“6 We know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (ESV)
Today, according to the traditional church calendar, begins the Lenten season leading up to Good Friday, and then Resurrection Sunday. These 40 days (or so) are an opportunity for self-examination, rearranging of priorities, and adjusting personal schedules in order to devote more time to the reading of the Scriptures and to prayer. Isn’t that a good thing? Doesn’t that sound like an opportunity to draw close to the Savior, to listen to Him, to hear His heart?
Growing up, I never attended a church that observed Lent, but I had friends that did, and went to school with those who did. It didn’t make much sense, to be honest. For 40 days my classmates complained of not being able to eat junk food, or watch television, or purchase records or tapes, or whatever luxury they temporarily gave up until Easter. School lunches always served fish sticks on Fridays. Teens couldn’t wait until Friday night, because you got weekends “off” to party. We always got Good Friday off from school, and then the Easter weekend. The church I attended always sang songs with ‘Hosanna’ in them for Palm Sunday, and then “He Arose” on Easter Sunday. It was the first week to wear white shoes, and they always got a little muddy, standing in the grass for the sunrise service. There was always a new dress, and a new hat or hair clip. For some reason, though Easter was clearly on the calendar since January, it just wasn’t Easter unless Mom was up until midnight finishing my Easter dress. It just wasn’t Easter without a chocolate bunny and jelly beans. It just wasn’t Easter without . . . maybe the reason why all the surroundings of Easter and Lenten season didn’t make much sense is because it all really . . . just wasn’t Easter. . .
Romans 6 gives a clear picture of this season in our year. What would our lives look like if we really considered ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ? What if we consciously refused to present our members to sin? I really don’t believe our world would look boring and self-righteous, but. . .
we wouldn’t waste time worrying because we would honestly believe that God is Sovereign, He is good, and He is in control;
we wouldn’t speak unkindly, or gossip or slander another, because we would present our members (namely, our tongue and our brain) to God as instruments of righteousness, and we would remember that sin does not any longer have dominion over us;
we would forgive, and refuse to be bitter or hateful, because our old self is crucified with Christ and sin no longer has dominion over us;
we would not waste time being easily offended, and would look to how we can serve others rather than how we can be served, because we would consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus;
we wouldn’t be judgmental, Pharisaical, critical or mean-spirited, because we choose to present our members to Christ and not to sin;
we would be truly joyful because we are no longer under law but under grace. Sin no longer has dominion over us!
we would be so ready and eager to share the opportunity for true joy with a hurting, broken world that is truly enslaved to sin.
So, should this season be so much about deprivation and gloom, or should it be more somber, reflective, and leading up to joy? Jesus Christ paid the penalty, so sin no longer has dominion over me; I can choose Christ!
It just isn’t Easter without . . . Christ!