Lent – A Season to Deal With Us

It is fitting that the Lectionary for 2020 offers the Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to Matthew, as the lesson for the first Sunday of Lent. In the fourth chapter verses, 1-11, we find Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Jesus has just completed a 40 day fast. As soon as he makes his commitment to God, the Spirit leads him into the wilderness. Why?

Well, some believe that a commitment to God should be followed with some purging. Jesus spent his 40 days fasting, praying, and spending time before the Father. Jesus spent his time dealing with himself and aligning his will with God’s will. While fasting he practiced self-control and self-denial. Both of these characteristics are critical for a meaningful walk with the Lord. To be in the will of God means that we must have control over our human impulses and a willingness to put God’s ways before our selfish ways. Jesus needed to empty himself of some things, that he might replace them with Godly thoughts and deeds.

 

Jesus prayed while fasting. This spiritual discipline allowed him to draw closer to God and to depend upon God. Recently, a friend shared her practice of a 12-hour fast. My friend shared that during her fast, when she was hungry, she would turn to a blank wall and pray. It seems that the God of creation who reached in to the vast nothing to create something he called good, would use the blank wall to fill her human desire and allow her to continue. She moved from a physical desire to eat, to a spiritual position of fullness.

 

Just as Jesus experienced in the wilderness, our physical and very human desires can be arrested by the strength of our spiritual connection with God. Jesus used his time alone for spiritual body building. He grew stronger in his faith by fasting, praying, and meditating, all to strengthen his relationship with God. Jesus dealt with himself so that he would be open to the will of God.

 

The scripture presents Satan, the tempter. He came to challenge Jesus’ faithfulness at Jesus’ weakest hour. He comes challenging who Jesus is. Twice he starts “if you are the Son of God” as if to dare Jesus’ relationship with God by tempting him to follow Satan’s instructions. He challenges Jesus to turn stones into bread (Jesus is hungry), cast himself down (test the angels), and finally to bow down and worship Satan (he will give him worldly power). Jesus quotes scripture to turn Satan away. Jesus had been studying the Bible and allowed God’s Holy Word to light his path. Jesus allowed God’s word to direct his actions. Scripture tells us that angels ministered to Jesus after Satan’s failed efforts.

 

Jesus teaches us that as we attempt to overcome the forces of evil and sin that surround us daily, we must practice some habits that reinforce us for our journey with God. As our Lord and Savior, we, who call ourselves Christians, are called to follow the example of Christ. Just as Christ entered the wilderness to deal with himself, I invite you to listen for the spirit’s call to you to use the Lenten Season to strengthen your relationship with Christ.

 

Divine Grace asks two things from us. The first is our conviction; acknowledgement of our sins and our earnest commitment in repentance. The second is to focus on a journey that uses the means of:  grace, prayer, fasting, Bible study, Holy Communion, worship, and listening to the Word of God, to move you closer to God and to allow his grace to perfect you.

 

With the cross ever before us, Lent gives us an opportunity to purge and renew our soul. Use this season to fortify your relationship with Christ. The Apostle Paul once said, “I die daily”. Daily he pushed aside the very human and natural responses, that he might be alive in Christ Jesus.

 

Use this season to deal with yourself, that you might come to be even more alive in Christ Jesus. And yes, when the tempter comes, resist him with God’s Word.

 

Pastor DM Jones