I used to think only those of a certain denomination celebrated the Lenten season by abstaining from something loved for 40 days. And then several years ago I went to an Ash Wednesday service and left with a garden marker that says Deny myself – Determination – Luke 9:23 – Lent 2006. The scripture reference says, If anyone desires to come after Me (Jesus is speaking), let him/her deny themselves and take up their cross (daily) and follow Me.
Wow! Deny myself? In this day and age of anything goes and if it feels good do it, denying oneself is fairly unheard of. What was Jesus saying here? I encourage you to read verses 24 through 26 in Luke 9, to see the rest of Jesus’ request. It is evident that Christ asked His followers to leave something behind or let that something be lost. His implication is if you lose it for Him, you will gain so much more through and from Him.
Back to denying self! Maybe there’s a certain habit in your life that needs to go. The experts say if you do or don’t do something consistently for 40 days it becomes habit. One year I gave up chocolate; one year candy of any kind – I am still thinking about this current season of self-denial. But, this year I am considering more on the lines of attitude and actions of character, such as the following:
Laying down religious rituals and rules and seeking, with my whole heart, a close relationship with Jesus Christ. I do not consider myself bound by religious rules but there are some remnants of my childhood church experience.
What about trading terror for trust? How many of us were taught if you do such and such, God will punish you in a terrible way? We’ve learned to be terrified of God. That, my friends, is the last thing God want us to be.
Here’s a fabulous exchange – from fear to faith. Instead of being afraid of the Lord, receive the measure of faith He gives and live in it (Romans 12:3).
Consider this, conviction rather than condemnation. Christ came to give us life in abundance (John 10:10b); Satan’s job is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a). Satan enjoys condemning us with a harsh thought that results in great feelings of guilt. But, Holy Spirit comes along with conviction, convincing us that whatever the wrong was, the Lord Himself is ready to hear our confession and offer forgiveness, perfect forgiveness. We might remember the wrong but the God of the Universe will wipe it away forever once it is confessed and repented of.
And, finally, quit using formulas to get points with the Lord. If I do this, this and that, He will be happy with me. Wrong! Do you want to know what Almighty God really and truly wants from us? Friendship, not formulas. And, as Jennifer Dukes Lee says, WE ARE PREAPPROVED!
I hope these words help you as you begin this season of Lent – these 40 days mark Jesus Christ’s final days walking on earth as God-Man, he is walking toward the cross, the greatest act of self-denial, He is about to give His ALL, His life for ours. That truth causes me to want to, not have to, give Him my trust, to receive His conviction, to seek friendship and relationship with Him, and to not only live in the measure of faith He has given me, but to pursue His fullness in my life (Ephesians 4:13).
Until next time, I remain Rejoicing in Hope!
Today, Wednesday, I’m linking up over here: