I’m not Catholic, never have claimed to be, and am quite content with my relationship with Jesus. (By the way, He is risen today!) However, this year I decided to observe Lent from Ash Wednesday to and including the day before Resurrection Sunday. I decided that I would refrain from all beverages except water. I would drink water with lunch, dinner, snacks–whenever I would normally drink milk, tea, soda pop, or anything else, I would simply drink water. I did not do this to secure more of God’s favor nor to influence Him to love me more. I already have His favor because of my faith in Jesus and God cannot love me more than He already does. No, I made this sacrifice for two reasons. First, I wanted to get even a small taste of the sacrifice Jesus made for me on the cross. Believe me, it was a very small taste and I understand that. Yet, the Bible says that Jesus was tempted, just like I am, yet did not sin. By participating in Lent and giving up all beverages but water, I could have understand a bit what He went through. Second, I wanted to see if I had the self-discipline to really resist all beverages but water for 6 1/2 weeks.
Well, here it is, Resurrection Day, and my time of self-sacrifice has ended. While I did very well and resisted temptation for the most part, I didn’t do it perfectly. I had two slip-ups. On March 15, 2015, I had refereed a couple of soccer matches and, without thinking, I drank a small bottle of Gatorade. I didn’t realize what I had done until I had drunk the entire bottle. I was disappointed in myself but vowed to press on. And, on March 23, 2015, I had taken my breakfast to work–yogurt, cereal, and milk. Well, I finished the cereal before I had used all the milk and I figured I would I would make an exception and drink the extra milk. Well, I must have drunk it too quickly as it went down the wrong way as I choked and spewed it all over my work desk. These two incidents reminded me of Leviticus 4:27-29 [NIV]
“‘If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect. They are to lay their hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering.”
Did you notice the phrase “sins unintentionally?” In those two incidents mentioned above, I didn’t sin intentionally yet, according to God’s word, I’m guilty. Had I been living in the time of Moses, I would have been required to bring a sacrifice to atone for my sin. This is because there was an overarching required that was required of God-fearing Hebrews, as written in Leviticus 11:44a [NIV]
“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”
What is holy? It’s set apart or perfect. When you read the Old Testament law, you realize that it was so much more than the Ten Commandments. It was 613 regulations that dealt with every aspect of daily life. A violation of any of the law meant separation from God until an atoning sacrifice was made. James 1:25 [NIV] says
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
But how can one do everything written in the Law. As I found out over the past 6 1/2 weeks, it’s impossible. I will do something without realizing what I’m doing. So, what’s the solution? Well, as it has been for around 2000 years, it’s faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus did what we could not do–He fulfilled the Law. As it is written in Romans 10:4 [NIV]
“Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
So, when we believe in Jesus, we become righteous–not because of ourselves but because of Him because He fulfilled the Law, something we could not and cannot do. In Philippians 3:9b [NIV]
“…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
So, even though I wasn’t 100% “righteous” during my self-discipline during Lent, because of the righteousness of Jesus, I’m not condemned; no, I’m accepted because of what He did for me on the cross and rising from the dead.
I’m glad that I observed Lent for the past 45 days. I showed me that I could be mostly self-disciplined. It also gave me a greater appreciation the grace of God that came through Christ Jesus. It’s through His grace that I am saved and it’s by grace and mercy that I continue in Him. Consider these Scriptures. First, Ephesians 2:8 [NIV]
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.“
and Titus 3:5a [NIV]
“… he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”
and 2 Timothy 1:9 [NIV]
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…”
I’m continually grateful for God’s grace and mercy in Jesus that allows me to have life in Him and to not be condemned but to actually be considered righteous in God’s eyes in spite of my failings. Thank you, Lord!
Blessings to you!