Lenten is known to be that sober season of mournful prayer and fasting. In Christendom, it is the remembrance of the Son of God, Jesus Christ’s death at the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins—past, present and future. It is the center of Christian faith, the core of the Gospel which says “For God SO love the world that He gave His one and Only Son that whoever believes in Him will not die but live an eternal life (John 3:16).”
That Son was given to death that Good Friday of the first Lenten.
That Good Friday was the main event of that Son’s coming into the world.
However, as an annual celebration and tradition, it has become more of a long, paid vacation, a guiltless opportunity for outing and celebration. And for some, a mandatory visit to the church just like Christmas and birthdays. Lenten has become a red-letter date. People retain the knowledge of its significance to the world, but loses personal meaning and ownership of the season.
In these days that hundreds of Christians are killed and harassed on daily basis, it is high time to be confronted face to face and ask why this event that took place more than two thousand years ago continue to affect humanity. Why, after Jesus Christ, thousands of lives are still being sacrificed for the gospel to be preached at the ends of the world. And how Lenten concerns every fiber of our being.
I am in no position, at least based on the world’s qualification, to preach, but let me share how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ affects me:
I learned to understand that I can never justify myself to God, but Jesus Christ represents me in the presence of the Father. There is no such thing as little nor great sins, nor weaknesses and shortcomings. Regardless how we label any form of disobedience, a sin is a sin. Even if God’s forgiveness abounds, it is only a matter of minutes or hours that we stumbled into sin—whether that is a simple murmuring against our parent or boss or officemate. Thank God that I will never be justified on the premise of my own righteousness but by Jesus’s righteousness! Jesus—the only Man who walked on earth and remained blameless, whose every fiber is truth and love—covers me and represents me to the highest court. Who then is more righteous than Him to hold the right to condemn me?
That is why, and I want to take this chance to say that the people inside a church do not differ from those who do not come to church—all of us are imperfect and sinful. The only difference is that those who come to church recognize the need of a Savior, and to get out from the restless, desperate and shallow life for a more meaningful, peaceful and blessed life and god-fearing choices.
The appreciation of Lenten only comes from the full understanding that as a person, there is no way we can escape hell—hellish kind of life while in this world, and the literal hell with all the fires and tortures and worms that never die after a blink-of-an eye stint in this world. Paul is straightforward on this—“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).”
Death is no longer a scary notion that I will be buried and left to rot six feet under. Before I came to the knowledge of God, my biggest fear of death is to be left alone, buried underground of a creepy cemetery, and left to rot. Reading and understanding the Bible opens my eyes to the truth of Apostle Paul’s words: “To live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). That the life here on earth is the bigger struggle, and death is a gateway to eternal life of joy and laughter and abundance in a place where pain and tears do not exist.
This gives me perseverance and hope that no suffering nor personal gain in this seeming dot of a life is worth to compromise that glorious life waiting at the end of this earthly life. Hallelujah!
Jesus’s death and resurrection enables me to live an extraordinary and victorious life. The Bible says that Jesus’s ascent to heaven prompted Him to send the third Godhead—the Holy Spirit—down to earth to dwell in the hearts of those who trust and believe Him. This is the mantra of Stephen Curry—“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).” And the rest of the world watches in awe with his seemingly magical stunts at the court. Indeed, if the Creator of everything resides in you, what can you not do? It is only a matter of choosing to live a consecrated life, and an ear, heart and choices more responsive to God’s soft, barely audible whisper, to hear His guidance and receive his strength to do things beyond our own capabilities and intellects.
Finally, every day I am made new to be deemed worthy to stand in His presence. These words are from a woman who committed almost all imaginable sins. Standing alone, these statements are tantamount to hypocrisy and arrogance. Thank God I am not alone. My feet are strongly planted on the promise of God, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17)!”
The essence of Lenten is summed up in the Prophet Isaiah’s words found at Chapter 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the Lord has appointed me
To bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”
To God be the glory!