It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. I'm not sure how I feel about giving something up for Lent - nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to do this as a lead up to Easter. And I find I end up doing it simply because it's the thing to do, rather than out of a genuine desire to suffer as Christ did which is really at the heart of the practice.
Instead, for the next six weeks I'm committing to exclusively use this space as a place to reflect on Christ's impending sacrifice (Easter Sunday) and how it has impacted my life and the world at large. This is a big step for me, as I've tended to shy away from sharing my faith publicly and if I do so, it's with a very small voice. Somewhere along the way, I became more concerned about people's comfort level with what I'm saying rather than on how it might impact their lives for eternity. There is nothing gained nor hearts won by preaching the Gospel in such a way.
I want to be an unashamed bearer of the Truth - even if the Truth is hard to hear. The Gospel of Grace (John 3:16) is essential and available to all who desire oneness with God. The message of grace rolls off the tongue nicely and sweetly - it's for everybody, and it makes everyone feel good inside. It's a much harder thing to bring a call to repentance - it can be a bitter pill to swallow. And yet, without repentance we have no hope of receiving God's grace (Luke 13:3 & 5). Grace and repentance must always be taught as a package deal. Leonard Ravenhill is a man who understood this, and the sermon below is a call to all of us to examine our hearts before the Lord.
If you are somebody who chooses to give something up for Lent, I'd like to challenge you to really examine your motivation for doing so. As Mr. Ravenhill states above - its not about what we do for God but why we do it. The heart is what God examines - not just our actions.