Try A Little Self-denial
Walking through the local grocery store, I heard an advertise-ment about Lent. The voice over the intercom invited shoppers to check out the wonderful vegetables and other items that would satisfy during this season of fasting. Though I personally have never observed the Lenten ritual (it’s not part of my denominational tradition), I took note of the spiritual implica-tions and thought that maybe I was missing out on something important. Yet as quickly as the thought hit me, it vanished in my quest for my favorite spaghetti sauce in the pasta isle.
What a shame! For when I take a moment to assess my life, I sense that a season set apart to deny myself and focus on Christ could help me re-align my priorities. In fact, as Christians we should be about that process continually. Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Book of Matthew, chapter 16:24-28, read this way in the New Living Translation: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Indeed, three things are needed as I follow Christ: to turn from my selfish ways, take up my cross, and walk after Him. I wager that the first step is the hardest for many of us. To stop being self-centered and all about what pleases me, seems to be the essence of Lent. If I’m successful in practicing self-denial, even with “baby steps,” I can prepare my heart to trust Christ more fully and commit to His agenda for my life. In other words, self-denial leads to the ability to be about His business and not my own interests, which is central to taking up my cross. Finally, if I’m committed to serving Him and not myself, and dealing with life’s challenges from His perspective, I will be able to keep in step with Him and know the fullness of His grace.
How about you? Where’s your heart this Lenten season before Easter?
Are you struggling with a relationship, or a commitment of your time? Do mundane habits control you and keep you from breaking out of old patterns? Maybe you’d like to join me in some self-denial, to re-focus our priorities, so that we can deal with the crosses allotted us in righteous ways instead of grumbling. Truly, if we intentionally give up some selfishness to better serve Christ, we’ll know the rewards of obedience: His peace and His joy!