“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”—Matthew 16:24
Self-denial isn’t something we like to think about. Everything in our culture is directed toward the fulfillment of every desire. The very thought that we would purposefully suppress those desires is akin to failure in our minds. But Christ offers us a different picture.
Deny yourself. Not only on a small scale of personal desires, but deny yourself unto death (take up your cross). We ask, “What possible good could come of me laying down my life, or what good could possibly come from denying my desires?” Jesus expounds on the call, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
From the earliest days of the church, in the days leading up to our Lord’s passion and death, it has been the practice of Christians to lay something down, and pick something up. What gets laid down is between you and God. In fact, God may already be telling you what it should be. Traditionally the fast has included some type of food, but may also include fasting from leisure activities and hobbies. The purpose of this fast is to listen for the voice of God. How is God calling you to grow as a disciple this Lenten season?
The Lenten fast consists of the 40 days (Sundays excluded) between Ash Wednesday [Mar 9] and Easter Sunday [April 24]. Each time you hunger for what you gave up, listen for the voice of God. Let Him stir in you a hunger for righteousness in its place. I encourage you to meditate on Hebrews 12 throughout your fast.
But the fast is only half of the equation! Lay something down (fast), Pick something up (devotion).
During the season of Lent we are calling the Church into increased devotion. Start by meditating on the life of Christ. Read two chapters of a Gospel per day. This will have you reading the entirety of the four gospels by Easter. Join or start a small group during Lent. There are cards throughout the hallways of the church that can guide you in that group. Next, take up your cross, literally. Wear a cross necklace to remind you, and to proclaim to others the death and resurrection of Christ. Lastly, share that cross. Don’t worry, we have plenty, you can get a new one once you’ve given it away.