Friday, March 22, 2013

Dissecting the Real Essence of Lent

I remember it has been almost  a year since I started this blog and one of the very first entries I made was in line with the then upcoming lent. Guess what? So as not to fail your expectation, I'm doing the same this year! Hurrah! Lol.

In the Philippines where most citizens are Catholic, people have different ways of celebrating this season. There's Fasting, Pabasa, Station of the Cross, Visita Iglesia, Flagellants, and Alay-lakad. While I'm no expert in the Philippine culture to discuss this, I grew up witnessing people following these traditions. Sadly, as I have mentioned in last year's lent entry, more than following the God of their religion, people become followers of the religion itself. This is the reason why either they do things they don't understand, or they fall to believing false teachings.

christianity versus religionI was a Catholic for the first 18 years of my life and I myself have experienced doing some of those. However, growing up, I must admit I hated the fact that there are things I should do or follow just to prove that I'm a good girl (esp. I really was not). I went to church every Sunday, completed the Simbang Gabi (I know this is more of a Christmas event but hey you get my point), prayed the rosary every night, confessed of my sin inside that cool amazing box, but at the end of the day, I didn't feel fulfilled nor did I feel I was a better person. Not to mention, I got tired of doing those things and still felt like God was so far away. They became dead-end routine to me. Until I realized what I was missing. I got tired of the religion, and so I started seeking for the relationship. And this is where the importance of the gospel emerges. When I found Christ in 2006 responded to Christ's call in 2006, it has been an amazing transition for me. I gained a different view of life and even a better view of myself. I realized how loved I was. I found what I was looking for and it's not religion -- it's a relationship with God, my lord and savior. I became a follower of Christ-- no longer your old religious girl but a new spiritual woman of God. Because of this, I got my fair share of the perks that Christianity has to offer.

1. Forgiveness. Psalm 103:12 and Hebrews 8:12 are some of the scriptures I had a hard time understanding when I was still starting as a Christian. I just don't understand how someone can forgive one's sin and totally forget about it. This came to me as a shock way back. I mean how can someone forgive me from sins I myself cannot forgive? If God is not merciful, I don't know who is.
Psalms 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

2. Salvation and Eternal Life. What I appreciate most about the kind of relationship I have with the Lord is that I am made aware of my weakness and His immeasurable strength. I delight in the fact that there is no amount of religious activity I can do to appease the judgment of my sins. No need to work hard for the salvation of my soul against the eternal fires of hell because He has already given it to us two thousand years ago, we just need to know and acknowledge this fact.
Collosians 1:13-14 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins.

3. Storm-proof Life on Earth. When I started following Christ, I was faced with so many types of struggles -- persecution, financial challenges, offense, broken relationships, and a whole lot more I dare not mention. Christianity doesn't promise an easy life. Actually, it guarantees the otherwise. However, what's amazing about it is that a God-centered life is a guaranteed storm-proof life. Again, not storm-free, but storm-proof.
Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 

Christianity versus religion But why do we need these things? Why not settle to the kind of life that we have right now? Why do we need salvation anyway?

Well, if you are someone who doesn't believe (or at least care) in life after death, then automatically, this will not make sense to you. But thank you for reading anyway. Below are the BAD NEWS that we should know.

1. We are all sinners. Because of the first fall (remember Adam & Eve in the garden of Eden?), we are born sinners. Our kids are born sinners. Ever wonder as a kid why you have mastered lying to your parents or classmates without having anyone to teach you? Whoever said that kids don't lie lies. That's reality, friends.
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away,  they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

2. We cannot save ourselves. Because of our unholy nature, we cannot redeem ourselves. We need someone who is holy and blameless to save us from the judgement of our sins. I'll try to use the simplest illustration I can think of for this one. Say you disobeyed your college professor's instruction and failed to submit your final paper on time which will merit you a failing grade, say 5. Your professor, trying to be considerate without being unfair to those who were able to comply, then asked you to submit a make-up project so he can give you a passing grade for that particular major subject. Will you be submitting a mediocre project? Something that most of your classmates have already submitted before? Or you'll prepare the best that you can, maybe something unique, knowing that this is the only way you can gain not only a passing grade but an excellent grade of 1? Same is true with Christianity. The grade of 5 means eternal death and the professor is God. The only way God (the professor) can give us eternal life (grade of 1) is if someone holy, blameless, and righteous (excellent special project) sheds his blood for the humanity's redemption.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Hebrews 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

3. We are object of God's wrath. Most people do not realize that while our God is loving, He's also just. This means He hates sin and He won't tolerate sinners. Yes, He is merciful and gracious, but he is also a God that punishes those who will fail to follow His word.
Ephesians 2:3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

4. Hell is real. Hell is more than a mere imaginary place we create to use as threat to those who have offended us. Hell is not only a place of misery and punishment, but also a concept of eternal separation from God. I don't know about you but though the prior sounds painful, the latter sounds more unbearable to me.
2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment

Christianity versus religion

I hope by this message it's now clear why some of the traditions I mentioned in line with celebration of lent is unnecessary if not irrelevant. Don't you think it's an insult to the Lord that we think what He has done is not enough that until today we are still trying to use good works (if those are good) to save ourselves? Can't we just be happy & thankful that it's done? No more need for torture, self-denial, and sacrifices. No need to pretend holy during only a particular week while continue sinning the rest of the year. Again, aside from the blood of Christ, NOTHING can purify us.

 In this note, I'll leave you with one last scripture which I hope we ponder on not only during lent, but for everyday of our borrowed life.

I hope you all have a blessed Holy Week ahead  (long weekend yes!) and a fun time with your family and loved ones! ♥

Suggested Reading: The True Meaning of Lent

1 comment:

  1. Reading this post reminds me of how bad I am now. I mean, I haven't been to church since .. I can't remember anymore. Waaah!


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