“Lent is the preparing of the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”
Mark 8: 31-37 The Message
He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.”
He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it. 32–33 But Peter grabbed him in protest.
Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.”
34–37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.
Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.
What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?
What could you ever trade your soul for?
#1. It is Necessary?
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (NRSV)
Here is a question that Samuel asked Misty last week as we were riding down the road.
“Did the people who killed Jesus do wrong?”
Misty answered, Yes
To which Samuel replied
“But it’s because of that, we get to go to Heaven.”
Samuel Collins (4 Years Old)
31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. (TNIV)
Satan has not only asked to sift Jesus and Peter but all of us.
32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (TNIV)
#2. You Have No Idea How God works.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (NLT)
12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (NRSV)
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (TNIV)
#3. Follow Me And I’ll Show You How It’s Done.
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.36What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? 37Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? (TNIV)
How might our life’s journey be different if we truly let Jesus be ―in the driver’s seat?
What would we have to adjust in our carefully laid plans, i.e., roadmap?
As Christians, we know the journey to the cross takes us to Easter. We can’t bypass the pain of the journey, nor do we lose sight of the hope that comes in the morning.
Lent is the act of beginning our spiritual life all over again refreshed and reoriented.
“My Lenten Journey”
Ronnie asked me to write a letter to you all about this Season of Lent. Specifically, what I expect from the next 40 days, what anxieties or issues I will confront, and how I plan to share with others and interact with the community. I have been learning more about this season and what it represents. It is more than “giving up something” to me now. As the church, we set aside this time to search our hearts with God. I see it as a time to clean house with reflection, repentance, and preparation. We follow the 40 days our Savior spent in the wilderness.
Matthew 4:1 says “The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days.” Do you see that the same Spirit that came down upon Jesus when He was baptized then led Him into the wilderness where Satan tempted Him for 40 days? So, if our loving Father leads us into the wilderness, scary as it may seem, we can trust Him, that He is with us, and it’s for His purpose in us. I want to, and I hope we all will, take time to reflect-to be reminded of our sins-not to relive our anguish over them, but to remember what our Savior did out of love to remove them as far as the east is from the west and the death in us that was conquered. I want to feel that sorrow of how I hurt Him so I may then remember the great love of His sacrifice. I told a friend tonight that my sins are no longer a deep scar of shame in me. As God is healing me, all that is left is a mark of where His Grace entered me. If it helps someone, I will gladly show the world my marks.
This past Sunday, I took the ugliest part of me-the part that Satan had convinced me I had to hide, and held it up for you to see. That did two things. It released the hold of it over me, and maybe it touched someone else with hope. Don’t run from confronting the darkest parts of yourself. During the next 40 days, allow your heart to be reminded of how God has worked in your life, and ask God to show you how your testimony might help someone who is struggling. He heals us by His grace, so that we can then extend that same grace to others, so they can know Him. I want my soul to be reminded that the Son of Almighty God loved me enough to die for me, and continue to let that love remove anything that separates me from Him. Let our hearts sorrowfully groan for all the ways we fail Him daily, and ask God to dig down deep within us, ripping away the deadness inside us and renew our resolve to put on the armor new every morning.
I feel God calling me to tend the new growth of His life in me very carefully. He has started a new work in me, as well as a growing desire to pour out His love to those around me, my church, and my community. Do you sense that, too, my church family? I pray that you do. It’s what we’re called to do. To get out there. To be in the trenches with the hurting, lonely, addicted, and hopeless. Yes, it’s more comfortable to listen to someone preach on television than to get out our Bible, get quiet, and let God speak to our hearts. It’s more comfortable to pray over the fast food, asking God to nourish our bodies, than to take time to prepare food that is good for us and discipline ourselves away from what is unhealthy, or even more than that-take that nourishing food to a family that has none while we go without.
It’s more comfortable to sit inside on a cold night, that get out on the streets and talk to people who have no blankets or coats, and give them some-maybe even give them the one off our backs. It’s more comfortable to say “I’ll pray for you”, than to say “Can I pray with you?“ and then stop right there with even a total stranger and do just that. Every single one of us is an outreach ministry every day, to everyone from the stranger behind us at the checkout, to our family down the hall in our own homes. We are God’s Ambassadors! We don’t have to have a name for it or a facebook page. Right now, there’s someone out on the street who’s only pair of shoes are falling apart. There’s someone you work with who is hurting right now who maybe has never talked to God, but she will talk to you. There’s a person who crosses your path daily that you shy away from. The people that God introduces us to in every circumstance is an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. During this next 40 days, let’s want more of God . He wants more of us. Let’s crave only to share Him. Let’s listen to our Father speak to our hearts and focus on how He wants to prepare us for the next steps of our journey.
