Friday, March 8, 2013

Lent, Sacrifice and Holiness

I ate fish at a fast food restaurant yesterday and was reminded of Lent.  It's not a corporate practice at our church, which would lead you to properly assume I attend a protestant church, but there is more and more of a trend toward practicing Lent among protestants in America.  Perhaps it's the prosperity and tingling of the conscience at the profound luxury we enjoy daily.  Perhaps it's a desire to more fully prepare for and enter the angst of Good Friday and the wonder of the resurrection.  Perhaps it provides a sense of control over one's holiness. 

This desire for control can be said of the many, many things we do that make us feel holy.  I have my own list. It could be teaching Sunday school, attending church (when other people are sleeping in!), reading my Bible, helping a friend, even sacrificing for my children.

But as examples come to mind, they are hinged like a Siamese twin to the reaction of others.  It's hard to separate the two. "You do that?!"  Gasp.  "Really?  That's wonderful!"  The voices cheer us on as we struggle to sacrifice and complete the task.  They keep us going and in the end, we feel good (God planned it that way--we reap what we sow). But then, like so many good things, the gift becomes the goal instead of the Giver.  Before long we're addicted to the praise of others and the good feelings that come from doing good things.

But wait, whoa.  God didn't say, "Do holy things because I do holy things."  Actually, "it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy' (1 Peter 1:16).”  Ooh.  I can't do that.  And that's the kicker.  I can't "be" holy.  I am not, in my essence or anywhere else except my glorified imagination, holy.

So the good feelings do me no good.  Seeking to help and sacrifice does me no good--and it doesn't depend on my denomination or church or practice.  I.  Just. Can't. Be. Holy.

But, God!  God, by faith, has given holiness.  He has it all.  Somehow, in His great wisdom and foresight, He designed a way to transfer His holiness to me--through Jesus Christ.  It doesn't make sense.  I can't explain it, but God declares, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21)

And there it is: holiness. Wonderfulness. Not my own, not to my credit, not for the praise of others, but eternal, internal, set-apartness for His glory and praise.  And I do holy things not to be holy, but because I am holy in and through Jesus Christ.

What a God!  The price of His holiness is beyond comprehension. The outpouring of His love is unfathomable. The depth of the riches of His grace is incomparable. And He has invited me to join Him both now and forever.  Forget the deeds, bring on God! That's what I need. That's what I want.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

1 comment:

  1. A lovely expression of thought on this practice of Lent...thanks for expressing it with tender care and right direction.
    Delighting in His holiness...


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