We at Bethesda Baptist Church invite you to take this journey with us by using this daily devotional as a guide over these 40 days. We are indebted to Katie Berglee and Campus Crusade for Christ International for making these available.
LENT DAY 7
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8
When I think about what Jesus gave up for me on the cross I can’t help but wonder at our contrast. What would I be willing to give up for someone who had wronged me?
Jesus met with a prominent man who had toed the line of morality and religious rules well for years. Jesus’s friend Matthew records his observations of the interaction in his gospel – Matthew 19:16-30.
Jesus used questions to communicate with this young man. When Jesus listed many of the 10 commandments the rich young ruler stated that he had successfully obeyed them all. It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not correct him. The disciples must have been impressed with the man’s spiritual display as well. The rich young man’s external choices of obedience and worship were good.
But Jesus knows our hearts – better than we know them ourselves.
Jesus says, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” With this second statement, Jesus channels to the man’s internal loyalty to possessions before God.
The first commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, was not in the young man’s list of successes. Jesus gave him an opportunity to realign his worship by walking away from entrapment of possessions to serve Him. But the man couldn’t do it.
We read that the rich young man walked away sad. That puzzles me. What could have been so precious that he wouldn’t give it up to be with Jesus? After all, he was giving up so many other things for God. Why not this last straw?
The question becomes profound when I put myself in the young man’s shoes. I can think of a few habits in my life where I do the same thing. These habits, loyalties and choices keep me from Jesus. Like the rich young ruler I too grow sad when I say yes to them instead of Jesus. But, I’m entangled with these counterfeit gods. I live for their quick fixes and their false protection. Once again I find myself living for the “x” and choose to sidestep the work or sacrifice that a life lived for eternity might bring.
Take a moment to consider what question you would not want Jesus to ask you.
What do you fear He would require from you?
Talk with God about the habits, beliefs and choices that are keeping you from Him.
LENT DAY 8
THURSDAY, MARCH 9
Many people commemorate the 40-days before Easter by choosing to fast in some way. Some give up chocolate, caffeine or food in general. Others turn off media outlets or choose to wake up a bit earlier every morning, a sacrifice of sleep, to spend more time with God.The big idea is to identify with Christ in His suffering and focus that time or desire more fully on Him. I didn’t grow up practicing this tradition but I like the idea of having a tangible reminder that redirects me back to Jesus.
Yesterday when I answered the question about what I didn’t want Jesus to ask me to give up – it revealed (again) an area of dependence in my life, sugar.
I move toward sugary snacks out of familiarity, routine, boredom and a desire for comfort. That might sound bazaar to some of you but it’s true for me. Sugar influences my day more than God does at times. It’s a substance that I have to continually evaluate and guard against or an unhealthy dependence begins again. I am in a season of unhealthy dependence right now.
For this 40-day fast, I could have chosen something easier – something that would have been inconvenient to give up for 40 days but would have ensured “success” at the end. But in light of the passage in Matthew 19:16-30, I couldn’t help but sense that I would have been only trying to look religious and in doing so might miss the presence of God with me. The young man in Matthew was calculated about his worship and he walked away when real sacrifice was required. When Jesus upped the ante and asked the young man for his the things he depended on apart from God, the young man walked away, sad.
I do that. I give in to things like sugar because they don’t require anything from me. In the next 40 days I want to bring those sin patterns to God. I want all facets of my life to bow to Him alone.
Should I fail to resist sugars hollow charms at some point over the next few weeks, I want to keep my error in perspective with these questions. Maybe they will be a help to you as well.
What is your hope for Easter Sunday? Do you want to celebrate how much self-control you have? Or, do you want to celebrate the fact that you have a great Savior who meets you in times of defeat?
LENT DAY 9
FRIDAY, MARCH 10
In this weeks pre-resurrection profile with Jesus and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 16-30, Jesus let’s the young man walk away from Him, sad. That gets me every time.
Everything in me wants Jesus to chase after the guy offering to talk a bit more about the cost of wholeheartedly following Him. Instead, Jesus turns toward his followers and debriefs with them about the cost of living for the eternal line. Everything.
It’s countercultural. Our society says work your way to the top. Jesus says, give up everything and follow me.
Even churches promote the idea that following Jesus is comfortable because He is loving and kind. Those characteristics are true – He is loving and kind to the brokenhearted but those qualities are balance with justice and righteousness.
Jesus doesn’t accept half hearted. He knows His worth.
The requirements for entrance into God’s perfect Heavenly realm are untouchable by humans. Perfection is needed. On our own, we don’t stand a chance. And that is exactly the point. You and I MUST have a perfect someone step into the gap between God and our sin for us.
God righteousness set up the highest standard for entrance into His presence. And God in his love sent His only son to meet the standard for sinful people. He plays both sides of the equation. He doesn’t lower the bar to let us into His perfect home. But he offers us “the door,” to Heaven through His one son, Jesus. Jesus stands in the gap for us. He lived a sinless life. He is our hope.
In the New Living Translation of Romans 3:20-26 we read:
“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
For everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
What attribute of God are thankful for today? Consider writing that attribute on a sticky note or in the comments below to remind you throughout the day of the finished work of Jesus and the mercy of God.
LENT DAY 10
SATURDAY, MARCH 11
I’ve been told that the best way to spot a counterfeit dollar is to know the genuine version forward and backwards, inside and out. The same goes many things, I’m sure. When I rehearse truth; lies or half-truths stick out as abnormal.
