Tonight,is the beginning of your Lenten journey for 2021. Lent is just another one of the amazing opportunities for spiritual growth that God continuously puts in front of you. But for many of these opportunities, one of the first barriers we need to overcome is commitment. Many of us have trouble making the personal commitment to our own spiritual growth, and thus we end up missing opportunities from God to grow in our faith and live closer to the Way of Jesus. If you’re like me, you’ve probably missed more of these opportunities than you care to count. 

Starting tonight, and for the next 40 days of Lent, we have again, an opportunity to renew our commitment to God and to our own spiritual growth. I want to encourage you to not miss this one! I believe that in your heart, you are ready for this, and indeed, you are needing this. So, I urge you; Do not miss this opportunity.

Allow me to suggest some things that might help you get out of the starting gates. First, as with anything that has to do with God, you must be honest with yourself about where you are today in your spiritual life. After all, God already knows all about it. Like right now … God knows your fears and weaknesses about making a commitment to Lent 2021. God knows exactly what your needs, and God will help you all along the way by putting opportunities constantly in front of you. God will also be your personal mentor known as the Holy Spirit, and will help you hear things, see things, or find things, that you could not have done by yourself. 

Once you honestly reflect upon who you are today, and where you would like God to take you, then surrender the complete journey to God. The whole thing … none of this “co-pilot” stuff. Let God pilot and take your seat back in coach. 

God’s will is the only way to go, but we have to surrender our self-will for God’s will to have a chance. And even with all that about God’s will, you still have the most important role in this spiritual process, because God has made a promise to all of us that God will not intrude into our life uninvited, nor will God force any decision on you that you are not willing to make. 

So, you see, God and you … need each other. Think about that for a minute! The almighty and all-loving Creator of the universe and maker of all things in it, needs you to help build his Kingdom – whether that be in Arthur or your local community, or at Vine Street CC or your local church, or in your family, or in any area of your life that is in need of help from above. If you become willing, then God’s will can impact every single part of your life, and the more God’s way becomes your way, then the better your life is becoming. 

After honest reflection about where you are on your spiritual path; and after a sincere and intentional effort to surrender to God the things that you need help with (no limit!); now the time comes to take the leap. And that requires a decision, made by you, to sacrifice your instinctual urge to mold your own life, and instead, put all your trust in God. But whether it happens or not is all in your hands. God will come to your door, but you have to open it. God cannot, and will not, do this alone. 

Sometimes I stop to reflect on where I am spiritually by comparing a “religious person” with a “religious thinker.” So many of us start out by being a religious person … that is, a person who comes to know a great deal about religious things – like the Bible, the church, the members, the hymns, the prayers, and even the pastor! As for me, I didn’t start out that way, but I know many of you did. The church, with all its things to know about, was your religious life. 

The danger of being a religious person is that you become susceptible to “growing” comfortable with all the things you know so much about, and thus “change” becomes very challenging for you. The truth is, God is a constantly changing revelation in our world. God is always revealing himself to us in new ways, each and every minute of our lives.  Many of us miss God in our midst because we haven’t developed the eyes to see or the ears to hear. And encountering God is encountering change. Alas, many religious people close their doors to change, and thus to spiritual growth and the revelation of God in their own lives.

For all of us religious people out there, the message that God has is to take the leap … to make the transition from being a religious person to becoming a religious thinker. Look at it this way: Knowing about things is not the same (not even close) as knowing things. Religious thinkers know about what most religious people know about, but on top of that they know, through their own personal relationship with them, what all these religious things mean for them in their daily life. It’s a personal thing … there’s a spiritual relationship with them.  

So, for example, religious folks know about the Bible in some detail, but they may not know how to read the Bible with the Holy Spirit. Thus, they probably don’t see that they have a personal stake in the words of the Bible, nor an understanding that the Bible they know about, is really about them, and that it’s telling their story on a daily basis. When you know the Bible personally, then it becomes “living word” to you, and it meets you right where you are at, on any given day. 

Still, the most important difference between religious people and religious thinkers is their relationship to Jesus. Religious people claim to know a lot about Jesus, while the thinkers have a personal relationship with Jesus. They don’t just have knowledge about Him, but they receive His wisdom in their hearts.  Jesus truly becomes their Lord, and their God, and their Shepherd. They’re not so much focused on knowing about the gospel sayings of Jesus as much as they are reliant on what Jesus says to them personally about gospel things. Big difference! 

Vine Street Christian Church is in spiritual transition. All Jesus-centered and religious thinking churches are. Unlike many denominational churches, Vine Street asks of everyone, to step out and take the leap. Could it happen that every member, and nonmember for that matter, jumps into a new way of life based on having a personal experience with all the religious things in your life … starting with Jesus. 

All of us need spiritual growth. No one ever reaches the final destination in this world. And Lent is the ideal time to take this leap. So … Let’s all, in our own way, with God, make a personal commitment to Jesus that wherever our relationship is with Him today, we will spend the next 40 days with Him personally, each and every day, surrendering to His Father’s will and to His Way – the Way of Jesus. 

No, you can’t do it alone. Yes, you need to embrace Jesus as a personal friend to take even the first step. But try it. Make this Lent your “Leap of Faith Lent.” And if you commit to that, then 40 days from now, when Jesus rises from an empty tomb, and looks you in your eyes, he will call you by your name, because you’ll be best friends! 

Off we go — Walking this path together … Pastor Bob <><