These 40 days should not be a time of ritualized practice, but a time of true sacrifice and conviction.
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This fateful truth within Genesis 3:19 is the way we begin the season of Lent. It serves as a humble reminder to humankind that despite all of the triumphs we accomplish in this life — the fortunes we find, the good deeds we perform — all of them will fade away.
Without the Lord, what good can we possibly offer to this dying world? What amount of work can equate to what he did for humanity as he hung on that tree, completely exposed, beaten and thirsty?
Our answer is found in Isaiah 64:6: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment.”
The truth is, without God we amount to nothing.
The idea that there is absolutely nothing I can do to repay the Lord for what he has done for me is astounding. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that there is no parochial duty I can perform, no mantra I can repeat, no prayer I can offer to meet the standard he set by dying for me.
This truth may cause some to wonder, “Why should I try to repay God in the first place?” However, I posit that it should instead increase our awe of him and urge us to worship from the depths of our souls.
Personally, I was not raised to observe Lent. Going to a Pentecostal church meant that I was to worship differently than most Christians. We were the Holy Rollers. Not exactly the contemplative type. I enjoyed this style of worship and still love to partake in it, but in recent years, I’ve found that my own faith needed a good dose of routine reflection and sacrifice.
Many of us have decided to leave all meat, except for fish, out of our diet. Some may have decided to refrain from scrolling through Twitter and Instagram and instead turn through the pages of God’s Word. I have decided to avoid all drinks besides water, all sugary foods such as pancakes, donuts, cookies and ice cream, and to catch up on my year-long reading plan through the Bible.
Performing these actions have certainly proven to be sacrifices. Through them, I have learned that I have so much to offer the Lord but have often chosen to hold these things near and dear to my heart as opposed to him alone.
The $60 I spend on coffee each month can be 60 more dollars that I give as an offering to my local church. The wasted sugary calories I consume can be wholesome calories that provide me with the energy to do God’s will. The time that I, and 37 percent of our student body, spend each day doing nothing but streaming Netflix can be time spent with the Lord, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate his revealed Word.
These small sacrifices are steps toward a greater goal: sanctification.
The mission of everyone who calls themselves a Christian is to be more like Christ. We should be actively seeking out humility, courage, kindness and faithfulness in every season, not just Lent.
These 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday are reminders to serve God with our whole hearts. We are not called to offer a portion of our lives, but instead must be ready and willing to sacrifice our lives for the cause of Christ.
One of the great tools that recently convicted me is David Platt’s sermon, “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying Missions.” In this sermon, Pastor Platt tells the story of a missionary in Romania who underwent torture and interrogation.
After being kidnapped and turned into a receptacle of violent beatings and vigorous questioning, the missionary turned to his six oppressors and told them, “What is taking place here is not an encounter between you and me. My God is teaching me a lesson through you … you will only do to me what God wants you to do and you will not go one inch further because you are only an instrument of my Lord.” Platt continued to proclaim that the missionary only saw those six interrogators as his Father’s puppets.
It is an outrageous thought to ponder — that I may groan about my own sacrifices while others are losing their lives for Christ. Giving up certain foods or spending more time with him is the least we can do to offer God praise.
Let us not only worship him with our actions in this season, but in spirit and in truth in every season.