I’m writing this on “Fat Tuesday” – an annual day of indulgence prior to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations are in full swing in many places.
To be clear, I’m not claiming that Jesus prescribes a certain diet program you should follow! While some foods and drinks are certainly better for the bodies that God has given us, the New Testament teaches that Christians have freedom in their dietary choices.
The “Western” diet, with all its processed foods and drinks and tremendous amounts of sugar, could certainly benefit from a more “Mediterranean” diet like that of Israel or Italy, but that’s another topic.
While both are important, I believe Jesus is more concerned with how we are feeding our souls than how we are feeding our bellies.
One’s relationship with the Lord is sometimes compared to food: “Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes Refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8) “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). One traditional Christian prayer also speaks of “inwardly digesting” the Word of God.
The same God who sends rain upon the earth and causes seeds to sprout and food to flourish, also feeds the souls of people through His written Word, the Bible, and His living Word, Jesus.
The Church season of Lent is a 40-day time of preparation for the annual remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death on Good Friday and His world-changing resurrection on Easter Sunday. The tradition of fasting during Lent is well-established. Giving up chocolate, soda, meat, etc., continues to be commonplace. These days, many folks fast from some sort of technology – social media, TV or streaming video services, and so on.
Fasting from things like these can benefit us physically, mentally, or in other ways, but it’s another area of Christian freedom. You can fast from something or perhaps several things, but you definitely don’t have to.
If you are thinking about fasting from something during Lent, consider also whether or not it might help you to focus on Jesus and include more of Him in your daily diet.
If you’re like me, your personal reading of God’s Word and devotional habits are probably inconsistent. It happens. However, Lent is a great time to start a new habit or to get back to a more consistent pattern.
What does a steady diet for your soul look like? What does it include? Here are a few thoughts on a “Jesus diet” for this Lent and beyond:
Use a daily devotional resource during the days of Lent. This will help to feed you daily doses of the sweet Gospel message that Jesus loves and cares for you, has died for you, and lives for you always! Many devotions also include prayer prompts. In addition to printed devotional materials, such as Portals of Prayer, there are many digital resources at your fingertips. I recommend the daily devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries as a place to start. These are available at no cost online, via email, or as an app for your phone or tablet.
Spend some time reading the Gospels. Our church will be focusing on the Gospel of Mark this Lent. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels. (Mark tends to get to the point and focus on action.) You might want to focus on the second half of one of the Gospels, since Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all devote more detail to the events of Jesus’ final days than to the earlier parts of His ministry. As you read, look for details of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection that you maybe haven’t noticed before. Remember that Jesus was more than just a victim of injustice. He chose to “lay down His life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
Attend Lenten midweek services at church. The added worship services during Lent (and eventually during Holy Week) provide us with additional opportunities to take in Jesus, hear His Word, and be filled with His promises.
Receive the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus feeds His people more than physical food. As He says, you receive His Body and His Blood “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). It’s a God-given meal that sends a certain message each time you receive it: “You proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). At His table, Jesus offers you true “soul food” – Himself!
Finally, to echo the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do this Lenten season and beyond, do all to the glory of God! So enjoy this “Fat Tuesday”, whether a juicy cheeseburger or a healthy salad is on your plate, but more importantly, include Jesus’ gifts through His Word and Supper in a steady diet for your soul.
Peace in Christ,