This week marks the third week of Lent. Lent is the time of year when we as Christians devote ourselves in prayer and self-control in order to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter. Lent is not just about giving something up or keeping traditions; Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives. Lent is 40 days because Christ prepared himself for ministry 40 days in the wilderness and we prepare ourselves for 40 days for the great celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead to defeat our sins.
So the question might be asked, why would we intentionally cause ourselves to suffer by giving up something for lent, when sometimes what we are giving up is something God created for good? The answers lies in Luke 9:23: And Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. See whether or not we celebrate lent is unimportant, but the daily pattern of giving up some things we feel like doing is immensely important for the disciples of Jesus Christ.
You see that the importance of self-control is essential in living the Christian life. In Galatians 5:23 we see that if you are a true Christian that we will know you by the fruits of the Spirit and one of those fruits is self-control. In Titus 1:8 we see that if you desire to be a leader in the church that you must be known for your self-control.
In 1 Corinthians 9:25, we see that Paul compares our self-control with that of an athlete. Every athlete exercises self-control. Paul had very little trust in the desires his body threw at him daily. In verse 27, he says that I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
This is normal, daily, Christian warfare. Only saints delight in the law of God at their depths. This is because they know that God’s law is not there to be a burden to them but to be a marker for how we are to get the most joy out of life. It is kind of like the game of baseball.
If there were no rules in baseball, it would be total chaos, with people running around with bats and throwing balls. However, we have rules to get the most joy out of the game of baseball, just like we have commandments to get the most joy out of life.