Freedom of Repentance

Isaiah 58:1-12
Mardi Gras is when you get rid of the excess. It’s called Fat Tuesday because you were to get rid of the fats in your home in preparation for your Lenten fast. Of course, Mardi Gras has taken on more than that. It’s a party! The idea being to get it all out to prepare for the fasting and praying of the next few weeks.

Those weeks begin today, Ash Wednesday. So many of us know this as a time of repentance. There is much more to the occasion, but let’s stick with that one element for now.

What are you asking God to forgive within you? I’m not asking that as a question, but as a challenge. It’s appropriate to ask God to forgive your bad attitude. For telling a white lie. Did you skip church? Maybe you feel guilty about a petty thought you had about someone else.

By all means, ask God.

But realize, too, Christ died for so much more. Our salvation is not dependent on God forgiving us for skipping church. We’re freed from sin to live holy lives. Yes, cheating and lying are wrong. But what else does Christ want us to do with our freedom?

The words from Isaiah 58 strike hard. They show us God is not impressed with the shell of our worship. The prophet talks about the way people would fast. Imagine what he would say to us, a people who, for the most part, don’t fast at all! Their fasting, though, was for personal reasons. It didn’t change how they lived with others.

Their worship didn’t keep them from abusing and oppressing others. God does not honor such shallow piety. So, let me ask you again, what are you asking God to forgive within you?

Most of us are not in positions to overtly abuse and oppress others. But do we work to loosen the bonds of injustice? Do we use our resources to share with the hungry? Do we house those without a home and give them something to wear? Or do we try our best to avoid them on the street corners?

God once warned the people of God of such an empty faith. How could they know trust in God if they didn’t respond with the kind of fast God called for? They couldn’t. They would keep their vain appearance of holiness.

Today, let us hear God’s call to righteousness. It is not only for God to keep us from bad habits. It is to free us for joyful obedience in our pursuit of loving each other. Let the forgiveness God has given us be a blessing to those in need.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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