Summary: It takes work to give up something for Lent, but before you can give up anything for God, first you have to get up and decide to go to work for Him. Before you can do the Lenten "give-up", you have to get up!
Welcome to the first Sunday of Lent that season of the church year where people who attended church were once traditionally asked to give something up for the season.
What have you given up for Lent lately?
Often the idea of a making a personal sacrifice for God falls on deaf ears. What does God need anyway? He already has everything, right? Everything, yes, except perhaps that part of the human heart that refuses to acknowledge him as Lord.
Lent is about submitting to God’s will — all of it — and following God’s direction wherever it is headed even when you can see a cross at the end of the path.
The readings for this week from Scripture show the beginning and the end of that path.
For Moses, his journey on this earth was near its end. He would stand on the top of Mt. Nebo soon and see his people depart into the land God had promised them. He himself would not make that temporal journey. For 40 years he had led them through the Exodus all the way into the promised land. Now their journey of promise was fulfilled. God had kept his word to them and he didn’t want them to forget. The curse of being blessed with bounty is that you can easily become more focused on the blessings and too easily forget the One who imparted the blessings.
When the one forgotten is God, the words of the Lord at the end of Mose’s ministry ring with warning. Don’t forget who brought you to this point. So Moses reminded them of his and their personal history. “My father was a wandering Aramean….” It was a personal way to remind people to take their faith history personally, as well as to retell the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
The message of Lent with its 40 day measuring stick of Jesus, after you subtract the Sundays, matches up well with the journey of 40 years that Moses had just completed.
In 40 days God is going to take us on quite a Lenten journey with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is there anything you need to give up before you take up your cross and follow him all the way to paradise?
Lent is a time not just to give up what distracts us from God or the Gospel. It is also a time to get up and follow him. To see Jesus do his work for forty days is to see God’s plan of redemption fulfilled.
In the ancient church, the season of Lent was a period of instruction. Newcomers to the faith were instructed in the faith. Over 40 days in the early church, newcomers heard the word of repentance and the call of the Gospel that Jesus preached in order to prepare them for baptism.
A lot can happen in 40 days. More can happen in 40 years. But if you ignore God’s call to repentance, even if you have 400 years — as God’s people did in Egypt — all you will have is slavery!
Real freedom if it is to be truly experienced and cherished means getting up off you duff.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for the people of God to see before them the land God had promised to give them? On a hillside they sat back and then listened as Moses preached his farewell address.
Scripture doesn’t say much about this account but what it does say is quiet clear. Freedom, ownership, responsibility, a nation lay ahead for the people of God. No one offered to stay behind with Moses. All of God’s people continued faithfully forward into the promised land.
Lent is God’s way of preparing us for the promised land. The promise of salvation belongs to all people who repent and believe the Gospel.
Don’t be tempted to think there is another way back to God beyond repentance and faith in the Gospel?
There are many who see no need for personal penitence.
Did you watch George Bush’s first address to the joint session of Congress earlier this week? I didn’t see anyone after his address lamenting any of their own past failures before God or our nation. Much of the talk sounded a lot like the same impenitent talk that existed the in the previous administration.
Life with out genuine repentance becomes a thin hollow shell that is easily penetrated. Never mind how many times you have been caught red-handed. Saying you are sorry after you have been caught seldom sounds like genuine repentance to anyone listening — including God.
The message of freedom lies ahead for those who have the courage to believe. To repent and believe.
I know there are lots of people in our age who have yet to discover the joy of real repentance. There is a wonderful rebirth that happens only when you turn your back on the past and go forward with God into a future blessed with his promises.