Warning: This post may step on some toes, but as my husband’s favorite seminary professor used to say, “I will try not to scuff your shoes.”
This week on Wednesday marks the first day of the Lenten season in which many Christians will give up something until Easter. For many the premise is to deny yourself something you enjoy as a means of sacrifice in rememberance of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. Or, for some it is abstaining from a sin with the hope of eradicating it from your life permanently.
Perhaps there are other reasons, but for what it’s worth here are my thoughts on the subject…
Remembering Christ’s sacrifice is necessary at all times for the gospel to take root in our hearts and drive us to worship. To purposefully focus on it during Lent is great…
But is this where our hearts really go?
To me, it seems that instead of really using the Lenten time to think more on Christ, we use it to better ourselves by adapting new healthy habits. While it takes discipline to give-up or add-in whatever it is, how is what we are doing for Jesus? Things like losing weight (no sugar, carbs, chocolates), being more healthy (gluten-free, fitness-focused) spending more time with family (no Facebook, twitter, texting) or saving money (no online shopping, frivolous spending).
All good things, but are we thinking more about Christ or accomplishing our own goals with a spiritual spin?
It all just seems so me-focused. Even the sacrifice part… the whole point of the gospel is His amazing love that required His perfect sacrifice in life and in death so that we could be set free. Free from our sins, free from our own effort and works, free to know Him for all eternity.
We can’t not sin and can never be perfect so understanding that His sacrifice completely atoned for all our sins should lead us to our knees in humble adoration and acknowledgment that there is nothing we did or can do to earn His grace.
If He doesn’t require our sacrifice is it for Him or to make us feel better about ourselves through our effort?
And though we are called to fight sin, even not sinning is by His grace and not our own good effort. And when we fail, there is still His unchanging favor and grace. And when we succeed, it is His grace. He does not love us any more or any less.
It is because of this amazing grace I do seek to live a life glorifying and pleasing to Him. On the contrary, I think too often we are driven to sacrifice, obedience and trying to live sin-free out of duty, hope of reward or fear of punishment. Living this way is not gospel freedom, but bondage to our own “good” works.
So this Lenten season, I propose instead of “giving up” for your benefit under the guise of being a good Christian, focus on Him.
Ask Him to help you spend time in His Word, to live a life of confession and repentance, too reveal your “idols”, to grow your faith where you aren’t believing the gospel and to find freedom in Him. As He becomes greater and this becomes the focus, you will be made more willing to sacrifice as you are called to love and serve others.
Care to comment? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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