Lent is a season of spiritual preparation leading up to Easter. We live in an environment that can be toxic to our faith. Like a spiritual “cleanse,” the season of Lent is an opportunity to examine our lives and identify those things that would compete with God for his place as our sole source of meaning, purpose, provision, security, etc. It is an invitation to turn back to God in repentance. Fasting (giving up food or something else for a time for spiritual purposes) is a great way to express this to God, and to exercise our self-control “muscles.”
2 Corinthians 7:1 - Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
On Sunday we brainstormed a list of spiritual “toxins”: attitudes, mindsets, and values in our environment that are toxic to our relationship with God (e.g. materialism, entitlement, doubt, etc.). What are the three contaminants in our culture that you think are most destructive to our faith today?
What are the “idols” that are most often worshiped in our culture?
Looking at Scripture:
Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
Based on the context, what do you think it means to be “yoked together with unbelievers.” What dangers do you think Paul is warning against here?
Use the footnotes in your Bible to identify the Old Testament passages that Paul quotes in verses 16-18. Split them up among your group members, having someone look up each one and read the surrounding context. What can you learn from these passages about:
o Our relationship with God
Make a list of the promises of God found in these Old Testament passages. Why do you think Paul connects the need to purify ourselves with God’s loving commitment (“since we have these promises…”)?
The phrase “let us purify ourselves” (7:1) seems counterintuitive for Christians who are taught that only Christ’s sacrifice can purify us from our sins. Do a search on BibleGateway (or another online Bible, NIV translation recommended) for “purif” (this will give you results for all forms of the word). Read the New Testament results starting in 2 Corinthians. For each verse (there should be about 8-9), identify who is doing the purifying, and (if possible) what is being purified.
In light of these passages, what can we say about what is God’s responsibility when it comes to our purification, and what is our responsibility?
Fasting helps us to express our desire to return to God wholeheartedly, and it helps us exercise our self-control “muscles.” It can also address the root of some of the contaminants that come into our lives. Usually we think of fasting as food, but what are some other things you could abstain from for spiritual purposes? Brainstorm some creative ways to approach fasting today.
Spiritual toxins in our lives usually have something to do with looking to things other than God to fill his role (idols). As you examine your own life, what is most toxic to your relationship with God? What is it that represents His biggest competition in your life?
Outline a plan for fasting (food or otherwise) that you will commit to until Easter as a way of focusing on your spiritual life.
Besides things you will “give up” for Lent, is there anything you need to “add in” to make the next few weeks a spiritually meaningful time?