing to trust in His provision. I can say “no” or “yes” with self control because it reminds me that Christ is always ENOUGH.
“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Psalm 145:16
HE LOVES US PERFECTLY.
There is nothing I can do to change His love for me. Whether I fail or I do good…
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
It is this perfect love that motivates me to worship. It moves me to respond.
These next 40 days will be a celebration of all the victories we have in Christ.
We will be choosing to “give something up,” or “to do more of something” because we know it will drive us to “fix our eyes” on Him.
The act of saying “No,” or “Yes,” will lead us to depend on the One who came to establish a “new” way of doing things. A way that leads to holiness based on Jesus and not our own perfection. A perfect love that gives us the freedom to fail in the process. And always ending with the promise of more of Him.
Pray and ask the Lord to show you what you can “give” as an act of worship to Him.
Is there a stronghold in your heart that you need to give to Him? Maybe it’s an act of hiding more of God’s Word in your heart. Braving the step of sharing with someone else. Praying and confessing.
Is there an act of obedience you can give by walking by faith? Maybe it’s forgiving someone who has hurt you. Loving your husband well. Giving up that habit. Cleaning out that closet. Loving that unbelieving friend. Loving BIG those around you.
Wouldn’t it be beautiful to wake up Easter morning with the excitement of Christmas?
To spend this Lenten season counting down the days with great anticipation because the victory is ours through Christ?
Oh, I pray we will not miss what God has for us.
Dear friends, won’t you join us?
(More to come this week about how we are responding as a family this Easter. Stay tuned!)