Questions About Lent
(This is a repost from last year, but I believe it is still applicable and pray it is still helpful.)
What is Lent? Lent is the 40-day season of reflecting and re-focusing on the suffering and sacrifice of Christ leading up to and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.
When is Lent? In 2017, Lent starts on Wednesday, March 1st and ends on Easter Sunday, April 16th.
Where does Lent come from? The word “Lent” had an original meaning of “spring” or “lengthen” (as in the lengthening of the days in springtime). In Greek and Latin, the words used to refer to the Christian holiday season of Lent mean “forty/fortieth” (referring to the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness before starting His public ministry that was characterized by sacrificial service; see Matthew 4 and Luke 4).
Do we have to observe Lent? No. It isn’t commanded in Scripture and it doesn’t necessarily make one more spiritual or holy to observe it.
Should some people refrain from observing Lent? Yes. Those who would observe Lent in a sinful way or out of sinful motivations should refrain from observing it.
Why observe Lent? Since it isn’t commanded, isn’t necessary, and can even be observed sinfully, the only reason why someone should observe Lent is as an act of worship to God, desiring spiritual benefits from their observance.
How can we observe Lent in the most God-honoring and spiritually beneficial way? As with any special day or season on the Christian calendar, the point is to increase and intensify our worship of Christ. There are nearly innumerable ways to do this. Whatever stretches our minds, stirs our affections, strengthens our faith, and solidifies our commitment to Christ is a worthy practice during Lent. But again, the primary focus of Lent is upon the suffering and sacrifice of Christ. Here are several ways to help you observe Lent:
– Pray for yourself to be more focused on, committed to, thankful for, trusting in, and obedient to Jesus Christ.
– Pray the same for other Christians in your life.
– Pray for non-Christians that you know to hear and respond rightly to the good news about who Jesus is, what He did, and what He promises to do. (Perhaps, God will answer your prayers for them through you!)
– Fasting is the spiritual practice of denying yourself something (i.e., food, TV, social media, etc) in order to enhance your spiritual appetite, focus your heart, and remind you of what’s most important and valuable. Often, the practice of fasting is as a means of helping one to desire Jesus more (Matthew 9:14-15).
– This is a good practice during Lent because it also helps to connect you to the 40 day fast of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2), helping you to appreciate all that He did for you. You could say that Jesus’ whole earthly life was a fast; voluntary and intentional self-denial for a greater spiritual good!
- Bible-reading, studying, and memorizing
– Perhaps you could read through one or more the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If you do, take special note of the different ways Jesus willingly suffered for the good of His people and the glory of His Father. You could also mark all of the times Jesus calls His disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him.
– Read through several of the prophecies that Christ fulfilled by His suffering and sacrifice.
– Memorize certain passages of Scripture that focus on the death and resurrection of Christ.
- Books (Perhaps you should read one of the following books that could help focus your heart and mind more on Christ:)
– Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, by John Piper
– Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, by Nancy Guthrie
– Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross, by Colin Smith
– The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
– Go out of your way to serve others this Lenten season. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life away (Mark 10:45). Pray for, look for, and seize opportunities to serve, even (especially?) when it inconveniences you.
– Maybe you serve someone in the place of something else you’re giving up during Lent. (EX. Instead of eating lunch on Wednesdays during the Lenten season, you can stop by a nursing home to talk/read with some of the residents there for 30 min.)
- Personal/Family Worship focus on Holy Week
– Holy Week was the final days of Jesus’ pre-resurrection ministry on earth, starting with Palm Sunday and culminating in His Resurrection Sunday.
– Walk through the Scriptures that take us through Jesus’ final week.
– Watch these videos during Holy Week for a deeper, fuller understanding.
– Use the book,“Why Easter?”, by Barbara Reaoch, in your family worship times during Holy Week.
- Worship Gatherings
– During the season of Lent, be a part of a church observing it. Peine Ridge Church will be giving special attention and focus to the observance of Lent.
– We will sing songs, read Scriptures, and pray prayers that help us reflect and re-focus on the suffering and sacrifice of Christ, preparing us for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection! This includes a Good Friday worship gathering on Friday evening, April 14th.
– Lent provides a great opportunity for Christians to talk to others about the sacrificial life, ministry, and death of Jesus that was followed by His resurrection!
– Pray for, seek for, and seize opportunities to share the greatest news in the history of the world!
– Apologetics, the loving defense of the Christian faith (I Peter 3:15-16), might need to be employed as you share the gospel with some people. It might be good to use the Lenten season to become more prepared to defend the truth of the gospel so that you can better share it. Here is a helpful link of apologetic answers to common questions/objections about Jesus. And here is one article and a few apologetic books for the death and resurrection of Jesus: (1) The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel; (2) Third Day, by Hank Hannegraaff; (3) The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, by Gary Habermas.
– Give sacrificially. Yes, we must always be giving this way in one sense, and we must be wise about it. But maybe during Lent you fast from coffee or eating out or shopping or whatever, and you take the money you would normally be spending on these things and you give it to others.
– For some, this one, more than anything else on this list, will hurt the most and take the most discipline and self-denial, and perhaps be the most revealing and worthwhile.
- Seeking conviction, confession, and repentance
– Are there things in your life that are keeping you from growing in your love for Christ? Are there things in your life that are weakening your commitment to Christ? Ask God to search you and show you areas in your heart and life where you need to grow or even confess as sin and repent (Psalm 139:23-24).