"It is finished." These were Jesus's dying words as He hang--beaten, bloodied, bruised, and broken--dying on the cross. With wheezing breath and a mouthful of bile and sour wine, Jesus breathed His last and took on the final weight of God's wrath. He did it for me, for you, and for everyone else in the world, so that we do not have to be condemned for our sins. His sacrifice is the ultimate act of love, and there will never be an act greater than this. For some reason, He loves me.
This is culmination of Lent, and the most profound thing I "learned" through my season of fasting. For forty-six days I went without certain luxuries, weaning myself down from fruits & veggies in the beginning to juice & water for the last two weeks or so and ending with a 30 hour famine. Had I been alone, I surely would have failed, but fortunately a few friends decided to embark on this journey with me, and we all succeeded, and drew closer to God in the process.
I'm not sure where to start on this reflection. I spent a lot of time in the bible, reading Genesis through Deuteronomy. I've not read from the OT in quite a while, so this was enjoyable and fun. It's interesting to see Man's beginning, especially noticing the involvement of the Spirit in creation. And seeing God's promise to Abraham, and carrying it out through Moses at the end of the Torah, is a lot of what I've focused on. For some reason, God chose to bless Israel, a small, weak, and inferior nation. He promised to love them and always be with them.
It's crazy to see Israel turn from God so many times. Practically the rest of the OT is Israel's see-sawing up and down, in and out of God's will. More often than not they're turned away, chasing after false gods and pagan rituals, even though God warned them not to do so. And yet, whenever they repent and call on the name of the Lord, God hears their cries and redeems His people. This love of God is what refined my outlook. For how is Israel any different than my life?
I began my relationship with Jesus at age 11, fourteen years ago. After salvation, the flame is always bright and fierce, but time and the world diminish the light. I never turned pointedly to idols, but really, turning from Christ to pursue any other love is idolatry. For years I loved Him and sought Him, I failed Him and hated Him, over and over again. College brought about independence, which led (thankfully) to me buckling down and getting serious. I earnestly prayed and sought Him more and more, and yet I still failed. This is no different than today. I still seek to be more Jesus-shaped with each passing day, but I still screw up and fail, too. This, too, is what I've learned. The more I seek to be like Christ, the more broken I realize I am, the more messed up I see myself, the more I realize that without Christ, I am nothing.
It's so humbling to think that Jesus intentionally chose to die for me. We're calloused and selfish enough to think that we deserve it, but that's a lie to make ourselves feel better about His sacrifice. For we've all sinned, thus we all deserve Hell and condemnation (Romans 6:23.) Thankfully, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1.) We're no longer held liable for our shortcomings, for Jesus, the perfect, innocent, blameless Lamb, took on the full price of our sins, bearing all of God's heavy price for disobedience.
It begs the question. Why does He love me so much? Why did He give up heaven and glory to come to the earth and offer a path for redemption? This is the mystery of the gospel, for God sees something inside me that I can't see. He loves me despite me. And this impossible love He has for me is the same impossible love He has for you. This love is a gift we do not deserve, but it's there for us anyway. I am so thankful to God that is was offered freely to us.
Lent ends with Easter, the day we celebrate Jesus's rising from the dead and finally defeating death and hell. Without His resurrection, salvation would be impossible, but because Christ was blameless and pure, He was not condemned to an eternity apart from God, but instead given the right-hand seat of the Father. His sacrifice was final and full enough to cover the billions of people that would come after Him. All we must do is accept His blood, apply it to our account and God will give us eternal life with Him in heaven. Everything else is nothing. If we accept Jesus's sacrifice and his resurrection, we are promised life forever (Romans 10:9). This is the greatest gift.
The past forty-six days were a great experience for me. Not only did it open my eyes to God's wonderful love for me, but it also taught me some practical, earthly things, too. I lost fifteen pounds, a nice side effect. I didn't die, even though my stomach grumbled and complained many days. It's sad how spoiled we are. So many in the world live all their days without enough food, and we complain when we go 12 hours without a meal. I also realized how much I crave soda pops (Mountain Dew, in particular). I disciplined myself to waking up much earlier than I need to in order to spend plenty of time in the Word and in prayer. All of these, plus the aforementioned greater understanding of God's love for me.
In conclusion, Lent was an amazing season in my life, and I'm glad I felt the conviction in my heart to observe it. Even more so, I pray that you, dear readers, can profess this same love I feel in my heart toward Jesus. If you don't know Him or aren't sure where you stand in your life with Him, then I beg you, put aside everything else and examine yourself. Talk with a minister about it. Read the bible, especially the gospels and Romans. Shoot me an email, even. Whatever the case, I urge you, don't let this gift pass you by. It's the best choice I've ever made in my life, and by the love of God, I want to share it with the rest of the world.