This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How should we observe Lent? - By Pastor Art Georges

Lent is a period of time, approximately 40 days, prior to the observance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Beyond the repeated significance of 40 day periods in biblical history, the Lenten season stretches that same length in order to remember the period of time, following His baptism, that Jesus spent in the Judean wilderness, being tempted and approved, at the beginning of His public ministry.  Corresponding to that, Lent is marked off as a time of preparing the heart to observe His death and resurrection. 

Part of one’s preparation during the Lenten observance is accomplished through self-denial in some way, be it through abstaining from certain favorite foods, caffeinated beverages, even activities that are enjoyed as part of one’s normal lifestyle.  Many who may have observed Lent in a former time of their life recall giving up meat on Fridays and substituting with fish in its place (by direction, not choice!).  Abstinence of something is performed in an attempt to identify with the self-denial that Jesus exercised during His wilderness testing. 
Many of the Christian denominations that resulted from the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s did not continue the practice of Lent.  The objection to continuing Lent was rooted in the belief that the observance had become ritualistic rather than heart-felt.  The Reformers believed Lent was more about the Roman Catholic Church’s control over its people than about preparing to remember Christ’s victorious sacrifice.  Martin Luther cautioned against Lent’s practice of abstaining from foods to gain favor with God.  John Calvin labeled Lent as a “superstitious observance”.  Both were former priests of the Roman Catholic Church.
So, considering that there are worthy concepts of self-denial, and identification with Jesus bound up in the celebration of Lent, how can we prepare our hearts for the Resurrection celebration without becoming routine, ritualistic, and superstition? 

I believe the best answer to that question is found in not being seasonal with respect to observing the death and resurrection of our Savior.  When we slip into a seasonal observance of Christ’s reason for coming, we risk minimizing the importance of His death and resurrection for the 325 remaining days in the “church calendar”.  The Apostle Paul had a year-round application of Christ’s death and victory over death in his behalf, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

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