“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'”-Matthew 16:24-25 (NASB)
It is officially the Lenten season. You may have noticed people with the marks on their foreheads due to Ash Wednesday and you were wondering if they knew it was there.You also might have seen social media posts of all the things people are giving up for the next 40 days.
Or, if you’re like me, you know it’s Lent because there is more chocolate available and Filet-O-Fish ( a McDonald’s specialty) has replaced the Bic Mac on the billboards.
No matter how you know it’s Lent, you know people give something up during this time. However, the bigger question in my opinion is, do you know what to embrace for Lent?
First, let’s think f the day that kicks off Lent, Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a time of reflection. It is a time for people to think and consider their mortality, but also be drawn to repentance. When the ashes are placed on the forehead, people should be thinking about the idea that their body will not enter eternity, but their soul will. Their body will decompose and return to the dirt, or ash, when their life on earth is over.The repentance comes when they accept the fact that the only way to eternity is through accepting and believing in the Son of God and His sacrifice for all.
Ultimately, Lent is a time to humble ourselves, slow down, focus, and seek God in our time of discomfort. That’s a big hint too, whatever you give up, should make you uncomfortable. Choosing to give up raspberry lemonade, when you haven’t had that drink since you were 10 does not work.
Giving something up is a way for a person to remember the sacrifice and anguish Christ went through prior to the resurrection. It may be a significantly smaller sacrifice, but it is still a sacrifice nonetheless.
Sacrificing something leads us to something greater than ourselves, which is far more important than doing an endurance challenge for 40 days.
So, we talked about giving something up, but what do we embrace during this season?
We were given freedom through the sacrifice of Jesus. The ashes lead us to the Son who came to break the chains of captivity. With Lent we embrace His sacrifice and we learn how it applies to us even more.
When Jesus commanded that we must deny ourselves to follow Him, sacrifice was at the center. We have to be able to sacrifice our desires for His.
Yet, after His command, He delivered a promise. When we sacrifice ourselves for Him, we will live life fully.
Liberation comes when we no longer live for pleasing ourselves and we live for pleasing God.
When we strive to please ourselves, we will never be satisfied. However, as John Piper would say, God is most satisfied, when we are most satisfied in Him (that’s a rough translation). When our satisfaction is found in Jesus, then we have nothing more to be satisfied in. He is enough!
That is liberating. That breaks chains. That is Lent.
If you practice Lent, may you embrace freedom in the sacrifice. If you do not, may you continue to embrace the liberation of from death found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Peace and blessings friends.
QUESTION: How much thought have you put into your sacrifice for Lent?