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Fit for the kingdom of God
March 14, 2011
by Pastor Bill Hillyer, Saving Grace Lutheran Church, Delano

The time of Lent is finally upon us. The Lenten season is meant to be a time of preparation for believers through prayer, penitence, fasting, and self-denial as they prepare themselves for the Passion of our Lord during Holy Week. I like to think of it as spiritual spring cleaning.

Cleaning isn’t always fun, but it is always worth the effort. Lent gives us the time to clean up our own spiritual house so that we can be prepared for Easter morning and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His victory over sin, death, and the Devil.

In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” In this portion of the Bible, there were many people who wanted to follow Jesus – but, they wanted to wait a little while until following Him fit better into their schedule.

Obviously, they had some very important things to do before they could follow Jesus. Bury their dead, finish their taxes, sell the car, take the kids to sporting events – you know, important things!

However, when they indicated to Jesus that they wanted to follow Him, but wanted to finish these other matters first, Jesus said, “No!” The only way to follow Him was to put Him first. Everything else in life was to be secondary.

The conversation Jesus had with these people makes it clear that it’s not just the bad things in life people need to clean up in their lives (most people already know these are wrong and not acceptable to God). In other words, it’s not just the sin in our lives that keeps us away from a relationship with the one true God.

Even the good we do in life can sometimes take us away from God. This includes those things you do that help you live a better life; parental duties, work duties, civic duties . . . the things we think can’t be neglected.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness – and all this other ‘stuff’ will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Nothing else can come before the kingdom of God in a Christian’s life – nothing! If you seek to follow Jesus, put Him ahead of everything else on your calendar. If you want to be spiritually pure, put Jesus ahead of every other event in you and your family’s life. According to Jesus, this is the only way to follow Him.

Bo Giertz, the Lutheran bishop who wrote the classic book, “The Hammer of God,” noted that “God created us to live with Him, through Him, and to Him.” (“To Live with Christ” page 168, ©2008, CPH.)

A Christian cannot put God first in their life unless they spend time with Him in His Word. As a person spends time reading and studying the Bible, and also in prayer, they will find that their personal relationship with Him grows deeper and more personal over time. In fact, the only way all the outward acts of the Lenten season will have a deep and lasting impact on your life is by taking the time to seek after the Lord in Scripture reading and prayer.

We have to make the time for God – just as we make time for the other important things and people in our life. Use this Lenten season as a time for cleaning up your spiritual house. Don’t let anything disturb the time set apart for growing in faith.

There is no easy answer to keeping the Lord first in our lives. We all fall short. And yet, the Lord is always there calling us back to Him.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for our sin of neglecting Him and putting other things first. The season of Lent is there to remind of the horrific price Christ paid to be our Savior. That’s why the Church emphasizes this season of repentance and reflection – so that we can repent of our sin and return to the relationship God has lovingly called us into with Him. As we seek and put Him first in our lives, we know that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all those who truly seek Him and believe in Him have eternal life.

May this Lenten season be a time of reflection, repentance, and reprioritizing as you seek to put the kingdom of God and His righteousness first in your life.