Each year, the Christian church sets aside a period of contemplation, repentance and sacrifice as a preparation for the celebration of Easter.
Not counting the Sundays, 40 days are dedicated to a personal journey toward understanding the sacrifice that Jesus made for sin and the spectacular way that God raised Him from the dead.
The period of time from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday allows for a period of fasting, imitating the fasting of Jesus in the wilderness before His ministry on Earth.
Some Lenten devotionals spend 40 days talking about sacrifice. While it is nearly impossible to meditate on the Easter season, especially Holy Week, without considering sacrifice, our goal is to look through the sacrifice to the joy and hope that motivates it.
As we walk our journey toward Jerusalem and Resurrection Sunday, this year we are doing so, guided by the words of the apostle Peter. “Therefore, my brothers and sister, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling” (2 Peter 1:10). How do we know God is at work in our lives? How do we confirm that — making it more sure, more confident, and more charismatic?
What does it mean to confirm your calling? Many Christian denominations hold an act of confirmation affirming the commitment and belief of an individual. A confirmation provides proof that something is true. Congregations that practice infant baptism see confirmation as the sealing of the faith that was created in baptism.
By the structure of Peter’s comments, Christians should continually confirm the reality of their calling. In a sense this passage of Scripture is similar to the structure that Jesus used as He began the Sermon on the Mount. Peter is giving us a beatitude to live by. “Blessed are they who confirm their calling for they will never stumble, but will gain entry into the kingdom of heaven.”
Over the next few weeks leading to Easter, we will look at ways that we know God is continuing to work in our lives in the salvation process. Paul gives encouragement for similar glimpses at the process when he tells the Philippians, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you” (Philippians 2:12).
One of the first ways we know that God is at work in our lives is the continued growth in our character. Earlier in Peter’s passage Peter lists seven virtues (2 Peter 1:5-7) that reinforce our calling. Some of the virtues receive mention by Paul as he lists the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22). The foundation upon which the building of our lives can be firm and strong is character. The development of character and integrity should increase throughout life.
There are many warnings in Scripture that believers need to grow in holiness so that one might persevere in the faith and not fall away. The Hebrews writer, which may have been Paul, encourages, “Take care brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV).
Another indicator confirming our calling involves something that every one of us deals with on a daily basis. How we handle temptation — and our failures — speaks to how God is working in our lives and our understanding of our relationship with Him.
Our biggest danger as we respond to the context of life is a devilish deceit that we accept as truth. We assume that bad circumstances, or even our own sinful responses to circumstances, means that God does not like us. I make bad, sinful choices that have dire consequences and I assume that God is displeased with me, that He is mad at me, and that I have disappointed Him in a grave way.
That assumption is not what the Scripture teaches, although it can be based on doctrines of the Bible taken out of context. Satan has been performing the misuse of Scripture since the Garden of Eden — and humans continue to believe him.
Hebrews continues by telling us we don’t have a typical high priest representing us before God to offer sacrifices for our sins. “Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way — just as we are — yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV).
Can you see the power of the teaching in those three verses? When we sin, our natural reaction — the one that Satan is pushing us toward — is to hide, to cover and to blame. Isn’t that exactly what Adam and Eve did when God came walking in the Garden following their sin?
Don’t let sin or circumstances push you into thinking that God is displeased with you. He empathizes with you because He knows what the circumstances and temptations of life are all about. He doesn’t want you to sin, but there is no reason to run and hide. Instead, hold firmly to the faith that you talk about on Sundays. Don’t hide from God, instead approach His throne with confidence.
Not confidence in yourself — your behavior or your lack of sin. Approach with confidence because of your High Priest.
Confirm your calling. Let temptation draw you nearer to God.