Flushing the Devil out of the bushes at Lent

What is it we are doing during the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter? Well, if we are following the example of Jesus who went into the wilderness for 40 days following his baptism and then returned in the power of the to preach the presence of the Kingdom of God, we are going out to meet the Devil. It seems to me that is what happened in that first Lent. Jesus was led by the Spirit to face the power of the world, the flesh and the devil. After 40 days without food, the Devil came in real power to tempt him. Jesus had to deepen his “no” to the devil to make more meaningful his “yes” to God. That’s what I am doing this Lent. And I find that flushing the Devil out of the bushes by practices disciplines of self-denial is a frightening, sometimes terrifying, but necessary experience. When my flesh begins to cry out for comfort and the strains of spiritual discipline make my spiritual veins pop, the Devil comes alongside of me to bring me his kind of comfort. It is just then that I am to say, man does not live by bread alone. There ought to be moments each year when this experience intensifies intentionally so that repentance deepens and solid spade work is done on the soil of the soul. Surely we are to die everyday, and it remains true that he who dies daily dies easily. But the wisdom of the church has found that a 40 day season each year for spiritual bivouac yields unusual fruit. My flesh already is begging me not to do this. It asks, “Isn’t dying for each day? Why make this 40 day journey? Isn’t this just a legalistic work? Do you really need this? Don’t you already deny yourself enough? Can’t I talk you out of this?” The battle is on.

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