It is finished. There is no room for me to add in any work. I can now obey by the power of His Spirit, I can now walk in the Spirit, I can now live out Ephesians 5: be imitators of God, as beloved children…walk as children of Light…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord…
But I cannot do penance.
God does not require or accept penance, or sacrifice of any kind. (see the list at the bottom). One sacrifice was enough. We will suffer in this world, we will have tribulation, we will share Christ’s sufferings–but still there is no penance. The suffering and tribulation we experience is not a self chosen road of doing a work to prove the sorrow we have over our sin.
Where is our boast?
Like Paul, our boast is in the cross. What renewal we experience when we take time to focus on the cross, and also the resurrection! Together. Without separating the two. They are both historical realities, I walk in the truth of both. Take some time to meditate on Romans 4:22-25 and 5:6-11, 19; ponder how the whole work of God cannot stand unless death and resurrection go together. We cannot spend a season forgetting either.
Instead of fasting from something simply because it seems like a season for fasting, fast only if it is to be more intentional about seeking, and abiding. Fast, because you long for the Bridegroom to come and take you home. Fast because you want to “consider your calling” and that the cross truly is “the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
Fast because you long for more of His Presence in your life.
Fast not because you must experience the pain and hunger that He did in the desert for forty days. You cannot drink His cup, you cannot perform His works, you cannot come close to His record of righteous obedience. Sharing in His sufferings is not asceticism, self inflicted suffering is not part of Christian worship. Rather, in union with Christ, He becomes righteousness for you (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
Fast because you want to remember what He has accomplished; you want to focus on it, and so spend extra time meditating on His Word, and linger long over His High Priestly Prayer.
Meditate on His Death and Resurrection
Does He love you? Ponder the cross in Romans 5:8.
Does He understand your pain? Ponder the cross.
Does He understand your grief? Consider the Father, losing His Son.
Does He understand your hardships? Ponder the cross, the garden, the scattered friends, the betrayal, the cries of feeling forsaken.
Is He powerful enough to keep you? To Help you? To sustain you? To work in the lives of those around you as well? Ponder the resurrection, pray to the Living One who conquered sin and death (Revelation 1:18).
Let your “giving up” lead you to seek Him, in His Word (Matthew 11:28-30; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Jeremiah 29-33; Psalm 27).
Obedience of faith, not of earning
We do not earn His love, or His forgiveness. Though historically this season was instituted as a time of penance with a focus on self inflicted suffering, true Christianity does not include penance.
By faith alone we stand in His grace (Romans 5:1-5). What does God require of you? Not performance nor striving, we do not need to perform in order to prove our love. We can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5). Obedience and penance are not the same. True obedience is motivated by His love, as a little child who fully believes he is loved and wants to be with his Father. But whatever we do, let us act as we are led by the Spirit, walking in love and faith (again, Romans 8).
Obedience of faith springs from our inner man, as we are transformed into Christ’s likeness we begin to look and act in a fashion that reflects His glory. This is not striving, or self effort, or self-chosen asceticism; this is the outflow of one abiding in Christ, abiding in the Vine, His life pouring into us branches and bearing fruit.
If you want to dig deeper concerning the obedience of a Christian, start in the Epistles, and then go back through the Gospels. A study of Deuteronomy led to many great discussions on the obedience of a circumcised heart. Look for what is taught concerning righteousness, purity, reproach, walking (in the Spirit, in the Light, etc), submission to elders, holiness, etc. Here are a few verses to get you started (the list I mentioned earlier):
1 Samuel 15:22
Isaiah 1:11-13, 16-17
Hebrews 10:6-10, 18
1 Corinthians 5:7b-8
1 Corinthians 7:29-31