Lenten Disciplines: Training for the Eternal Inheritance

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Lenten SeasonWe are now well into the Lenten season. Lent literally means fortieth. It is marked by Christians through fasting, prayer and acts of kindness. Western Christianity began Lent March 1 this year, which ends April 13, and Eastern Christians began on February 27 and will end on April 7 this year.

The Lenten disciplines train us for our eternal inheritance. I love what the apostle Paul said: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24–27 NIV).

You know wishing does not win a race. It takes disciplining the appetites. It takes making them your slave. Thus like a coach, Paul urges his young protégé to forego endless myths and legends and instead train hard in the gymnasium of life. Why? Because physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things (1 Tim. 4:7–8). It has promise not only for the present life but also for the life to come.

I would say that prejudice against the spiritual gymnasium is breathtaking. We live in this self-indulgent culture in which feeling good is esteemed to be the highest value or virtue. The apostles had a decidedly different perspective. That is why Paul practiced disciplines like fasting (Acts 13:1–3; 14:19–23). He was emulating Christ. He believed that was the highest virtue. Therefore, Christ fasted (Matt. 4:1–2) and Paul emulated that fasting as well. He lived and practiced the things that his Lord taught so that he might be empowered by God’s energies and not just his own energy.

I think if each person listening to me right now were brutally honest with themselves, they would say that more often than not they walk in the way of the world. How many can truly say that we have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires? Who among us can truthfully say that he has engaged in mastering those passions that for far too long they have been mastered by? Yet, that is precisely what Christ calls us to do. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 NIV).

Mental ascent. Good intentions. They do not in and of themselves produce transformation. It is not just our beliefs that need changing; it is our behaviors. If our habits remain the same, then our lives are going to remain the same as well. I cannot tell you how many people have told me over the years that they would dearly love to memorize Scripture, and yet very, very few are willing to embrace the disciplines necessary to carve the Scriptures into the canvas of their consciousness.

I am not talking today as I open the broadcast about fasting for the sake of fasting or fasting to curry the favor of God. No. We fast from food in order to experience union with God. Doctrinal correctness is not a replacement for correct discipline as though what we do and what we think have no bearing upon one another—of course they do.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Tim. 4:7–8 NIV).

This blog is adapted from the March 6, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.