… it’s not just for Catholics anymore.
Today is the first day of Lent. For our family devotions this morning we looked at Acts 24:24-25, which read this way in the ESV:
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”
Some might say that it was when Paul got to the whole ‘coming judgment’ thing that Felix became alarmed. While I am sure judgment is alarming (especially for someone who is outside the faith, but knows about it -Acts 24:22), the idea of self-control can be just as frightening.
How many times have you had a conversation with an unregenerate man or woman who knew the details of the Christian faith yet rejected it? The reason? They would have to give up too much and that really bothered them. That “too much” might include their Friday boozefest or some sexual exploit they routinely engage in. No matter the sin, the pleasure they find there is so captivating they cannot imagine living without it.
C S Lewis wrote about this in The Weight of Glory with this familiar line,
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We Christians are alarmed at the thought of losing our pet pleasures as well. We fear that giving up on the lawful gifts of God will make our life somehow less than rich. We become alarmed at the thought of losing chocolate, the computer, television, music, wine, potato chips or coffee. We take so much joy in those things that too often we begin to believe they are the author of our faith. We act as if the gifts of God are going to give us joy and if we submit ourselves to the M&Ms then they will restore unto us the joy of our salvation, while not leaving our hands a chocolaty mess.
When that happens, the lawful gifts of God have become a sinful snare to us. And what are we to do with sins that ensnare us? We are to lay them aside and forget about them, pressing forward to the mark, the upward call of Christ.
The intentional denial of self, during this period of Lent, is really a proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord over my belly and time. He is the Master, not just over the Universe writ large, but also my blogging. He is Lord of all other lords, no matter how tasty sweet they happen to be.
Do you struggle with a love of self? Are your eyes so fixed on your own pleasure that dying to self daily is a horror to you? Do the words of Paul alarm you too? Then look to Christ. He is your strength and shield. He is the one who died when you could not. He humbled Himself when you were proud and made Himself of no reputation when you so concerned about your own. He is God almighty.