What Breaking Lent Taught Me

BreakingLent

Over the last several years, God has developed in me an appreciation for the liturgical calendar and some of the more “high church” traditions of the body of Christ, two of those traditions being Ash Wednesday and Lent.

This is the first year that I’ve decided to celebrate Lent and so I thought I would give up carbonated beverages since I usually have one of those with me at all times. It was hard for the few days, but it got easier – especially when I learned that the Sundays don’t actually count in Lent, but then it got harder again when I started having caffeine withdrawals. So, I became weak and I broke my commitment. As we speak, I’m sipping on a berry flavored Rip It that I bought at a local convenience store before work. Now that I’ve failed, where do I go from here? Do I just give up and try again next year? Someone might do that, but not me. After I finish this tall can of faux sugar, carbon water, and caffeine, I’m going to get back on the wagon and ride again, and with God’s help, I’ll ride it all the way to Easter this time. This experience was not for naught though. I’ve learned (or been reminded rather) of two very important truths.

1. I’m weak

Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few… When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not fulfill it.”
– Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-5, NRSV 

I get so mad at myself when I try to do something for God and fail. I tell God that I’m going to do something productive or important for Him and then I end up falling on my face.  Sometimes I get so frustrated I just hang my head and ask, “Why am I such a screw up?” And then after I’ve had my pity party and bemoaned my existence for a while, I realize that God often uses our weaknesses to keep us humble.

If there was anyone who had any right to brag, it was the Apostle Paul. He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, who was a high-ranking and extremely official for the Sanhedrin. He was personally selected by Jesus to carry the message of the Gospel. He planted several churches, survived beatings and shipwrecks, preached before kings and other dignitaries, debated with the most intellectual of pagans on Mars Hill, and he wrote 2/3 of the New Testament. Yet, out of everything, he still had a “thorn in the flesh.” He had a weakness of some kind that kept him humble.

 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:6-7, NLT

Whenever we fail at keeping our commitments to God, He isn’t surprised or taken aback at us, but rather He looks on us with compassion because His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, took on weak and frail flesh to show us that He identifies with our weakness, and in our weakness, God is shown to be strong.

“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength…  God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:25, 28-29, NRSV

In 1st Corinthians 1, Paul addresses the congregation at Corinth and reminds them that they look weak to the world, and their Gospel message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ seemed foolish, but God uses what seems foolish and weak to show His wisdom and His power. His wisdom is Christ Himself, and His power is the message that Jesus came to save sinners. In our weakness, God is glorified because it reminds us that we must always depend on Him and not our own effort.

2. God’s grace is sufficient.

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NLT

We should learn to be friends with the fact that we’re weak. Notice that I didn’t say that we should make friends with our weaknesses. Paul prayed for his “thorn in the flesh” to be taken away and so I think we should pray for ours to be taken away too, but if it doesn’t get taken away we should remember why it’s there in the first place.

God shows us His grace and His strength in the places in our lives where see weakness and frailty. We are insufficient to fulfill all the vows that we make to Him, but He is more than sufficient with a supply of grace to equip us for the tasks to which He has called us. To Him be glory, power, and dominion. Forever and ever. Amen.

Sermon Notes: “How Majestic Is Your Name”

Hey Guys,
These are some sermon notes from a message I preached at Newton Springs Full Gospel Church in Hector, Arkansas about a year and a half ago. This isn’t meant to be a transcript just some verses, quotes, and thoughts I jotted down to preach from. You’re welcome to use this for personal or group Bible study, or to even preach from. Just give God the credit for it, since He’s the One who gave it anyway. Soli Deo Gloria!

How Majestic is Your Name
“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. [2] Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. [3] When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; [4] What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? [5] For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. [6] Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: [7] All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; [8] The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. [9] O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” 

– [Psalms 8:1-9 KJV]

2 Purposes For This Psalm:
1. To Make Us See How Sufficient God is
2. To Make Us See How Insufficient We Are

1. To Make Us See How Sufficient God is
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
– [Psalm 8:1 ESV]

“O LORD, our Lord…” – YAHWEH our Adonai Just in this little fragment of the first verse two big truths are presented. Almighty God is lord of the universe and He is Lord over the Church.

LORD – All caps means Yahweh (I AM WHO I AM, Exodus 3:14).
He is self-sustaining, all powerful, all knowing, all sovereign, king of the Universe. He doesn’t need our help. He doesn’t our opinion. He doesn’t need our input. He is God all by Himself and that’s the end of it.

“When God says I AM WHO I AM, he summons us to humble objectivity. He puts an end to the notion that everybody’s view of God is as good as everybody else’s. God is who he is and nobody’s opinion of him makes any difference. Therefore, our calling as His creatures is to strive to know him for who he is, not for who we would like him to be. ” – John Piper, Sermon: “I AM WHO I AM”

The idols of the Old Testament had to be built and created from the ideas of men by the hands of men, but the very men that created those idols were formed by the hand of the God they denied.

“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good…But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” – [Jeremiah 10:2-5, 10 KJV]

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” – [Psalms 115:3-8 ESV]

“Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean, where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea.” – Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

He is Creator of the Universe (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16)
“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” – Charles G. Finney

“Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” – [Isaiah 40:26 ESV]

He is Sustainer of the Universe (Colossians 1:17)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [17] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – [Colossians 1:15-17 ESV]

“The meaning is, that they are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing.” – Albert Barnes

Literally, if Christ were not holding the universe together then the earth and all of creation would fall and sink back into the dark abysmal void that it was found in in Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep…” I am held together in the very same way.

If Christ should take His hand off of me then I would slip back into the dark sin and despair that He found me in, but because He is still holding the world in place I know that He will still hold me in place. He has sealed me to the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).I cannot hold myself together. I am held together by the fact that Christ holds the universe together and He is Lord over all.

2. How Insufficient We Are
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? – [Psalms 8:3-4 ESV]

God has no reason to be mindful of us because we’ve willingly sinned against him.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” – [Romans 3:23 ESV]

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” – [Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV]

He doesn’t leave us in a hopeless and helpless state. He sends a Redeemer to save us!

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” – [Isaiah 59:20-21 ESV]

CONCLUSION
“The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.” – William Temple “We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.” ― Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock

We need Jesus to save us and sustain. We can’t do this ourselves.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – [Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV]

Our sin has separated us from us from God and we need Him to saturate with His love and His Spirit and bring us into right relationship with Him. We can’t go to church enough. We can’t do enough good works. We can’t knock on enough doors. We can’t sing enough hymns during the congregational singing. Only the grace of God can bring us to life in Him. We need Jesus. It’s that simple.