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CONSIDER LENT

02.22.12 Scriptures: Daniel 9:3, Esther 4:1-3, Isaiah 64:6, Jeremiah 6:26, Matthew 11:21, and Matthew 6:16-18 Topics: The Nature of the Church

Lent is a period of fasting and repentance it traditionally started in the 4th century in preparation for Easter. The length of the Lenten fast was established as 40 days. During this time, participants eat sparingly or simply give up a particular food or habit.  Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way to remind ourselves to repent of sin in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21).

However, over the centuries Lent has developed a much more “sacramental” value. Catholicism understands giving something up for Lent as a way to gain blessing from God. The Bible does not teach that such acts have any merit with God in terms of salvation (Isaiah 64:6). In fact, the New Testament teaches us that our acts of fasting and repentance should be done in a manner that does not attract attention to ourselves: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).

It is good and pleasing to God when we give up sinful habits and practices. There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside a time when we focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. These practices are things we should be doing every day of the year, not just for 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. However, if you know of something you desire to give up for Jesus, Lent is a time that can encourage you to let go and turn to Christ. For this reason Lent is a godly time we can use to draw near to God. The key is to focus the time on turning from our sins and abide in Christ. This is not done to earn God’s favor or increase His love for us. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you more, but Lent can certainly encourage us focus on Him.