Editor’s Note: This year for Lent, we’ll combine Friday through Sunday into one posting and post on Friday. We hope this makes it easier to take the devotions with you into your weekend.
Friday After Ash Wednesday
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
Treasure in Jars of Clay
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
We are still in the first four days of Lent and today is a day that many begin fasting in remembrance of the betrayal of Jesus. This practice can be seen as a sign of our identification with Jesus and His suffering.
When we fast, we do without. We abstain. We let go of the patterns that we think bring us life and happiness but that often, when not held in their proper perspective, actually block our life and happiness.
And so today we come to this amazing passage that proclaims with beautiful imagery that we crackpot people contain this beautiful treasure of God's surpassing power - and that our affliction-induced cracks are the very means that God's love becomes visible through us. Yet there is a beautiful mystery afoot here as we are - we must be - considered eternally valuable ourselves to be entrusted with this divine beauty, though our very cracks proclaim this surpassing power is not of ourselves and belongs to God.
So, how do we go about manifesting this life of God, this surpassing power, in our everyday lives? We stop paper-mâché-ing over our cracks and we instead live always being given over to death for Jesus' sake (v. 10). The origin of paper-mâché is French for "chewed paper."
When we live lives that are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, we stop putting bits of social media in our mouths to cover over the cracks of boredom and fears of insignificance; we stop chewing ripped up bits of the certificates of others' approval we then use to paper over the fissures of inadequacy in our lives; and we cease chomping on the scraps of employee of the month awards earned through the sacrifice of the healthy life of our families and friendships to conceal our insecurities that we wouldn't be enough if we stopped working and just hung out with our people.
So, today is a day we stop chewing our bits and scraps. Today is a day we identify with Jesus and His suffering. You see, all of these bits of scrap paper we chew don't bring us life - and we know it. But, they shelter us from pain and fear and that feels a lot like life to us.
We often confuse life with the avoidance of fear and pain.
To stop, to abstain, to vulnerably allow ourselves to see our cracks, is to suffer. This is how we identify with Jesus and His suffering. This is how death happens to all things false in us. This is how life emerges through the cracks.
Where is God inviting you to abstain from chewing today?
Where is God inviting you to feast on Him instead?
Saturday After Ash Wednesday
Luke 5:27-32 English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Calls Levi
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Saturday is a time of preparing for Sunday. We perhaps lighten our mood a bit, even let ourselves hope a little. Yet, we continue our process of the last few days of examining all the patterns in our life we need to change. What does fasting really look like for us in this season of Lent? What are we leaving behind in preparation of Sunday?
Imagine the scene just in the first two verses above. It really is a startling scene. Here we have Jesus strolling down the street when he notices Levi, a tax collector, sitting in his office just collecting taxes, I suppose.
I'm startled by Jesus's brevity, aren't you?
There's no preamble. There's not even a, "Hi, how ya' doin'?"
And leaving everything, he rose and followed him (verse 28).
I don't know what I'm more startled by: Jesus perfunctory greeting or Levi's apparently wordless, immediate and physical response. It could probably be argued that Levi had heard all about this Jesus, that the wheels had already been greased in his life to accept such a decisive and blunt invitation because he knew what Jesus was all about. Perhaps that is true. But if that's true of Levi, it's true of us as well, even more so.
We know all about Jesus. We've read our bibles, heard the sermons, had our quiet times. Even if you aren't a follower of Jesus, unless you are reading this post as a member of some previously unknown, indigenous tribe somewhere that has never heard the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you just happened to surf to this particular webpage, you've likely heard and know more about Jesus than Levi did.
Right now, there's an area of your life (and mine) where Jesus is walking up to you and He's looking you dead in the eye saying, "Follow me." No preamble. No, "Hi, how ya' doin'" Just...follow me.
Where is Jesus saying, "Follow me" in your life?
What do you need to leave behind?
Who are the people, and what parts of you, need to get invited to a great feast with Jesus after you've followed Him?
Photo by Waiting for the Word
First Sunday in Lent
Romans 5:12-19 New Living Translation (NLT)
Adam and Christ Contrasted
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
As we enter this first Sunday of Lent following days of sacrifice, abstaining and prayer for relief from all that binds us to unhealthy patterns and ways of life, our desires grow strong to return to our first Love. We don't have to read today's passage to know its truth. Our very lives testify that through sin death has spread from Adam all the way to us today, like a genetic disease slowly and methodically reproducing through every life through every generation. Without Jesus, we are dead men and women walking. And we know it.
But it's not that we've broken some moral code through our sin that is the biggest problem. We surely have. It's not that through our sin we have allowed death to reign over us in victory that is our biggest problem, though that is surely a big problem. Our biggest problem is not that we need to be punished for our sin, though from our human perspective that seems like a very big deal, and it is.
Our biggest problem is that through our sin we've brought on death and invited it to rule over us separating us from God and our true design of life with Him.
And on Sunday, Jesus deals with that problem, bringing life that triumphs over sin and death. Now, we have a restored relationship with God, death has been defeated and we have been given new life that death can never defeat. Today, we desire nothing more than breathing in and living this new life. Today.
If your new, never-ending life has already begun, how now shall you live?
In what practical ways today can you live out this new life that would be an act of worship for this amazing gift?
You were created with a vocational purpose in mind to co-steward God's creation with Him. Meditate on this sense of restored relationship that Jesus has won which comes with it a restored vocational purpose. Invite Jesus into the conversation.