Lent series 2023 – ‘Life in all its fullness’

Mark BradfordBibleLeave a Comment

Jesus said in John 10:10 that, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’. What God wants for us is only our deepest happiness – found in relationship with him (‘up’), in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ (‘in’), and in service of the world (‘out’).

However, there are many obstacles, or temptations, that can keep us from living in the fullness of the life that God has for us. Through the ages Christians have conceived of these as the Eight Thoughts, or, more commonly, the Seven Deadly Sins. The Eight Thoughts are named as thoughts connected with, firstly, our bodies – gluttony, greed, and lust – secondly, with our minds – acedia (have you ever heard of this?!), despair, and anger – and, thirdly, with our souls – vanity and pride.

We are conscious from the outset that these are difficult and sensitive issues, and we will all have particular struggles in specific areas. In fact, it needs to be said that these are each things that we all struggle with to some extent or other – no matter our age or stage of life. Each has a deep impact on our relationship ‘up’ with God, ‘in’ with one another, and ‘out’ into the world.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8:1). God’s grace is always abundant and more than sufficient for our need. Therefore, it is good for us to think, reflect and pray on these areas – especially in a season like Lent – not that we might feel guilty and condemned, but that we met be led more fully into the freedom that God has for each and every one of us.

By the power of his Holy Spirit, God longs to transform gluttony into moderation, greed into generosity, lust into right relationship, acedia into attentiveness, despair into hope, anger into patience, vanity into modesty, and pride into humility.

Such ‘deep transformation’, however, can only come through the strength that God gives to us. Yet, this does not mean that we simply sit back, passive, so as to ‘let go and let God’. Rather, God has given us practices or habits that, in his grace, for us to co-operate with his work in us and so to form us more and more into the image and likeness of Christ. Historically, these have been variously called ‘spiritual disciplines’, ‘means of grace’, or ‘practices of Jesus’. They include such things as prayer, reading and meditating upon Scripture, silence and solitude, sabbath, and more besides. By practicing the way of Jesus, we can work with God to develop healthy and holy habits, and so more naturally live as Jesus lived, rather than fall prey to the thoughts that can lead us to sin.

Over the weeks of the season of Lent, we would ask you to practice self-awareness and to reflect on where you are in your walk with the Lord and in relationship with those around you – both in the church and the wider world. Then to ask the Lord for what it is that you need to become more like him. And then, through personal intention, the support of Christian community around you, and the power of the Holy Spirit, to step more fully into the freedom in Christ that is our birth-right as the children of God. As ever, there will be prayer ministry available each week, or you are free to make contact with Mark or one of the staff team to talk and pray something through with you.

In summary, this series on ‘Life in all its fullness’ is not about a guilt that condemns us but about a grace that frees us and a love that draws us further in to the way of Jesus, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (cf. Matthew 11:28-30).

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