Lent can sound scary and daunting for people. Discipline--ugg. Denial--oof. Service--yuck. The season begins with Ashes and somber reflection and ends at the foot of a cross--who really wants to fall crawl in the muck and mire of sin and self-denial and introspection, when we could just jump from the hedonism of Fat Tuesday to the celebration of the cross?
After all, doesn't the old hymn that Jesus loves me just as I am? So, if I'm a fun-loving, hedonistic, stuff-my-face- with-Granny's- ham-and-biscuits- til-I-pass out, shouldn't I just stay that way?
Well...that's the whole point of Lent.
Yes, Jesus loves me just as I am, but He came that I might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10.10). And to know that life, I need to grow into His image of me that He prepared for me. One way to know that life is to live according to the godly attributes. For instance, there are the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.22-25:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.Joy is love exalting and peace is love at rest. Patience, love enduring in every trial and test. Gentleness, love yielding to all that is not sin. Goodness, love in actions that flow from Christ within. Faith is love's eyes opened, the loving Christ to see. Meekness, love not fighting but bowed at Calvary. Temperance, love in harness and under Christ's control. The Christ is love in person, and love, Christ in the soul. *
The reason there's no law against these attributes, is because if we lived according to them, there would be no need of the Law, as we would be walking in step with the Holy Spirit. A good discipline during Lent that I have is to simply pray through these attributes, one a day, and ask how to manifest that fruit in my life in a godly way. A concordance helps to find a verse or verses that will guide me on this journey.
It is a vital journey because just as God calls us to the pursuit of the good fruit, there is the tease and temptation of bad fruit. Paul talks about these sinful distortions of the good fruit in Galatians 5 as well in verses 19-21:
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.These sound like some of my Mardi Gras moments past before I truly invited Jesus into the center of my life, and I recognize how the lure to the bad seed can still be just as strong. And so ... I need the rhythm of Lent to come around every year to continue that good work begun in me, having faith and confidence that God will bring it to completion (Philippians 1.6).
There are always signs of how this good work is continuing in the world. In fact, it's a revolution that is continuing in our midst. Following the path of Christ has always been counter cultural, but there are signs of the kingdom of God breaking into this age.
“People are hungry for a hopeful message about homosexuality that encompasses God's truth, as well as His compassionate heart,” Exodus International President Alan Chambers said. “We are thrilled to be a small part of what God is doing to reach a new generation with His liberating truth.”
Indeed, Exodus International and other ministries are seeing people freed from the bondage of immorality that Paul speaks of in Galatians 5 and born to the freedom to according to the fruit of the Spirit. Seeing others gain their freedom gives me hope to live freely as well.
Join with me in praying through Galatians 5 this Lent that we might out be fruitful for God in His Spirit.
your fellow companion on the journey,
* Missionary Dr. Kenneth Moyner, quoted by John Stott, "A Vision for Holiness," Preaching Today, Tape No. 94