Dear church family:
Here are five reasons why we have no need to participate in Lent. I’ve published this before several times, but was recently reminded by another Baptist pastor when Lent starts assuming me and our church should be participating in order to “remember the Lord Jesus Christ and His walk to the cross and His walk out of the tomb!! The Lord gave me a thought to help me understand Lent better, “We abstain to gain! We abstain from something to gain Someone!”.
In response to a previous edition one reader accused me of being against Roman Catholics. I trust those who read this will see I’m for the truth that Jesus guarantees will set any man free from their bondage to sin, those with man-made religious traditions or no religious background.* Search the Scriptures; the grace that rescues us from hell and brings us to heaven also changes us here and now.** You will see Christ requires no addition of special seasons or days – things that give the appearance of wisdom but are of no value.***
*John 8:31-38, Galatians 3:1, Galatians 5:1 ** Titus 2:11-14 ***Colossians 2:16-23
Below are five things about Lent I believe distract us from or even deny the sufficiency of Christ.
First, Lent isn’t in the Bible. The Bible is our final and fully sufficient source of authority for all matters of faith and practice (II Tim. 3:16,17). There is no example, exhortation or command to observe a period of time like what Lent has come to be. There is no ‘holy season’ believers are expected to participate in, no 40 days of ‘purification’ (See link below for an excellent article on the history of Lent).
Some might say, “The church has added lots of special days and seasons that aren’t in the Bible – Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day. So, what’s wrong with observing Lent?”
My response: Pastors and leaders in a local church do not elevate in people’s minds the authority and sufficiency of Scripture by encouraging people to participate in one more non-called-for religious tradition. As to days and seasons that are civic in nature, a local church may, if it chooses, respectfully acknowledge dads, moms, veterans, etc. As to Christmas and Easter, while we’re not commanded to mark them, they do remind us of eternally-significant historic events as recorded for us in Scripture. But it would not be a sinful issue if one doesn’tobserve those days. But when it comes to religious traditions of men presented as necessary in aiding our standing before God or growth in godliness, there is no reason to join in.
Second, Lent teaches us to do something publicly that should be practiced privately. Consider what Jesus teaches about fasting in Matthew 7:16-19 — We are to fast privately not publicly. There may be times we conclude fasting would benefit us in our Christian walk. But Scripture also teaches we do not always know our motives (Jer. 17:9). Our twisted capacity forpride and self- deceit seems to really enjoy itself when it comes to going public with our piety (consider the withering words Jesus said to folks who made certain others saw how serious they were about being religious – Luke 11:37-54).
Third, Lent encourages us to ignore the source of sin. Some time back a local newspaper asked several people what they were giving up for Lent. The majority referenced pop, sweets, etc. One was planning to give up booze. One person said they were going to try and do more for others.
Christ said it’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, it’s what’s already inside. “The things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. Out of the heart proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy slander, pride and foolishness” – Mark 7:14-23.
Lent plays with our natural bent to deny what God says, that our sin problem lies within us. A steady diet of chocolate bon-bons and Bud Light certainly should be given up, but their absence doesn’t change who we are. Our problem is our hearts. The Gospel reveals there is nothing good within us, in our flesh (Romans 1-3; Romans 7:18; Eph. 2:1-4).
What do I say to the person thinking, “Lent isn’t only about giving something up; it’s also about doing something good”? Check out Ephesians 2:8-10 (especially verse 10). And meditate on Titus 2:11-14. It is not a man-made ceremony or holy season that produces God-honoring good works; it’s saving grace!
Fourth, Lent encourages dependence on seasons and days, not on Christ. The Apostle Paul makes blazingly clear we are not to allow anyone act as our judge regarding food or drink or festivals or new moons or a Sabbath day (Col. 2:16). He goes on to say those who encourage religious observances not commanded by Christ are defrauding us of our prize because they are not holding fast to the head, who is Jesus Christ. These religious ceremonies have the appearance of wisdom but they are a self-made religion and are of no value against fleshly indulgence (Col. 2:8-23).
Resisting the sins that easily entangle isn’t done with man-made seasons or ceremonial laments. Temptation is resisted with the knowledge of who Jesus Christ is right now, what He accomplished once-for-all for believers on the cross, and what He will do for His own in the future (Titus 2:11-13; I John 2:28-29).
To those sinning in the church at Corinth, Paul did not give them symbols, ceremony or a season to help them. He took them to the most final and sufficient reality there is, what Christ had already done for them: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6). He said they were to glorify God in their bodies because they were a purchased people, joined to Christ, their physical body a temple of the Holy Spirit. Again, no ceremonies, no ‘abstain to gain;’ rather, clear knowledge about Christ that calledfor an immediate response.
Paul tells the believers in Rome it is by the Spirit (the indwelling knowledge of Christ) we are to be putting to death the deeds of the body and thus confirm we are children of God (Rom. 8:1-17). Self-made religion is a pea shooter in comparison to what Scripture gives us in Christ. In Him we have real, eternalprotection and aide, available to us every moment. See Eph. 6:13-17; Hebrews 12:1,2; II Pet. 1:2-4; I Pet. 1:17-2:3; Rom. 6:12-19.
Fifth, Lent has deep roots and association with teaching thatdenies the sufficiency of Christ’s work. The Apostle Peter states that divine power has ‘granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us… (II Peter 1:2-11). We have been graced with knowledge. We don’t escape the corruption of this world by observing holy seasons. Rather, rooted in the knowledge of who Christ is and the promises He has secured on our behalf, we respond accordingly (5-11) and confirm our election by doing so (10).
Lent detracts us from what is revealed about Christ. It heightens a season; it draws attention to our efforts, our systems. It leads us away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (II Cor. 11:3; Gal. 1:6; 3:1-5).
Lent paves over the essential differences between those who teach salvation is achieved by faith plus our self-produced efforts, and the good news of Jesus Christ revealed in Scripture. To teach people Lent is a means of gaining Christ denies Christ already has us and He Himself keeps us from stumbling and will make us stand in the presence of God’s glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24, 25; Rom. 3:28).
It is so encouraging to know that many of you are students of the Scriptures and are desiring to live daily in the obedience that saving grace produces (Titus 2:11-13; Col. 3:1-11). What a humbling yet solid reality that the Scriptures really can bring us to saving faith in Christ and make us adequate, equipped for every good work (II Tim. 3:16,17).
In His mighty grasp,
Here’s the link on the history of Lent http://thecripplegate.com/for-lent-give-up-lent/
Here’s another source with historic perspectives on Lent https://heidelblog.net/2018/02/resources-on-lent/