Dispatches

Freedom from Bondage

Part 2
The season of Lent involves much more than giving up coffee or an ice cream cone—like considering total honesty for instance

I once heard the phrase, “I want God to look past my sins and see me.” This phrase betrays a self-centered understanding of how God works. You see, if God looks past my sin and sees me, He still inevitably sees my sin. I would rather God look past my sin and see Jesus.  And it is only through deep self-denial and true sacrifice that I can possibly begin to look more and more like Christ. For His was a life marked by self-denial, coming to earth in the vessel of a helpless baby and growing to empty Himself in order to be poured out far and wide for the salvation of His own creation. 

As we walk though Lent, we discover in ourselves the Image of God we were created to bear. And when we overcome anything that bars us from the cross, we begin to see ourselves without the pretenses of the world, clothed only as God sees us. During Lent we have the awesome and beautiful opportunity to walk together with believers around the world in a deep and poignant introspection which calls forth the heart to work together with the mind.  We find this union by understanding the heartfelt sacrifice of Christ and by making conscious decisions of self-denial. For true self-denial happens only by conscious decision, not by happenstance. 

Participating in Lent with the body of Christ worldwide creates within us an understanding that our relationship with God is not all about me. It is about the promises of God throughout scripture.  This reminds me of a great hymn of the church, “Standing on the promises of God!” 

  1. Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
    Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
    Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
    Standing on the promises of God.
    • Standing, standing,
      Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
      Standing, standing,
      I’m standing on the promises of God.
  2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
    When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
    By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
    Standing on the promises of God.

Yet we can only find ourselves standing upon those promises through the strength of self-denial, knowing that we have become part of that great cloud of witnesses which by testimony of the Lamb serves to draw the world into right relationship with God the Father.

Sometimes the very thing which holds us back from the cross may not even be a bad thing. We can often hold to things which are in fact good, and yet they are in the way. Christ said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Mark 10:37-39, NASB).  

The Apostle Paul is a great example.  He was holding to laws and traditions given by God, and persecuting Christians as a result. Yes, the foundation of his faith was in the Mosaic law given by God.  He was holding onto his own faithfulness to God as he perceived it. Yet it was that zeal that kept him from Christ, and it was after he had given that up that he could write: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB)

Perhaps you have sacrificed something for Lent, perhaps not. I would challenge you to search deep within your soul, and invite the Holy Spirit to convict you of what stands between you and the cross of Christ. What stands between you and total sacrifice?

Lieutenant Matthew McCluer serves at the Salvation Army corps and community center,      Lawrence, KS

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