Lent

March 6, 2016Philippians 2:1 - 11     Lent – Humility 

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 A. W. Tozer wrote the following, “A real Christian is an odd number anyway.  He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen, talks in a familiar way every day to someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst.   He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge.”   The person who lives like that will have joy.   They will persevere and press on.     

   What do you think about lent in general?   As far as the word goes we think of loaning something or to lend something.   But what do we think of the word Lent as it relates Christians and to the Easter season?   I suspect that we think of it as a time to give up something or to sacrifice.  Generally speaking we do not like to sacrifice nor do we like to deprive ourselves.   It is probably something that we avoid.  We know that lent is there and we leave it there.   Sometimes the things we want to avoid we should embrace.  I guess I have avoided it in a sense because I have never preached on lent before and I found that there were some things that I did not know about it.    I learned some new things about it and I found that it was interesting also. 

     So I started out by finding our when lent started for this year 2016.  It started on February 10th which is Ash Wednesday.  What in the world is Ash Wednesday?   Bakers Dictionary of Theology says the first day of lent the traditional 40 day fast before Easter.  The title derives from the discipline in the ancient Roman Church of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents with a view to their being restored to communion at Easter.  That does remind me of sack cloth and ashes that we read about from time to time in the OT.  Bakers continues the Serum Missal contained a service for the blessing of the ashes which were intended to be a mark of humiliation, contrition, and mourning.   So Lent in those days started with a service of blessing the ashes and was preparation of God’s people for Easter.   It was a time of humility and drawing near to Jesus. 

    Now it is supposed to last 40 days so I checked the calendar and I counted 40 days from February 10thwhich ends on March 20th which is Palm Sunday.  I always thought it ended more at Easter time frame.  Does anybody know what is up with that?    It is 6 or 7 days short.   So I went to my 5 volume set of Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible and looked up the word Lent.   The word lent is not in the bible dictionary.  Why?   Lent is not in the bible but the word lent is in the bible.  According to my Strong’s concordance which has every word in the bible in it lent is used 7 times in the OT King James version.  It is used twice in I Samuel 1:28 where Hannah gives Samuel to the Lord.  The King James uses the word lent and the NIV writes so now I give him to the Lord.  It is very powerful to give children to the Lord.  I was given to the Lord around the time of my birth.  That is perhaps the most important thing my mother did for me out side of giving me life.  Hannah gave Samuel to the Lord and Samuel was a very important prophet, priest and judge in Israel’s history. 

    Then I went out on the internet and to Bakers Dictionary of Theology and looked up Lent.  Baker wrote The 40 days of fasting immediately preceding or before Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter Eve.   The 40 days do not include the 6 Sundays which are feast days.  It seems likely that in the early centuries the fast was one of 40 hours as part of the preparation of candidates for Easter baptism.   Not until much later (7th century) did the 40 day period become universally recognized to honor our Lord’s fast in the wilderness.  It is a time of abstinence, almsgiving, and acts of devotion.   Lent is intended to serve as a preparation for the Easter Festival.   It is derived from an old English word - Lenckten - meaning the “spring”.   So Easter Sunday is the time to celebrate.   It is before Easter Sunday that we prepare.    Easter is not a time to prepare that is when we celebrate.   Lent ends on Saturday.    The 6 Sundays are not counted in the 40 days so Lent concludes on Saturday before Easter Sunday. 

      Lent is the time for Christians to prepare for Easter.  We get a sense of why the word Lent is used.   Lent means to give.  The word lent means to loan.   Lent season is a time to repent.  It is the time to see ourselves as the poor tax collector who would not lift up his eyes to heaven but beat on his breast and poured out his soul praying God have mercy on me.  It is not the time to be like the Pharisee who was smug.  Jesus said the Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: about himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.   Some might say well I go to church, read my bible, give some of my money, and pray and I am a pretty good person. .  I do not smoke, drink or chew or go with guys or gals that do.   I think Jesus is saying that is not a good place to be. 

    What did Jesus say?  Jesus said the tax collector was justified.  Lent is a good time to think about what James wrote in chapter 4.   Submit yourselves, then, to God.    Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.    Come near to God and he will come near to you.   Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   Grieve, mourn and wail.   Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.   Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  Aseltine do you want to be lifted up then humble your arrogant heart.   We do not spend all of our time doing that but there are times to do that. 

   Lent is the time for us to put away the things of the world.  In first John 2we read do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.    For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.    The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  All that stuff in the world is going to go away. 

