Jesus went through hell for you to be free. Accept the gift this lenten season.
During the season of lent we reflect on the suffering of Christ that led to his death, burial, and ultimately his resurrection and ascension. Christians traditionally deprive themselves through fasting during this season so as to partake in the suffering of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 4:13); to share in the burden of sin.
This act is not aimed at works righteousness. Self-depravation through fasting and other spiritual disciplines is not driven by an attempt to pay for our own sins. No, Jesus paid it all and his saving death and resurrection is a gift.
Self-depravation is inspired by the Holy Spirit with an aim to honor and remember Christ’s work on our behalf. There is something mysterious that happens in the depth of the soul when we prayerfully and with gratitude enter into the suffering of Christ. It is an act of cooperation with the Holy Spirit in convicting and cleansing our hearts. Practicing the spiritual disciplines during lent is geared at pealing away hardened layers of the heart that keep us from conforming to the image of Christ. It’s about purging ourselves of sin in participation with the Holy Spirit. It’s a sacred time of cleansing.
Furthermore, during this time of reverent suffering, we’re gain a glimpse of what Christ went through on our behalf. While we were still sinners he suffered for us (Rom 5:8). The Gospel writers don’t go into great detail to describe his suffering, but history books detail out what Roman crucifixion was like in all of its brutality and mercilessness. It was awful.
When keeping the suffering of Christ in our minds, the sound of believers saying things like, “Christians aren’t perfect, they are just forgiven!” is like an offense and entirely wrong headed. This kind of thinking undermines what Christ has done. It’s another way of saying, “What he did isn’t enough for today.” Christ suffered for our perfection. He suffered to deliver individuals from the power of sin and sinning. He did not suffer simply so that we had to no longer bear the guilt and shame of a perverted heart and life. He suffered to bring real transformation to human lives today. This transformation doesn’t wait until heaven. His suffering is for NOW.
On the cross Jesus took on the fullness of sin. He didn’t take upon himself a part of sin, or just some of the evil or fallenness in the world. Jesus took on all the sin of the world along with its effects and results. Every evil, injustice, every transgression and iniquity was paid for. Redemption for every bit of it was is wrapped up in the cross.
While we look to his suffering during this lenten season, lest we think that he suffered so in order for us to only be forgiven. He suffered such to bring deliverance and transformation today.