3/3: Lent 2019
I don’t know how many of you have gone out and downloaded a copy of the Church Season’s booklet. But please make sure that you download a copy of the booklet onto your device and follow along. Especially in these coming weeks of Lent which spans Wednesday, March 6- Saturday, April 20.
You are going to find that it really is a great resource such as daily Bible readings and devotionals that you can follow along with. They also will be in line with the sermons for each Sunday. So make sure that you hit up the church website and grab a copy. Let’s take some time right now for everyone to do it right now.
Lent, what is it?For most of us here, you probably imagine what the Roman Catholics do. On Wednesday, they will go to mass for a special service and they will come out with some ash markings on their foreheads. Maybe you have wondered what it was or maybe you have spoken with some of your Catholic friends about what it is that they are giving up for these 40 days. They exclude Sundays, so that takes you up to Easter.
Is that what Lent is though? It is most closely tied to the fasting in the wilderness Jesus had before being tempted by Satan. But is that really what it is all about? Well, partly yes. It is a time where traditionally the church would fast and deny self , not for denial’s sake or to prove anything or even to kick a bad habit. It was denial for the sake of trading lesser things for greater. So while we will be fasting individually together as a church, we first understand that it is not just to deny ourselves. It is to deny ourselves of specific desires as we grow earnestly in seeking Jesus.
And we do so with sacrifice. We deny ourself yes, but more than that we also take inventory. For those who have ever worked retail, you know what I am talking about and you probably hate those days. Where you go and count everything to make sure that you have your books in order. In the same way, we need to take inventory of what it is that we have stored in our lives. For some of us, it is going to be really hard. We have a lot of sin and idols that we need to get rid of. To quote from the Seasons booklet, “We embrace the pain and sorrow of Jesus, we turn away from our sin and toward the Savior.”
So, it is really more than just denial and fasting. It is a sanctifying act to grow in holiness.
Ultimately, Lent brings us to repentance and repentance produces renewed and grateful lives.
And it is odd isn’t it. To become truly joyful people, we focus on our debt! Our sin! Our wickedness! That is so backwards isn’t it? Why would anybody ever do that? Why is it that as a church are we committing ourselves every year as we go through this church season, willfully reminding us of our sins? No one does that in any other area of their life.
How many of us, when we fail at work, create a recurring annual meeting with all your co-workers so that you can reflect on your mistakes? OR when you fail your family, do you ask them to add it to the calendar? You know right between New Years, Valentines, and Birthdays, you put “The time that insert name here stole a piece of bubble gum.” No one does that! So why do we do that? And really it is not just one time a year, but having strong fellowship in your church you share with brothers and sisters
But for the believer, we have hope because we know that there is grace in Christ. But before we can ever get there, we first have to remember that there was a fall. That we actually do sin and that everything that we see is not as it should be. But there is an origin for this and it is found in Genesis 3.
1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Our day-to-day experience is permeated by the agonies of a Genesis 3 world. We see that the effects of the curse of sin is far reaching. What we know theologically as total depravity. There is nothing in this world and in our lives that has not been tainted by death and sin. This is the world we find we battle in weekly, daily, hourly, even every single second.
I do not know if you have ever though about this, but the story could have ended right there in the seventh verse. That could have been the end to a story we would have never been able to read because we ourselves would not be in existence. All of humanity could have ceased to exist! God said, “Do not eat of that tree for on that day you will die.” That seems pretty clear doesn’t it? They eat and death really is the result. An animal is killed to cover their sins and they experience a very real spiritual death and their physical death begins. It is by the sacrifice of the animal that they are covered. But this is not permanent in any way. They are tainted.
And ever since then, we all have been challenged and see it in everything the same exact question that Adam and Eve faced in the garden. The subtle whisper of, “Did God actually say?” and it haunts us.
And the ultimate effect of this is that we find ourselves pursuing lesser things, turning our gaze away from the beauty of God and toward the lesser glory of the created order and the desires of our sinful hearts.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
That is who we have become! We no longer understand the majesty of God, not truly, because if we did why would we go about squandering our lives binging on tv, sex, and craving after little idols. And that’s you! And I’m right there with you.
Reflect on your life and everything going on. Think about what you do, think, say, spend your time on and be honest. Do you really believe that any of those things are anywhere near the majesty of God?
In a more convicting sense, do you really believe that God does not see, hear, or know about those things? Too often, we live lives as though God is irrelevant and not in the picture and I want to remind you and Lent is a good reminder to each and everyone of us that we are just kids playing the mud. Fools for taking our eyes off of the Savior, towards sinfulness.
And like I said before, Lent brings us to repentance and repentance produces renewed and grateful lives.
In Lent, yes we understand that Christ suffered and symbolically we enter into this suffering, but we do so as a preparation for seeing the glory of the risen Lord Jesus. We reflect on our fallen state and our ongoing need for a Savior.
Seasons Booklet- We have fallen short of God’s glory, and we all deserve the wages of sin (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). We are frail and subject to sin and suffering. We are dust, and to dust we shall return (Gen. 3:19).
During the season of Lent, through fasting and denying self, we identify with Christ and recognize that He alone has secured our redemption. We acknowledge that we still live in a fallen world, awaiting our final redemption from all sin and suffering.
That is the reality we all live in now. And so in this season of Lent, we self-reflect. Not to try and improve ourselves, we cannot! We self-reflect to cast off idols and sin. All sorts of sins. Rebellion to God, sexual immorality, lack of fellowship, disregarding the needs of our brothers, omission in obeying the Great Commission and more. We have traded obedience to God to worship the god of self or wealth or fame or pleasure.
Lent reminds us that there is a penalty for our sins, yes! But, and this is the best thing, it also reminds us of the rest of the story. Redemption. Because remember Lent brings us to repentance… and it does not stop there, repentance brings renewed and grateful lives.
When we repent from our sins, we turn to the glory of God not in thoughts. But with all that we have. Walking in sanctification.
John wrote about it in his first epistle
21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
It is this picture of preparation. We know that temptations will come and we are intent on keeping ourselves from it. We do not say, Oh God will do everything i’ll just live my life. We discipline ourselves to keep from these little things. How?
14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.
4 since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
It is what we read in Hebrews 12
1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
We turn to Christ! We see real majesty and glory. We cast off our sins and we run this race. And I want you to think about that phrase for a moment. We run the race. You are not running alone. There are others with you, your brothers and sisters here at Overflow are running with you so that when they see you fall, and you will fall, but we will pick you up. Don’t resist it, don’t fight it. Commit yourself to the work. Run the race.
Lent brings us to repentance and repentance produces renewed and grateful lives.
And that is why we need to remind ourselves of the Gospel. Why seasons such as lent can be a sanctifying practice, but in and of itself, it has no power to redeem or sanctify anyone. But it is useful for us to remember, how we got here and understand that we truly are in a battle. That we live in a world that will constantly ask us, “Did God really say?”. And we can reply back, Yes, He did.
And no matter the cost, I will follow Him. And that is not a burden. It is not even a shameful thing as we reflect on our sins and we deny our flesh. Because Lent brings us to repentance and repentance produces renewed and grateful lives. Let’s Pray.
SUGGESTED FAST: FOOD
Consider fasting from lunch this week and spending that hour in prayer, reading the Word or praising the Lord through music. Or choose a specific type of food—candy, soda, meat, etc.—to fast from for the week. Or choose one day to fast from dawn until dusk, again spending the time you’d usually be eating to sit in God’s presence.