This is one reason why getting to know the true character of God is life changing. When I rehearse what is true about Him, I know how to process the world around me.
Choose one of God’s characteristics discussed on Cru.org’s “Discover God E-devotional” page. My hope is that we will learn (or rediscover) something wonderful about our Creator and Lord today.
Consider bookmarking this page for a shortcut to Truth in the coming weeks.
SUNDAY, MARCH 12
Here’s a quote about Sabbath to ponder. You can also review this week’s thoughts and questions about the preparation for Resurrection Sunday.
“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.”
― Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives.
LENT DAY 11
Monday, MARCH 13
Revisit Matthews account of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30.
But I don’t want us to get stuck by focusing only on our failure to live up to Christ’s perfection. Remember, we live on the far side of Resurrection Sunday. Our sins are forgiven though, many times, we still do battle against them or succumb to their charms on this side of Heaven.
I’m glad Matthew honestly recorded the disciples reactions to the picture that played out before them. A rich young moral man who seems to have his act all together is sent away sad after talking with Jesus. The externals weren’t enough. Religion didn’t save. Sacrifice and dependence on Christ alone saves. It’s countercultural and the disciples, and I, were left questioning – Who stands a chance? Is this a losing game?
Once again Jesus ends by offering eternal perspective. He draws their eyes out of the temporary “x” sacrifices and reminds them of his eternal perspective. Jesus responds with a picture of hope for every difficult choice made out of obedience and love for Him.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible… And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
God will help us realign our worship in light of eternity. Our weakness isn’t the point. His strength is what the Christian life is all about.
How are you living in light of your relationship with Jesus today?
LENT DAY 12
TUESDAY, MARCH 14
Take a moment for an internal inventory of your life and heart. This week we have reflected on the values of the rich young ruler and the perfection of Christ. Which of your default settings have come into play? If specific names of emotions come up with an item, write them down. For the moment, resist any instinct to try and solve or justify anything related to these default settings.
When we choose to rebel against God – trying to find life or comfort in anything other than Him we grieve His heart. As we grow closer to Him, our heart will grieve over our choices as well. It is appropriate to be sad over our sin, like the young man in Matthew 19.
However, in that grief we have a choice to make. That choice will turn us in one of two directions. We can choose to leave our lesser god and move toward Jesus in our need. Or we can operate on our default setting – rebellion against God and pursue life from the deadened things around us.
Consider ending your time today in a prayer of surrender. Maybe it could say something like this:
Lord, I am often like the rich young ruler in Matthew. I confess my rebellion and allegiance to ____________ . I recognize that the hold this idol has in my life robs you of glory and it robs me of the freedom and grace you offer.
Lord, your character is unchanging. You are holy, without blame, expectant of all my allegiance. When you require everything to be surrendered to you it is because you are worthy of the sacrifice. Help me to have a high view of you. I confess my need for you and choose to live this moment in light of your strength of character.
In my times of great need – when I’ve experienced failure and shame, help me to move toward you. By claiming your mercy I choose to leave behind the dead idols I’ve worshiped for too long.
I crave a life lived to the fullest, Lord. Help me to live in light of the eternal freedom you offer. Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see the temporary shortcuts I run to for the counterfeit idols that they are. Help me to redirect my dependence to you – trusting your strength and grace to lead me.
Only you satisfy Lord. Thank you that you have made it so.
LENT DAY 13
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15
I’ve never been good at math. I’ve always been better at the English side of learning. So when numbers and words combine, the principles stick and I track much better. In Luke 7: 35-50 Jesus explains a heart problem by using numbers. The result is a revolutionary equation. Let’s look at it together:
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, He went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
“When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
In the scene above, two sinners interact with Jesus, but only one converts sin into repentance and love for Jesus. “Whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus explains that there is a ratio between our awareness of sin and our recognition of God’s grace.
Now you do the math: What is your ratio of repentance to your love for God?
LENT DAY 14
THURSDAY, MARCH 16
Ever since the garden in Genesis 3, humans have forsaken God and chosen to cozy up to our rebellious acts of choice. Where do you see yourself in the scene Luke details in Chapter 7?
Look at Simon’s casual response. Though Jesus was invited into his home, Simon ignored the hospitality customs of the day. He did not greet Jesus or wash His feet. But this dishonor for Jesus doesn’t seem to bother Simon at all.
What does scandalize him is the brokenness of other people. His quick response of judgment toward the woman worshiping at Jesus’s feet reveals the deeper calluses of Simon’s heart.
Does Simon remind you of yourself? Are you quick to notice the sins of others but tolerant of your own sin?
I can be like Simon. Too often, I half-heartedly entertain Jesus and continue operating as if my need for Him is minimal.
Thankfully, Jesus knows my heart just as He knew Simon’s. So, He lays it out for calloused religious people like me by pointing Simon back to the bigger story:
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Most of us would agree that the person with the greater debt would be the most thankful.
Jesus affirms Simon’s budget wise answer, then turning on a dime, Jesus focuses on our human need for forgiveness.
The woman at Jesus’ feet was broken by the magnitude of her need for forgiveness. Simon, on the other hand, was deceived, hard-hearted and resistant to his need for forgiveness.
Both had the cancer of sin coursing through their bodies. Each needed to repent and turn to Jesus to be forgiven.
Try something “out of the box” today. Imagine yourself in this Biblical scene, and in the comments below, list who you identify with most (the Pharisee or the sinful woman). Briefly explain why.