Lenten Devotional - 3

Lenten Devotional - 3

Author: Nick Beyer
March 25, 2022

You may not be surprised by this, but playing dodgeball is a BIG part of youth ministry. In fact, I would call dodgeball a core value of any proper youth organization. It’s fun, competitive, and most importantly, easy to set up and clean up! So, we play it a lot at youth programming. 

 And, of course, dodgeball is a simple enough game on the face of it, right? You throw a ball at someone else (as hard as you possibly can), and if they get hit, they are out. Anyone can explain the rules, everyone can remember them. Simple stuff, right? Wrong. 

Anyone who has played a game with kids before knows; you have to be VERY clear about the rules. That is because kids of all ages are absolute geniuses at finding whatever loophole they can to bend the rules of any game in their favor. Because they want to win! Even with dodgeball, they find the loopholes. “It hit my head, it doesn't count”, “I caught your ball off the wall, you are out!”, “It just hit my clothes, no contact, not out!”, “I’m not even playing, why are you throwing a ball at me?!”.

 The list of excuses goes on and on. 

The fact is, from a young age, we all get pretty good at making excuses or finding loopholes. Have you ever gone 10 miles over the speed limit because you know that you likely won’t get pulled over at that speed? Or, maybe, you share your Netflix password with a friend (even though it’s against the terms of service that you TOTALLY read all the way through) so that they don’t have to pay for their own account. The fact is, almost everyone is pretty good at bending the rules or even more simply, making excuses. 

The season of Lent is a time in which we take a step back to look at the life of Jesus on his journey to the cross, and to examine our own lives in relation to the atoning works of Christ. I often look at the season of Lent to evaluate and ask myself “am I really following Jesus?”. 

And, I want to invite you to do the same this season. Because I have found, when I take a look at the works, teachings, and commands of Jesus,  I regularly find that I have gotten really good at trying to find loopholes in his words. I discover that I have gotten really good at making excuses and really good and finding ways to sidestep his authority over my life. 

What I want to see in my own life and the life of this church is the proclaimed followers of Christ taking Jesus’s commands seriously and DOING the things he told us to do. After all, that was a part of his great commission when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

OBEY everything he has commanded. How can we make disciples if we arent first asking ourselves, “am I really obeying myself?” . 

So, here is my invitation. Lets take Jesus seriously. Lets read his commands and ask ourselves how we might better be obedient to the one who gave his very life so that he might have us. Lets not sugarcoat his words and look for ways to make his commands more palatable. Lets just DO what he has commanded. 
 But, Jesus said a LOT of things, so we have to start somewhere. Why not start Matthew 5, the sermon on the mount! 


  •  Read Matthew 5
  • Identify all the commands of Jesus in this chapter
  • Determine which of the commands you aren’t being obedient in
  •  Make a plan to confess, repent, and seek support in developing obedience of that command. 
  • Actually DO that plan this week! 

Here are some questions to help you as you do this!

  • Matt 5:21-26- Murder
  1. Are you currently experiencing unresolved anger with another? Are you engaging in worship before reconciling? What do you need to do to reconcile? 
  • Matt 5:27-32- Adultery 
  1. Are you lusting after others? Are you engaging in habitual sexual sin, or disregarding the pursuit of sexual holiness? What radical steps would you need to take to repent and flee from your lust?
  2. Is your marriage hurting/suffering? How can you find support?
  • Matt 5:33-37- Oaths 
  1.  Are you making promises you can’t keep? Do you over promise and under deliver? Are you making excuses in your communication rather than being simply truthful?  
  • Matt 5:38-42- Eye for Eye 
  1. How are you treating those who have hurt you? Are you “turning the other cheek” or retaliating in some way? Are you giving them MORE than they asked for? Are you looking for ways to serve them (go the extra mile), are you lending out to anyone who asks, even if you think they don’t deserve it? 
  • Matt 5:43-48- Love for enemies
  1. Who are your enemies? If you are having a hard time answering that, who are the people you withhold love, generosity, friendship, or support from if they came to you? 
  2.  Are you currently praying for those people?
  3. Are you SEEKING OUT the “enemies” and DOING clear acts of love and service for those that have rejected by others, or are you doing these things simply for the people you already like?
  4. Are you “ perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”?

My hunch is that as you go through these verses and compare them to you own life, you will discover that whether you are being outright disobedient, or you have found little loopholes to soften these commands of Jesus (which is what the Pharisees did with the Law). The fact is, he is pretty clear. There is not much room for excuse or bending of these commands. And beyond that, they are HARD to fully obey! I mean, that is sort of the point, right? How many of us are perfect? 

Which, in all reality, is the point. The only perfect human who ever existed and continues to exist is Christ Jesus. And, he is the only one who perfectly fulfilled the righteous standard of God. It is really only Jesus who is capable of carrying out the commands of our Father God completely and fully. But that’s the beautiful thing, Jesus fulfills the will of God on our behalf, and gives us the capacity to do so. It is by HIS Holy Spirit that we can honor his commands given to us, because he has already demonstrated he is more than capable of doing so. 

Taking  the time to evaluate if we are actually following the commands of Christ or not drives us to repentance, which is where salvation is found in the very first place. It is in that repentance that we are assured of our forgiveness, and reminded that the only one who can fulfill these commands has made his home in us by way of the Spirit. We can then “fall forward”, if you will, as we grow in maturity and faithfulness. We will never be able to follow the commands of Christ perfectly, but we can grow in likeness of him as we evaluate ourselves and seek his power in repentance. 

Only then can we DO the things Jesus told us to do instead of making excuses.  


South Park Church
1330 S. Courtland Avenue | Park Ridge, IL 60068
info@southparkchurch.org | 847.825.5507