During this time of year, some Christians choose to observe the tradition of Lent, a season of penitence (heart change – not re-salvation) and fasting (reflecting Jesus’ 40 days in the Wilderness). This tradition was developed over the centuries as a formal, united way of remembering and venerating the key event of human history – Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
If you’ve chosen to observe Lenten practices, it seems wise to aim for more than abstaining from luxurious treats or pleasurable habits, to break ties with selfish pursuits. An additional benefit might be: heightened awareness that Jesus’ Kingdom community spans past, present, and future.
During Lent, our local church body is searching the prophecies of Jeremiah to gain deeper insight into the reason for this season. Here’s how the Lord begins his address to the nation of Judah in chapter 2. Notice references to a range of generations.
…. This is what the Lord says: “I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to me in your early years. I remember how you loved me like a new bride; you followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted.” Jeremiah 2:2 NET
This is what the Lord says: What fault could your ancestors have possibly found in me that they strayed so far from me?
They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to me. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord who delivered us out of Egypt?’”
Jeremiah 2:5-6a NET
“So, once more I will state my case against you,” says the Lord.
“I will also state it against your children and grandchildren.” Jeremiah 2:9 NET
Like me, you may drift into the “just me and God” approach that is almost automatic when considering fasting, reflecting, and gaining greater intimacy with him. Constant exposure to our individualistic culture causes us to forget the Holy Spirit has inextricably linked us to an eternal multitude of other loyal members of his Kingdom. God makes no allowances for “Lone Ranger” Christianity. Jesus followers have been, are, and will be affected by the actions and attitudes of each other.
In Jeremiah 3, we find a prescribed prayer of repentance for the nation of Judah (God’s chosen Kingdom of that time).
Notice its corporate nature.
Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors;
from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 3:25 NIV
The word picture below, included in my devotional last week, may provide additional understanding:
…my people have committed a double wrong:
They have rejected me, the fountain of life-giving water, and they have dug cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns that cannot even hold water. Jeremiah 2:13 NET
God’s desire isn’t just to turn us from the selfish pursuit of digging our own cisterns. Only our Lord can dig deep wells in our hearts and fill them with his fountain of life-giving water. Only he can repair subsequent “leaks” in our hearts as we fully embrace his ways. The secure heart-cisterns crafted by him are individual; but a filling with his life-giving water is common to all who trust him. As believers throughout time fully committed to him, all of us benefit – we’re in this together.
Consider this motto of the 300 Moravians who, after an emotional revival in 1727, took God’s refilling seriously and became renowned for 100 years of continuous, corporate prayer:
“None of us liveth unto himself”
The Moravians’ devotion to prayer and each other undergirded amazing advances of the Gospel.
During this season, if you’ve considered fasting or abstaining from a personal luxury or habit in hope that his Spirit will overflow both in your life and the lives of others, here are straightforward and familiar scriptures you can apply. Give special attention to corporate and individual themes as well as promised rewards.
How to enter fasting (hint: led by the Spirit)