Prayer and Fasting ~ September 2021
Centered on Christ
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.” Ephesians 3:16-17
An important part of the journey of discipleship is discovering who we are as unique persons created by God. Understanding who we really are enables us to better discern our true center in Christ. Our scripture focus this month is Ephesians 3:16-17. In this passage Paul is assuming that as we receive inner strength through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will gain a better sense of self and recognize God’s claim on us as children of God.
Discovering who we are as unique persons created by God does not happen without effort. It requires self-examination. Self-examination is the practice of looking inward, the process of exploring our interior life – the matters of the heart. It is the tool for assessing the strength of our faith and the ways in which we may need to adjust or change directions as we seek to follow Jesus. This discipline is crucial to spiritual maturity, yet we are not always inclined toward the effort involved. That’s because often, it’s easier to focus on the various roles we play rather than on our interior selves.
We all play several roles even over the course of a day. For example, we may be wives or husbands, mothers or fathers, students, employees, daughters, sons, bosses – or more. Devoting ourselves to these roles requires little self-exploration. Our various societies have mapped out numerous expectations for a wide variety of roles. These expectations are fairly well known, so we can follow the basic script without much introspection.
The process of understanding who we are as unique individuals created by God, on the other hand, takes a great deal more effort. And yet, it is an important part of the Christian life. Without an understanding of who we are, it becomes difficult to understand the ways in which God desires to work within us.
Scripture points to the need for regular self-examination. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. Under Paul’s instructions, the Corinthians had begun sharing Holy Communion together regularly. However, as time passed, some began rushing through this rite without waiting to share it with others. Paul had to remind them that their hearts needed to be in the right place when they participated in the holy meal together. The Lords’ Supper is something to be shared with reverence, not something to be rushed. Self-examination is a significant part of this so Paul encourages the Corinthians – and us – to look inward, to engage in honest self-reflection before taking the break and cup.
Self-examination helps us to keep ourselves focused on Christ. As we look inward, reflecting on our lives and our inner spirit, we can discover the directions and choices that best for us. We can turn back toward God when we need to, as well as move forward in response to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
In contrast, the unfortunate result of allowing our societies to dictate our life script is that the roles provided often pigeonhole us. They bind us to the expectations others have of the roles we have taken on. They encourage an external rather than an internal focus and block us from understanding ourselves. That, in turn makes it difficult to lives and the Christ-centered followers God would have us to be.
So self-examination – discovering who God created us to be – is an indispensable part of following Jesus. And yet, it can be challenging. We can fear what we might discover about ourselves if we were to look too closely. We can worry that if we were truly known, we would not be loved. It is not always easy to grasp the possibility that people and God might love us simply because we are the persons we are – not because of the roles we play in life – what we are able to do or accomplish.
But the good news of Jesus Christ is that there is NOTHING that can separate us from God’s love – not even our own self-understanding. Look at Romans 8:38-39 to remind yourself of that truth. We don’t need to be afraid of what we will find as we look within ourselves, because God has already promised to be with us on that journey.
As you fast and pray during the coming weeks, I challenge you to use Jeremiah 31:3 to center yourself on God’s love for you. Commit it to memory and repeat it daily, as though God is speaking directly to you.
Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
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