I want to ask you to pause what you are doing for just a moment.
I have something important to say to you, and I want you to really hear me.
- Now take in a slow, deep breath.
- Now exhale it out slowly and fully.
- And listen to me:
GOD LOVES YOU!
- With all His heart.
- And with all His soul.
- And with all His mind.
- And with all His strength.
The Almighty sovereign Creator of the heavens & the earth – He who stoops down, the Bible says – literally, He has to crouch down, to look upon the heavens and the earth – He who holds the very fabric of time and space itself in the palms of His hands – He cherishes you and your life!
That is the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ – whom we worship and follow! The wrath of God – which demands holiness – wrath that we deservED (past tense) – has been fully and finally satisfied in Jesus’ sacrificial life and death!
Listen: because of Jesus, God’s position towards you is a position of PURE LOVE. Not of disappointment or anger or vengeance or resignation. He looks upon us with deep, unshakable, unquenchable love for us.
In the face of such all-encompassing love, we can only do one of two things: accept it or reject it. And for those of us who have accepted it, we can only do but one thing more: live in it and FROM it. Work together with it. Co-operate with & in & from His love for us.
But it is very important HOW you hear these messages. If you read these teachings from any place other than “God loves me with all His heart.” And “there is nothing I can do to earn His love – or to lose it.” And “all I can do is accept it and cooperate with Him and with His love for me.” If you hear a bunch of teaching on Lent, and fasting, and prayer with any ears other than these, then it’s just gonna sound like a whole bunch of work. Honestly. It’s just gonna be a bunch of dead, dry, lifeless, Godless, religious ritual.
But if you can take in these words from the point of view that God loves you, that He is pleased with you, that He is satisfied with you – before you ever DO anything at all – that He wants ALL of you – every part – because His love for you is so all-encompassing – then I think these will be life-giving words for you tonight.
If we can be assured that God loves us – apart from any work we do or don’t do – then these spiritual activities can bring fresh life and joy and vibrance to our relationships with God. These activities can bring a deeper understanding of our lives and of the circumstances we see around us in the world. These activities can bring fresh energy for facing hardships and persecution and difficulties.
If you come away from these teachings on Lent & prayer & fasting, just thinking you now have more work to do – or, another chore to add to your spiritual to-do list – just, more work to hopefully somehow curry some of God’s favor – then either I have done a very bad job of teaching it, or… maybe you are not assured – deeply in your heart – of how very much you mean to Him – already – before you ever DO anything at all.
Things like fasting and prayer – and worship and Bible study – these are not things God wants FROM you. They are things He wants FOR you. These activities are not for Him and for His good, as if He needed anything from us.
No, they are a means of grace for us. They are avenues or conduits through which His gracious goodness can flow into our lives. So that we may be Refreshed. Energized. Healed. Strengthened. Empowered. And matured.
And with that as an introduction, the next several posts will be about the role of fasting in the life of one who follows Jesus: what it is, what it’s not, why it is practiced, and what it can produce in our lives for our growth as beloved children of God.