“I thought fried meant crispy,” my partner in giving up fried foods for lent wrote in a text.
Visions of chips, fried chicken, and french fries swirled through my head.
My heart twisted inside me. I want to do this first Lent season right. I am giving up something for forty days so I can meditate on all Christ gave up. Donuts?! Would eating a donut ruin this forty days? Would it be breaking the fried food fast?
And the ugly head of legalism threatened to taint these days of preparing my heart for His death and resurrection.
Isn’t that the way of it? We waffle between legalism and grace. Finding the balance is difficult.
We err either way. Grace given without sacrifice is cheap. It isn’t real. Jesus paid the price.
Legalism binds us heavy. Keeps us hopeless and helpless.
“The point [of giving up something for Lent] isn’t to be legalistic,” I wrote back. “God is good. He knows our hearts. . . I just want to honor Him.”
Suddenly I saw the debates surrounding human tradition in my life. Legalism is easier to pin down. If you do this and don’t do that then you are pleasing God. But pleasing God isn’t that difficult or simple.
“…a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17b
Yes God wants us to do things to please Him, but the doing comes from a broken and contrite heart. A heart that overflows with love because of all Jesus did for her. A heart influenced by the Spirit of God is a heart able to do things that pleases God.
The simplicity and difficulty then lies here: We must rely on the Spirit to do things that please God, but we can’t look at the actions only and say that person is pleasing God. There is no check-list to pleasing God. There is only a contrite broken heart. Who can see that heart but God alone?
The legalistic heart does what is right with an attitude of superiority. The gracious heart does what it wants saying it is all covered in grace.
The broken and contrite heart then manifests itself in humble loving obedience. This is the heart of Lent, the heart that pleases God, the heart that does not place burdens on others, but lovingly calls them to brokeness for the sake of wholeness.
So it is Memory Monday on Tuesday again. We are moving right along in Psalm 40. Let’s work on verses 12 and 13 this week.