Ephesians 4:22 – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires. (NIV)
Lent is the season for exchanging old habits with new ones. That could also include habits of thinking. For example, the meaning of being "Christian" may have become so hazy in our minds that it needs to be replaced. Scripturally, being Christian is in itself a process of exchange. Consider Jesus' words: "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39 NIV) This means that the "old self" is put away and a "new self" is put on.
We pause here to draw a lesson from history: In ancient monasticism, deprivation of life's benefits was considered the best way to attain the ultimate spiritual blessing from God. Some monks got so carried away that their practices bordered on self-abuse; that's how desperate they were. Later, some Reformers tried to keep the people holy by instituting deprivations — like forbidding images or musical instruments in church. Jesus encountered religious deprivations in His day. Such zealous efforts did little to put off the "old self" and put on the "new self". What was and is still needed is a work of God. It is a spiritual "circumcision".
What does this procedure involve? It is a process of exchange: the old nature is cut away and replaced with a new spiritual nature. It means that, with God's help, I give up my old life for the life of Christ. I exchange my autonomy for the rule of Christ. I exchange my ways of thinking for the Scripture's message. I exchange my false piety and religious facades for the true heart of Jesus. I give up any nostalgic or idealistic longings for the present life, and instead wait for the future glory of God's kingdom. That is the way of the Christian. It is a costly exchange.
The apostle Paul is a good example of the exchanged life. Paul gave up everything that had once earned him esteem in his social community. Really, he lost his entire sense of "self" and all that had once given him meaning and purpose. He said, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:8 NIV) For us, too, in view of what we stand to gain through Christ, the costly exchange is not so costly, after all.
Prayer: Lord, during this Lenten season, prepare us to receive Your blessings available through Christ's sacrificial death. Empower us to surrender ourselves to You and whatever You may require, that we may enjoy, above all, knowing Jesus Christ in His risen life. Amen.