Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lent: Sincere Searching of our Hearts through Fasting

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” –Colossians 3:5-8

What an opportunity! Lent is time set aside to put our roots down deeper into God. Since the early centuries of the Church, sincere Christians have recognized the importance of having a season reserved for taking an honest look at ourselves—allowing the Holy Spirit to search our hearts—in order to put off anything that hinders us from a genuine relationship with God.
Three practices that Christians focus on in Lent to help us take an honest look at our lives are fasting, giving to the needy, and prayer. These do not earn us any points. Rather, they help us grow spiritually by exposing little idols that we cling to. They uncover some of the things that Colossians 3 (above) tells us we need to “rid ourselves of” and “put to death.”
Fasting is pretty straightforward. We give up food and/or drink for a season. Fasting addresses the physical cravings in our lives. Likewise we can fast from media for a season, whether giving up texting or movies or other forms of entertainment for a day.
As soon as I fast from a meal or checking my cellphone, my flesh screams out in protest. This provides the opportunity for me to say “no” to my flesh to make sure it is not ruling me.
That “no” goes counter to my old nature, which wants what it wants when it wants it. In addition, “no” goes counter to the whole culture in which we live, a society that says if it feels good, do it.
For those very reasons, I need to set aside a season to confront the tyranny of that inner “I want!” and bring it into submission to Christ. It is not that food is bad. Indeed it is good and necessary. However, when it—or anything other appetite—controls me by its demands, it becomes an idol. Oh, how easily human nature is ruled by idols!
As I have aged, I cannot do several-day fasts as I did when I was younger. That is okay. I can still fast from deserts (which can easily get a grip on me!) and take a stand against the tyranny of my earthly nature—that inner “I want it now!”
Instead of pampering my immediate appetites, I turn my focus toward the Lord. I stir up my hunger for him. I surrender myself afresh to his rule, and I put down roots in a brand new way during this season of spiritual growth.
© 2016 Glenn E. Myers
For Lent the church has always emphasized fasting, prayer and giving alms. See Matthew 6: 2,6,17, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets . . . when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen . . . when you fast. . . .”

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