Friday, February 28, 2020

Draw Near to Christ - The Season of Lent

“If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].” – Luke 9:23 AMP

Many Christians observe the season of Lent as a time to prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. The word "lent" derives from a Middle English word meaning springtime. On Ash Wednesday, some believers put ashes on their foreheads as a visible means of humility and repentance. Some clergy repeat the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" when ashes are placed. Historically, some Christians observe the day as one of prayer and fasting.

The 40 days following this Wednesday, known as the Lenten season, are a time many believers choose to give up something they enjoy as a habit of self-denunciation.

Though nowhere does the Bible tell us to observe Lent or to fast or give up something for Lent, many Christians find this a meaningful habit during the days leading up to Easter. Like many traditions that aren’t specifically commanded in the Scriptures, what matters is not the observing or non-observing of them. Instead, substance matters.

One hallmark of true Christianity is the denial of self – learning to say no to natural desires at times in order to control the body and its impulses. Jesus made it clear that a mark of discipleship is to “deny self.”

Prayer and fasting, a normal spiritual habit in the Bible, is one such ways to deny self and follow after God. The fasting of food for a time is beneficial if the denial is also joined with a seeking after God. The point of the discipline is not just to go without food and prove one’s self-control. The goal is to draw closer to the Lord.

I have no qualms with any Christian who sincerely gives up something for Lent. As Paul wrote,  "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord" (Romans 14:5-6 NIV).

My mother has practiced this for decades and often starts the Lenten season with a day of prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday. For many believers, observing such practices the weeks preceding Easter help them draw near to the Lord as they prepare to worship Him on Resurrection Sunday.

Personally, I rarely choose to give up something for Lent. Instead, I do something positive during the weeks before Easter I think will help me draw close to Jesus. One year I selected a book of Charles Spurgeon's sermons on the blood of Christ to read. Another year, I decided to read through the gospels during Lent.  And still another, I picked up John Stott’s The Cross of Christ to use devotionally. This year, I am leading our church through Claude King’s Come to the Lord’s Table, a devotional guide to help Christians prepare to take the Lord’s Supper, which we plan to do on Palm Sunday.

Whatever your practice in the weeks preceding Easter, take time to deny self and draw close to Christ. For the Bible promises, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8 NIV).

- Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

No comments:

Post a Comment