<img class="size-medium wp-image-50259 alignright" src="https:\/\/theenterprise.net\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/23\/2021\/03\/cross_1614683186-300x169.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="169" \/>Rev. Thomas Shepherd\r\n\r\nPastor, Stuart United Methodist Church\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat Shall I Do For Lent?\u201d\r\n\r\nMark 1:9-15\r\n\r\nWe are in the Season of Lent, which is a season of repentance and preparation for the great celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.\u00a0Over the centuries, Lent has lost its savor and many in the church today have little regard for Lent and its primary purpose.\u00a0It has been diluted to little more than, \u201cWhat shall I give up for lent?\u201d\u00a0If that is all Lent is about, we are in trouble.\r\n\r\nPeople have the tendency to believe that if they give up something for Lent, they can be more like Jesus, who gave up everything to suffer for us. But the truth of the matter is no amount of self-deprivation will actually make us fully experience the suffering of Jesus.\u00a0However, if you feel you need to give up something for Lent, by all means do it. But why stop at 40 days, thinking that by giving it up for 40 days will somehow earn God\u2019s favor?\r\n\r\nIf you are going to give it up for Jesus, then give it up and leave it.\r\n\r\nThe other extreme in our modern culture is to take up something during Lent because we don\u2019t like the idea of giving anything up.\u00a0So, we may decide to increase our Bible reading, or prayer time, or add another devotional, or meditation time.\u00a0But then again, if it is only for the season of Lent and then dropped, what good is it?\u00a0\u00a0If it is worth doing, it is worth doing continually and not just for a season.\r\n\r\nThere is no mention of Lent in the Bible because it is something the Church instituted as a means of preparing for Resurrection Sunday (Easter). However, we do have a great example of preparing oneself for a mission from God in Mark\u2019s Gospel 1:9-15.\u00a0\u00a0In this short passage, Mark covers three life events in the life of Jesus: the baptism, the wilderness temptation, and the beginning of Jesus\u2019 preaching ministry.\r\n\r\nIt is my prayer that as we look at this passage, we will learn some important lessons that will go far beyond Lent and will last for a lifetime because these lessons will help us in our Christian Journey.\r\n\r\nIn verses 9-11, Mark tells us of the Baptism of Jesus by simply saying, \u201cIn those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.\u201d\u00a0\u00a0In the baptism of Jesus, we learn who Jesus is.\u00a0John didn\u2019t know who the Messiah was, but he had been told by God that he would know him by the Spirit coming down and resting on him (John 1:33).\u00a0John saw this in verse 10.\u00a0And John heard the voice from heaven say, \u201cYou are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased\u201d (11).\u00a0\u00a0What we learn from this is that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah.\r\n\r\nWe learn that Jesus humbled himself.\u00a0After all He was the Son of God, so he was equal with God, but he did not use his position to make people believe in him.\u00a0He humbled himself to carry out God\u2019s plan of salvation. What we learn from this is that we, as followers of Christ, must humble ourselves to be useful in the kingdom of God.\r\n\r\nWe learn that it was \u201cto fulfill all righteousness\u201d (Matthew 3:15).\u00a0\u00a0Christ\u2019s baptism fulfilled the righteousness of the ceremonial law, a ritual cleansing.\u00a0What we learn from this is that we are to follow His example and be baptized.\u00a0Our baptism is a sign of our repentance and the symbolic washing away of our sin by Christ.\u00a0We die to ourselves and are raised into newness of life in Christ.\r\n\r\nNext is the Wilderness Temptation (vss. 12-13) where we see that \u201cthe Spirit \u2026 drove him out into the wilderness\u201d and that \u201cHe was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan;\u201d (12-13).\r\n\r\nMark does not go into details like Matthew or Luke, he simply tells us that the \u201cSpirit \u2026 drove him out into the wilderness\u201d and that he was there \u201cforty days\u201d being \u201ctempted by Satan\u201d (12-13).\u00a0What we learn from the wilderness event is if we really want to know God, we must get alone with God.\u00a0It was the \u201cSpirit\u201d that drove Jesus into the wilderness, not Satan.\u00a0Jesus was embarking on a mission for God.\r\n\r\nI know the argument can be made that Jesus is God, so wouldn\u2019t He know God already?\u00a0This is true, but Jesus is God in human form, which would include all the frailties of being human, like the temptation to sin.\u00a0Again, I know there are some who believe that Jesus could not fall into temptation and sin, but if that is the case, what is the point of Satan trying to tempt Him to sin? Also, the temptation of Jesus is mentioned in three of the four Gospels.\u00a0I believe it is there for us to know that we can overcome the temptation to sin as Jesus did, but it takes commitment to God, so we must get close to God.\r\n\r\nOne of the best ways to get close to God is in nature.\u00a0Often in His ministry, Jesus went out to be alone with God.\u00a0We, too, need to find time away from the busyness of life and spend some quality time alone with God.\u00a0This is how we prepare for temptations: 1) Get closer to God by spending quality time in the presence of God 2) Spend quality time learning the word of God and allow it to become a part of your very existence and 3) Learn to lean on Jesus, for if we are in Him, He is in us as John tells us in 1 John 4:4, \u201cfor the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.\u201d\r\n\r\nThrough all the trials of Jesus\u2019 wilderness temptation, God was with Him even though He was \u201cwith the wild beasts\u201d (13).\u00a0What does the image of the wild beasts bring to mind? Literal wild animals certainly, but it could also represent the evils of the world.\u00a0The point to keep in mind is twofold 1) It is God\u2019s Spirit doing the sending therefore it is sanctioned by God; and 2) God does not forsake those whom He sends for \u201cthe angels waited on him\u201d (13).\u00a0This teaches us that in our call to serve God, God will not forsake us if we are in God\u2019s will. God will minister to us in the struggle.\u00a0God will lift us up.\r\n\r\nFollowing the wilderness event, Jesus takes full command of His mission of proclaiming \u201cthe good news of God\u201d (14).\u00a0\u00a0He begins with the same cry as that of the prophets of old, with the same cry as that of John the Baptist, he begins with the cry of \u201cThe time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news\u201d (15).\u00a0You see, God doesn\u2019t change!\u00a0The same message of the prophets, and from John is proclaimed by Jesus, \u201cRepent and accept the good news of God\u2019s love for you.\u201d\r\n\r\nHere is the point - repentance must come first!\u00a0For believers today, the message we share is the same, \u201cRepent and believe the gospel!\u201d\u00a0Salvation begins with repentance!\r\n\r\nSo yes, we can learn something from this text for our journey. It begins with repentance, then accepting the good news of God\u2019s love through Jesus Christ and committing ourselves to Him, and following the will of the Lord in our lives to be what God has called us to be.\u00a0Serve and \u201clove the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might,\u201d (Deut 6:5).\r\n\r\nSo, what shall we do for Lent?\u00a0Repent and get closer to the Lord, so we are better prepared to minister the gospel of God\u2019s love to a sick and dying world.