And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. —Luke 9:23
In the eyes of the world, the season of Lent is a downer. All of this talk about sin, repentance and even death are deemed offensive by many of today’s American hearers. Our culture today tells you that everything is about you, what you want, who you are. In a social media era where everyone can have a voice about everything, it’s all about you. Jesus, as usual, turns the message of the world upside down. More than that, Jesus tells him that those who would be His disciples are to deny themselves and take up His cross and follow Him. He tells us that it’s not about you at all. So many would rather live life without Lent and its harsh message of the reality of sin and death.
But the life of the disciple is not all sunshine and rainbows. The church year is not all Christmas and Easter. If we are to walk in the way of the Lord, then we are to deny ourselves, putting the Father’s will and the needs of others before our own, even enduring suffering and cross. Lent calls us to turn away from our self-aggrandizing ways and return to Him in repentance and faith. All around us we see the effects of sin in the world and even in our own lives. From hunger and homelessness to addiction and abuse, from disease and disaster to lies and lust, we live not in a garden, but in a wasteland.
Trying to live life without Lent will not spare us from suffering and hardship in this fallen world. Rather Lent remind us of how we endure suffering and bear the cross in our own lives when those times come. For in enduring hardship, our Lord teaches us to rely on Him for the grace and strength that we need. In bidding farewell to alleluias and hymns of praise, the Lenten season reminds us that our Lord does not promise us a life free from suffering this side of eternity. In this season and throughout life, He invites us to deny ourselves and learn what it means to bear the cross by relying on Christ completely. For He is the One who truly denied Himself, by putting our needs before His own. He is the One who was obedient to the point of death as He took the cross that was appointed for Him. And He was the One who always followed the path that His Father had chosen by fulfilling the Law wholly.
If you want to live a life without Lent, I have good news for you! Through Christ, we will one day have such a life. It is called eternal life with our Lord in heaven. But until Christ comes again on the last day, Lent is a reminder of what the life of a disciple is like in this fallen world, denying oneself, bearing the cross and following Jesus, who is the way to eternal life. In the midst of this Lenten season, may you find the grace and strength that you need in Him who denied Himself and took up the cross for you.
Prayer – Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Amen. (Taken from Psalm 51)
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan