I read an article somewhere recently that stated “Lent is not a diet.” The writer went on to discuss how we sometimes use Lent to correct poor eating habits, focus on exercising more, and try to lose weight by giving up or fasting from the things that caused us to gain it over the winter. As a colleague mentioned in his sermon, Lent comes just in time for “beach body preparation.”
Boy, when you combine a typical winter with a pandemic, you can end up with a lot to “give up!”
But of course the focus of Lent is to fast from something that is distracting you from God. Many people have given up social media. Some have pledged to stop arguing with their spouse. Others gave up Netflix or the news channels. What have you given up?
One year I gave up complaining. I didn’t have much to say for six weeks, much to my husband’s delight. We laugh about now, but I have to confess that it was a STRUGGLE. It was a good exercise in learning how much complaining I do on a regular basis. What an eye-opener!
So yes, Lent is not a diet … but today’s Scripture calls us to consider that we have made our “stomach our god” and we can easily become too focused on filling ourselves up with earthly things:
Philippians 3 (Common English Bible)
17 Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me and watch those who live this way—you can use us as models. 18 As I have told you many times and now say with deep sadness, many people live as enemies of the cross. 19 Their lives end with destruction. Their god is their stomach, and they take pride in their disgrace because their thoughts focus on earthly things.
Paul boldly challenges us to imitate him in his righteousness (if not his humility). He makes the clear point that we are enemies of the cross if we continue to pursue earthly wealth, status, achievements, etc. at the sake of the cross-life, which calls us to a life of sacrifice, obedience, and service.
20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself.
Our citizenship is in heaven! Ponder that for a moment. That means that the “rules” for our lives here are the same rules God establishes for those who live in the heavenly realm. This passage makes us question our motivations. Are we too focused on earthly things?
Stand firm in the Lord
4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and miss, who are my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord.
Paul encourages us to stand firm in the Lord. We can forsake the pulls and pushes of secular life and keep our hearts in tune with God. Where is God calling you to change? Are you using this time of giving something up for Lent to fill the void with Jesus? What are you learning?
Paul reminds us in this Lenten season and in our Lenten disciplines to stand firm. You belong to the kingdom in heaven!
Act like it.