Many Christians are now observing the season of Lent, the commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness right after his baptism by John the Baptist and the temptations he faced before he began his public ministry.
For some, Lent is a time of giving up something we enjoy a lot to focus more on God. For others, it’s a time of taking on something extra that focuses our thoughts more on our relationship with the Father through Jesus.
But for all of us who follow Jesus, Lent should be a time of self-examination to consider where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.
To put it simply, it’s a time to focus on the foundation of our lives. When we follow Jesus, he is the foundation.
But what does it mean to say Jesus is the foundation?
Jesus himself told us what it takes to base our lives on him as our solid foundation. After he spoke what we call the Sermon on the Mount to his disciples, he concluded his teaching by telling those listening on the hillside (and us today as well) what we need to do.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who build his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV))
Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount can be very challenging…and difficult to live out in our lives.
He tells me to be salt and light, to do good works that will cause people to praise the Father, but to do my good works so they don’t draw attention to what a good person I am. How do I draw the line in the right place?
It’s easy for me to refrain from murdering someone, but to keep from getting angry with someone who causes me great inconvenience or hurts someone I care about? That’s hard.
An eye for an eye: sounds like justice to me. But then Jesus tells me not to resist an evil person and to be generous beyond the limits that seem reasonable.
He tells me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me so I will be a daughter of my Father in heaven. Again, something that can be extraordinarily difficult. Only the Holy Spirit can give me the strength to do it.
He tells me not to worry, and I know excessive worry is a symptom of a lack of faith. But where do I draw the line between anticipating problems so I can do something about them beforehand and anxiety that shows I don’t trust in God’s love for me?
What makes it possible for me to obey, not just the letter of the law like completing a to-do list but the spirit embodied in them?
Jesus gave us the answer.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24 (NIV))
I can’t do it on my own, but God himself will be with me and help me when I love Him. And I do love Him, but not as much as He deserves.
For this Lent, perhaps my goal shouldn’t be to give something up or even to take on something extra. Perhaps this Lent I can grow to love God more. I can think of nothing that could give my life a better foundation.
What leads you to love God more?