I was shocked about a month ago when I saw robins huddled in a tree outside my study with 6 inches of snow on the ground. I thought they must be “seasonally challenged”, confused about what they are supposed to do. Mid-way through Lent I wonder if any of us who profess to be Christians are “seasonally challenged”, a bit confused by what we are doing in this season. Confusion can dampen our enthusiasm, so as we approach Easter I want to clarify two possible areas of confusion.
Do we understand the purpose of voluntary sacrifice?
For many people Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and restriction—Fasting, fish on Fridays, and forsaking delicacies. Why? I knew a man who praised his new diet that restricted his intake of certain foods. His goal was to lose weight.
Are we giving up something hoping to gain God’s approval or out of appreciation for His approval already gained through our faith in Christ’s death on the cross as the payment we deserve for our sins? Are we just going through the religious motions during this “season” or truly manifesting our devotion in light of God’s mercy?
Jesus condemns external ritual—“This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me…” Mark 7:6b. He commends devotion—“I desire compassion, and not sacrifice…” Matthew 12:7. Proper Lenten sacrifice is an expression of humility and desire for intimacy in light of God’s mercy personally applied through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Do we understand the place of the resurrection?
“…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1Cor. 15:17) Without the resurrection the power and penalty of sin (eternal death) remain unbroken.
“But now, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Cor. 15:20) Historical and Biblical evidence confirms the reality of Jesus’ resurrection providing a firm foundation for our faith.
“He (Jesus) who was delivered up on account of our transgressions, and was raised to bring about our justification.” (Rom. 4:25) For all who believe, Christ’s death paid their debt of sin and His resurrection made them right with God.
Faith in the facts of Christ’s death and resurrection brings eternal life (John 11:25-26).
I get excited about Easter because Resurrection reality proves Christ’s victory over sin and death and provides the same to me and all who believe. Recipients of His mercy delightfully “not dutifully” sacrifice to promote intimacy.
(Published in March 2018 Urbandale Living Magazine)