Written for the congregation of Pueblo West Baptist Church, March 2020 (adapted from previous essays written about Lent).
Since we have a number of new attendees and members here at Pueblo West Baptist, I thought I would address the season of Lent. For nine years our church joyfully participates in a Good Friday Service with two other churches. And on occasion our church has had an Easter cantata. But we do not practice a season of Lent.
Religious ceremonies not commanded by Christ have the appearance of wisdom but they are a self-made religion and are of no value against fleshly indulgence
What is Lent and where did it come from?
The English word lent is from the Old English word lencten, meaning “spring season.” In its religious use, lent has come to refer to a forty-day period of penance and fasting leading up to Easter. Most likely it got its start in the fourth century as a form of discipleship for adult converts in preparation for their baptism and entrance into the visible church on Easter (Source: ModernReformation.org). Apparently it’s something we Baptists are supposed to be practicing as well. A year ago the pastor of a sister church emailed his local compadres reminding us to observe the season: “We abstain to gain! We abstain from something to gain Someone!”
Over the centuries it has become for most who promote and practice it a necessary season of penance (self-punishment as an outward expression of repentance). AboutCatholics.Com states “Lent is the main penitential season… of the Catholic Church.”
Here are five truths to consider about Lent
Lent is not in the Bible
The Bible is the final and fully sufficient source of information for us to come to faith in Christ and live lives pleasing to God (II Tim. 3:16,17; II Peter 1). There is no example, exhortation or command to observe a period of time like what Lent has come to be. There is no season of penance believers are to participate in, no forty days of purification.
In the indwelling knowledge of Christ we have real, eternal protection and aide, available to us every moment that can neither be increased or decreased seasonally
Lent teaches us to do something publicly that is to be practiced privately
I am referring to what Jesus teaches about fasting (Matthew 6:16-19). We are to fast privately not publicly. Consider the withering words Jesus said to those who made certain others saw how serious they were about being religious (Luke 11:37-54).
Lent encourages us to clean the outside of the cup
Our local newspaper asked people what they were giving up for Lent. Most referenced pop, sweets, etc. One was planning to give up booze.
A diet of chocolate bon bons and Bud Light should be addressed but giving them up for 40 days proves nothing as to one’s status with God. Our problem is our nature and Christ addresses us at a far deeper level than bad habits and bad breath (Romans 1-3; 7:18; Eph. 2:1-10).
Lent plays with our natural bent to deny that our sin problem lies within us. “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” – Jesus (Mark 7:14-23).
Lent teaches dependence for holiness on seasons and ceremonies, 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). Religious ceremonies not commanded by Christ have the appearance of wisdom but they are a self-made religion and are of no value against fleshly indulgence (2:8-23).
Battling sin is not done with man-made seasons. It is resisted with the knowledge of who Jesus Christ is right now, what He accomplished for believers on the cross, and what He will do for His own in the future (I John 2:28-3:10).
To the immature, sinning members of the church at Corinth, Paul did not give a 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.” He said they were to glorify God in their bodies because they were a purchased people, joined to Christ and their body was a temple of the Holy Spirit. No ceremonies, no 40-day program; just unambiguous truth about Christ and His cross that called for an immediate response (I Corinthians 5-6).
In the indwelling knowledge of Christ we have real, eternal protection and aide, available to us every moment that can neither be increased or decreased seasonally (See Eph. 6:13-17; Hebrews 12:1,2; II Pet. 1:2-4; I Pet. 1:17-2:3; Rom. 6:12-19; 8:1-17).
Lent has deep roots and association with those who deny the finished work of Christ
Lent is about 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 would have us pave over the non-negotiable difference between those who teach salvation is achieved by faith plus our self-produced efforts (Galatians 1:6-10), and the good news of Jesus Christ revealed in Scripture. Lent is part of the package that denies it is Christ alone who 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 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 are wholly sufficient to bring us to saving faith in Christ and train us and equip us to live lives pleasing to God (II Tim. 3:16,17). Christ is life.
Here’s an excellent essay that offers even more reasons Lent should not be practiced: https://theaquilareport.com/leaving-lent-behind/