As we prepare our hearts during this time, remember that preparation takes sacrifice. We must sacrifice the parts of ourselves that keep our hearts from being completely God’s. This time is a call to battle any sin that dwells within us. Jesus’ weapon in the wilderness was the Word of God, and I feel also the resolve that His next 40 days had to be completed in order for Him to finish what He came to do. Let us remember that the battle is still raging for the lost, and we are now the foot soldiers. As we begin this journey, let us also arm ourselves with God’s word, engraving it on our hearts. We need to dive into God’s word and eat it like it’s Mama’s cooking. If it’s too hot and burns, it’s just right. As we do that, the hunger for the things of this world will fall away.
Let us resolve to examine ourselves–honestly and without filters. I want to pour out my heart to my Father, trusting that no matter how ugly it is, He is doing a work in me. He is doing a work in you. Jesus trusted His Father even as He was being led out into the wilderness. He trusted the process of what God was doing in Him. If we truly want more of God in our lives, that means we want less of us, which means we have to die to ourselves and LET GO. It also means we’re going to have to be willing to go wherever God wants us to go-even a “wilderness”. I beg you-don’t run from it anymore. We may feel alone, but we will know in our hearts that we’re not, won’t we? Because God promises us in His word. He will never leave us or forsake us. God is always working-even when we can’t feel Him. The same God who sent His beloved Son to die for you is with you in the darkest wilderness of your life, not just on the mountaintops. Don’t ever let Satan whisper to you the lie that He is not. The end result of this process will be victory in Jesus and God glorified.
Do you sense the urgency of the unseen battle that is all around us? What Jesus must have felt in the desert? Treat the next forty days as our time with God before we reenter the wilderness of this world. Don’t you get it? We’re in it daily, and don’t even realize it. It’s backwards-which is how satan wants to trick us–we think of following God and the discipline of a daily walk with Christ as sometimes uncomfortable and confining, when it’s really the things of this world that are making us downright miserable and choking us in bondage. If Satan can keep our focus in the wilderness of this world, then our voices to shout the Good News to the world are silenced. Wake up! Throw those things away. Let them burn. Let God remind you-you have the power that raised Jesus from the dead coursing through you. You are stronger than you think through Christ. Take hold of that! Remember His love. Remember the sorrow that led to you giving up your life. Renew your life in Christ and reconnect with Him over the next forty days. This should be a constant thing, but will you give God at least the next 40 days?
Take your eyes off the world and fix them on Him. Want nothing of this world and everything that God is waiting to give you. That’s what I hope to revive in my self over the next forty days, and it’s what I hope the church will seek as well. If we truly want to follow Jesus’ journey, we must be willing to become uncomfortable. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness-he was hungry, and thirsty, but He was cared for. As we battle the temptations as Jesus did, we’re going to have to feel that hunger that can only be satisfied by the very words out of the mouth of God. We’re going to have to truly live by faith-not by sight. We’re going to have to be content to know that God IS working, instead of continually asking Him to show us that He is. We’re going to have to take our eyes off the “kingdoms” and the things we want of this world that pull us away from God, and refocus them on drawing closer to God’s Kingdom. It’s time to get real-we cannot move closer to God if we are hanging on to the temptations and things of this world.
I’m starting with prayer. I’m expecting a radical shift of my daily walk. I’m confronting the things that still have a hold on me and fighting to rid myself of anything that I put before God and my family. My only anxiety is that at the end of 40 days, I will feel no different. I will walk prayerfully on the streets of my community, in my job, and in the rooms of my home, willing to engage with anyone as God leads, with the prayer that God can use the ashes from the death in me and the transforming power of that process to nurture new life in them. I pray that this season will be a time for us as a church to draw closer to God and remember, and then for God to transform that into the growth in us individually that will ultimately become the church reaching out to those who are still lost in the wilderness. God always wants us closer.
I am thinking that maybe over the last few weeks you have become aware of something that is keeping you from moving forward in your faith. I think this season will be a time with God’s help to move past those things. As we receive the ashes, let us be reminded of the brevity of this life, but that it is for a precious purpose in God‘s eyes. We just have to stop running from the suffering and discipline that God uses to bring us closer to Him. Stop running away and let the cleansing fire of love that held Jesus to the cross come in…it is through the pain that growth and new life begins.
Much Love in Christ,