Lent kicks off tomorrow, but what’s the deal with it? Is it just a time to give up chocolate before battering into tons of Easter Eggs on Easter Sunday?
Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, 40 days excluding Sundays. Some folks would take the 40 days to fast from something, (traditionally food) and use the Sundays as a celebration, or feast. 40 days is hugely symbolic in the Bible and lent particularly mirrors Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11)
This lent we’re going to have a close up on the cross, by reading of the few days leading up to the cross from the four Gospels, with a short daily devotion each day starting on Ash Wednesday. We’re aiming this year to finish the week after Easter, to give some extra time reading of the resurrection too.
Before we start then, what’s the point?
Paul Tripp sums up lent like this:
“Lent is about remembering the suffering and sacrifice of the Saviour. Lent is about confessing our ongoing battle with sin. Lent is about fasting, and not just from food; we willingly and joyfully let go of things in this world that have too much of a hold on us. And lent is about giving ourselves in a more focused way to prayer, crying out for the help that we desperately need from the only one who is able to give it.”
Paul David Tripp, Journey to the Cross, p9
Here’s four things then we can aim for this lent:
1) Look to Jesus.
Reading from all four Gospels over the next few weeks will give us a sweet opportunity to see and enjoy our Saviour as we move toward Easter. The whole of the Bible is obviously about Jesus, but reading these accounts together will help us see the fullness of Jesus as we take a close look at his death and the events surrounding it.
Let’s take these next few weeks as a time to fill our heads with Jesus. Let’s talk about what we’re reading, let’s share our encouragements and challenges as we read and meditate on God’s word. Let’s enjoy Jesus and find all we need in Him.
2) Fight sin.
As we look to Jesus and enjoy seeing him in all his perfection and glory, we’ll also then see ourselves more clearly too. We’ll see how far we fall short of that glory. We’ll see how rank our sinful hearts truly are.
Lent is a time to spiritually look in the mirror, examine ourselves and think about what’s going on in our own hearts. What sin do we need to kill? What desires drive our actions? What temptations do we face?
Let’s walk together through this. Let’s confess our sin to one another and encourage each other towards faith and repentance in Jesus. It’s right that we mourn sin and all it’s effects, but we can do so while also rejoicing that Jesus has paid for it all.
Lent is probably most commonly associated with giving something up, and for good reason. We maybe shy away from talking about fasting, for any number of reasons, but lent is an opportunity for us to consider what we really ought to sacrifice. Any number of good things might take up a lot of our time, energy and desires, that could distract us from living wholeheartedly for Jesus.
Food is the obvious thing to fast from, and perhaps we could miss out on a meal to spend time in prayer. Or maybe we lack discipline in our diet, and ought to sacrifice by cutting back on food that isn’t as healthy and grow in denying ourselves.
Or perhaps we could sacrifice watching tv and use the time to read. Maybe we spend hours a day on social media, and instead could spend some time speaking to someone we’ve not seen or engaged with in a while. Maybe we could spend less money at the shops so that we could give more away.
Lent is an opportunity to examine ourselves to see what’s got a hold of our hearts, and then make sacrifices so that we can live for Jesus more wholeheartedly. It may seem like making sacrifices is painful, but there will be great reward as we do it to live for Jesus.
In all of this, lent provides an opportunity to spend more time praying. In a very practical sense, we may find that we have more time to pray if we’ve sacrificed or fasted from other things. As we spend more intentional time reading Mark’s Gospel, we may be moved to respond by praying, to ask God to help us understand and then to help us live it out.
If we take seriously the call to fight sin and sacrifice, we’ll deeply feel the need to pray. When we’re tempted to do what’s comfortable rather than difficult, we fight our sinful desires by praying. It’s hard to go without things that would so often provide comfort, so in those difficult moments when we face the temptation to cave, we fight by crying out to the Lord in prayer.
Let’s pray together more than ever, and exercise our faith by taking everything to the Lord in prayer.
Lent… keeping our eyes on Jesus.
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This lent, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, die to ourselves and live for him. It’s nothing new, it’s the simple call of the Gospel. But let’s grab the opportunity this lent to do that wholeheartedly, so that we might Know Jesus and Make Jesus Known.
Passages to read: Hebrews 12:1-13, Mark 8:34-38
A thought to remember: Lent is an opportunity to look closely at Jesus and respond.
A question to ask: What will it look like for you to give yourself wholeheartedly to Jesus this lent?
A song to sing: Look Again