What is Lent?

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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). Throughout the centuries the popularity of fasting for Lent has grown. Many people use lent as a time to rid their lives of unhealthy habits. In which case, Lent sounds like a great idea, but don’t miss the point. As believers we don’t give up habits or sin for the sake of being a better person. Although being a “good person” isn’t a bad idea. The purpose of practicing Lent isn’t primarily about letting go of habirts, but rather about replacing empty habits with a soul satisfying habit. The purpose of Lent is to cause us to look at our lives and consider what may be hindering the joy we can have in our relationship with God. Therefore if you examine your life and realize their is something you should or could eliminate to draw closer to Jesus, Go FOR IT! That is what Lent is all about, let go and grab on to the Lord. It is simply about drawing near to God. It is true that over the years certain religious groups have abused the Lent season. They have taught Lent as a way to gain salvation. However, this is simply a misunderstanding of Lent’s purpose. The Bible does not teach that such acts found in Lent’s traditions, have any merit with God in terms of salvation (Isaiah 64:6). While Lent has been abused, there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside a time when we center our lives on Jesus through a fast from a habit or from food. In fact, the Bible encourages us to practice fasting regularly and not just for 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. (Matthew 6:16-17; Acts 13:2) Some people object to Lent because it is portrayed as belonging to particular religious groups or denominations. If that is your objection, may I ask, when is the last time you have fasted from anything? Fasting is biblical. Jesus even encouraged it. 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. It may be a time man invited, but with the right heart, Jesus can certainly use it. The key is to focus this time on turning from our habits and our sins to 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 to focus on a healthy relationship with Him.