I Give Up: “The Concept” – Mark 7:1-23 (The Message)
~ Nate Nielson
What is Lent? Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebration of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter Sunday, which is Sunday, April 21 this year. You may be wondering how Lent can be 40 days if Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter? That is because the Lenten fast does not include Sundays, which are considered feast days (a celebration of the resurrection)—so the six Sundays before Easter are omitted from the 40-day observance of fasting. In many traditions, people give up something tangible for Lent to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice and to recognize his time in the desert where he was tempted for 40 days. This week we want to explore the question, what if, besides giving up something tangible for Lent – we went deeper?
Questions to Consider:
1. What if what we gave up had a profound effect on our Spiritual Nature?
2. What if we really strove for heart surgery? What if we declared what David did in Psalm 51:16-17 – “You do not delight in sacrifice (or something you’re giving up for Lent), or I would bring it (or do it); you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings (or the giving up of caffeine, swearing or chocolate). My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise!
3. What if we gave up our right to allow sin to remain in our life? What if for Lent this year, we called sin for what it is and gave it up?!
4. What if we obeyed God’s commands in all areas of our lives?
5. What if we thinned out our complex nature, by giving up that which is of the old nature, in order to live under the control of our new Master, Jesus Christ?
Alicia Britt Chole in her Devotional Book, “40 Days of Decrease” says this: “God seems more interested in what we are becoming than in what we are giving up. Faith, in general is less about the sacrifice of stuff and more about the surrender of our souls. Lent, in kind, is less about well-mannered denials and more about thinning our lives in order to thicken our communion with God. Decrease is holy only when its destination is love.”
When we accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we show we love Him most by keeping his commandments and “giving up” our old life of sin – when we stop listening to the old master and purpose to listen only to our new master! We are new creations – the old has passed away, the new has come.
Romans 6:1-14 (The Message)