Preparing your heart for Easter

I have loved, and often studied, the Upper Room discourse from John 13-17.  I will never grow weary of those beautiful words, and all that the Spirit has done in me through them (the word at work in you, 1 Thessalonians 2!).   Several years ago I read Sinclair Ferguson’s book titled Lessons from the Upper Room, and have revisited it since–it is so encouraging.  (find it here; also you can listen to it on Hoopla!). Perhaps it is just what your soul needs as we await Spring, and the lengthening of days, and our over-the-top corporate celebration of the Resurrection.

When Jesus prayed in John 17, He was praying for His own, not for everyone in the world, but His own in all times and places.  So as we read, He is praying for me, for you beloved, for all who are in union with Christ.  For all who believe through the shared Word.  

For the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.  

John 17:8

Have you loved His coming, and loved His words? 

As He is our Advocate with the Father, does He say of you “this one loves my words, she muses on them, she delights in them, she meditates on them day and night.”  Have you ever imagined Jesus praying for you in this manner?   Would He say of you:  she knows my words, clings to my words, abides in my words, and worships according to my words rather than according to traditions invented by others?

Perhaps, like many, you do not know much of ancient church history, and you hear of this magical season of Lent, and wonder if you would be more spiritual for having participated.  I caution you to really study it.  How did the first pope become pope?  And when?  And why did the papacy begin controlling the worship of the people through practices that were expected–not merely suggested?  Why were the Reformers fighting so hard for the freedom to worship according to Scripture rather than tradition?  Why were they willing to be burnt at the stake, put on the rack, thrown in prison and starved to death, etc, to rid themselves of these expectations?  

Then start asking, why did Jesus fast in the wilderness?  Who led Him into the wilderness? Who led Him through, and ministered to Him? When were you commanded to do likewise?

What does Scripture teach about fasting, not this wilderness fast of Jesus but of the fasting done by His disciples?  Am you trying to reform Lent, because to practice according to ancient tradition means to fast in a way contrary to Jesus’ teachings?  

All the fullness available to you!

Lent will not fill your soul in ways that God’s ordinary means of grace cannot.  Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper and Baptism; available all year.  A careful study of these will bless you, and remind you of what is continuously available.  He is the Head of the Body, the Church; and has ordered worship such that we work six days, rest and gather for corporate worship one day.  And the day corresponds with the resurrection; each Sunday ought to be a celebration of the resurrection, of our union with Christ, and of all grace available to us moment by moment as we abide in Him.

Oh “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

Prayer, fasting, Scripture study, meditation, memorization and musing upon His words; these are always available to us–they are not more special in these next forty days if I follow ancient traditions. 

We repent quickly and often–not just for Lent.  His forgiveness is not more meaningful during these forty days.  

You will not find a place in the Scripture where we are instructed to separate Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension so that we only consider His suffering and death and think and live as though He is not risen and victorious. The Epistles do not lead us to separate, and to spend extended periods of life pretending He is dead and buried. We ponder the suffering of the disciples who missed Him desperately for three days, but we are not led by the Spirit to spend forty days in sadness and despair, forgetting what we know to be true.

Free to worship, according to His words

But, we are free to worship, preparing our hearts to celebrate big time when Easter rolls around.  There are many ways, in your relationship with Him, to set your mind on things above (Colossians 3) and abound in your love for Him and His Church, boasting in His cross.  Now is a great time to focus on what the cross achieved, and how you can make it your boast, but it is not a prescribed time.

To that end, I give you a few passages I recommend for meditation, memorization, and musing upon as you think about how you want to celebrate the Resurrection.  Let us boast in the cross, as directed to by our Lord and Saviour!

John 13-17    

Romans 5:8   

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 & 2: 1-5    

Galatians 6:12-15     

Philippians 3:7-11    

Colossians 1:13-20

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 

Galatians 6:14   

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