    Lent should remind us of our new life in Christ.  The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.   It should remind us of Jesus.   We put off the things of the world and we put on Jesus.  We give up the things of the world to draw near to Jesus.  We say no to our flesh.  We say yes to worship.    It can remind us to look back on the times that we walked in the ways of the world and how that turned into ashes.   We can remember how empty the world had left us and how vain the world is.  It is a time of soul searching and repenting.  It is the time to renew our passion for God and renew our faith.  It is time to remember our first love of Jesus and to renew that commitment to Jesus.  It is time to put off sin.  None of us have anything to do with when we are born and little to do with when we die.   In these days that we live in we can give our time our very lives to God.    If you give each day to God your life has meaning. 

   One person writes Lent is therefore radically about new birth.  It is an invitation to faith and to enter into a deeper appreciation of salvation.    Lent is to pass through the ashes of trial and temptation and tribulation and enter into pardon, forgiveness, blessing and alms.   To go from sack cloth and ashes to grave clothes covered with frankincense and myrrh. In other words we die to self and live for Jesus.    Does our faith have value?  Does your faith cause you to do something for someone else?     Are our hands like Jesus’ nailed pierced hands reaching out to invite and encourage those who are in need?   Do our feet like Jesus’ nail pierced feet take us to serve the least, the last, the lost? 

   And Lent should remind us of Jesus.  We take time to think about all that Jesus gave up to save us.   There are wonderful passages on Jesus in the bible.  I would recommend that you spend some time in prayer and thanksgiving in Isaiah 53 and Philippians 2.    Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus made himself nothing became a servant and humbled himself to die on a cross.  We can review the movie on the passion.    It is an amazing thought that God became flesh and then Jesus was cursed by God because of my sin.  Lent should remind us of Jesus humility.  It should remind us of His sacrifice.  Bible study this week would you die for ISIS guys?   I guess some believe that Jesus only died for those that would accept him.  

   Max Lucado in traveling light talks about humility.   He writes that humility is an elusive virtue that when you think you have it you have lost it.  It is like the preacher who was given the humble button and so he wore it and then the church took it away from him.   He writes that he went to a small town nearby to work on writing his book.   He went into a café to get breakfast and noticed that people were staring at him.  As he parked 2 people looked at him.  He said a woman did a double take as he entered the cafe and several looked at him as he walked back to a table.  He wondered why all the attention.

     He had sweats on so it was not his pants zipper.  He thought well maybe they know who I am.  Maybe they know a good author when they see one he thought.  His appreciation for the town only grew.  He smiled at the people across from him.   He went up to the cash register to pay and thought that Steinbeck had the same problem.  He went into the rest room and then saw that he had a ribbon of blood that had dried on his chin from when he saved that morning.   Pride comes before a fall.  I have heard it said that the fastest prayer that God answers is Lord break me. 

    In Proverbs 6 the Lord says I hate pride.   God is passionate about pride.   I Peter 5 and James 5 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  James 5:10 humble yourself and he will lift you up.   At best we are just tools in Jesus hands.   Is the hammer proud that it drove the nail in?    Of course not it was just a tool.   The hammer did not do it on its own.  In I Corinthians 4 tells us that everything we got we have received it.  Every good thing that we have is from God.  James writes that every good and perfect gift is from God.  Why do we take so much pride in ourselves?   Isaiah 66:2 God says this is the one I esteem he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.   The King James and another translation this is the man I will look to. 

    I have been excited about prayer and preached on it a number of times last year.  I have been excited about answers to prayer.  But God is the one who answers.  I know I can share God’s word but I can’t become proud about that.  The Apostle Paul was lifted to the 3rd heaven and heard things that man cannot speak and a messenger of Satan was sent to him to keep him humble.  God sent that messenger.  Acts 19 tells us that handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul were passed around and people were healed from them and evil spirits left them.  WowPaul said God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of Jesus.     Social media today.   

      God can never make me wine if I object to the fingers he uses to crush me. If God would only crush me with his own fingers and say, “Now, my son, I am going to make you broken bread and poured-out wine in a particular way and everyone will know what I am doing.”    But when he uses someone who is not a Christian, or someone I particularly dislike, or some set of circumstances that I said I would never submit to, and begins to make these the crushers, I object.    I must never choose the scene of my own martyrdom; nor must I choose the things God will use to make me broken bread and poured-out wine.    His own Son did not choose.   God chose for his Son that he should have a devil in his company for three years.   We say, “I want angels; I want people better than myself; I want everything to be significantly from God; otherwise I cannot live the life nor do the thing properly; I always want to be gilt-edged.”

    Let God do as he likes.   If you are ever going to be wine to drink, you must be crushed.   Grapes cannot be drunk; grapes are only wine when they have been crushed.   I wonder what kind of coarse finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped?   You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine that came out would have been remarkably bitter.   Let God go on with his crushing, because it will work his purpose in the end.   — Oswald Chambers, So Send I You (Discovery House, 1993)     Isaiah 53   Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him.   God crushes his sons and daughters today also.   It was God's will to cause him to suffer.  He poured out his life unto death.  He bore the sin of m