Like many Christians, you may have mixed feelings about Lent. For me, especially growing up in New Mexico, it never made sense why so many would give up something so menial for a few weeks and then just go right back to it after Lent is over. Even if they don’t go to church or live for Christ at all, cutting out meat or sodas or something else, for a few weeks, checks off the box of religious duty for the year and then they go right back to how life was before until the next year.
But Lent is about so much more than religious duty. Like Scott Hubbard said, “…many of the earliest Protestants revolted against the forty-weekday stretch from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The Catholic Church had turned the pre-Easter season into a mandatory fast, promising spiritual merit to everyone who skipped some meals and avoided certain foods, including meat on Fridays. In response to such man-made religion, the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli began one weekend with a sausage dinner.”
Regardless of how you feel about Lent, remember that no amount of fasting or religious duties can grant you any spiritual merit. It is by grace that we are saved and that’s what the season of Lent is all about—the grace God bestowed on us to save us from eternal damnation. Yes, fasting is good and even expected in the Christian’s life. But it is always meant to turn us to God, not ourselves. Rather than following a man-made tradition, try to focus on the gift of grace that was purchased for you by the blood of Jesus.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. —I Peter 1:3-4
Instead of trying in your own strength to give up a bad habit like a poor diet, cussing, bouts of anger or some other sin that easily besets you (Hebrews 12:1), ask God to reveal to you the heart of the problem and help you to overcome, so you can truly live the life of freedom Jesus died for. Just like the farmer has to prepare the soil each year for a new crop, we too should cultivate the habit of preparing our hearts for the season to come. To help you get on track, here are some practical steps you can take to prepare your heart for Easter:
- Seek God in Prayer. Just like Jesus prepared his heart as he cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was to be crucified, we too should seek God in earnest prayer in this season of Lent. Lament and repent of your sins, pray for the soil of your heart to be receptive to what God wants to grow in you, and remember to pray for those around you—your friends, family, neighbors, anyone who God puts on your heart.
- Read the Gospels. There is no better way to remind yourself of the price that Jesus paid to save you from your sins than to read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even if you’re already doing your own reading plan, make sure to take the time to read about Christ’s suffering, death on the cross and resurrection.
- Read an Easter Devotional or Book. Find a good devotional or book to reawaken you to the suffering and beauty of the cross. Personally, I plan on reading Preparing for Easter by C.S. Lewis. Whatever you choose to read, however, remember to keep Jesus and the cross as your main focus. Nothing can supplement the Word of God in this endeavor.
- Find Someone to Bless. Just as Jesus sacrificed himself for us, we should take up our cross and do the same for someone else, whether that be giving your time to visit someone who is lonely, cleaning the home of an elderly person, preparing a meal for a neighbor, or getting out of your comfort zone and inviting neighbors and strangers to your house for Easter dinner. Whatever you choose to do, don’t just make these things a one time event, make them a lifelong discipline (Hebrews 13:2).
- Give Thanks! Express your gratitude toward God for the free gift of grace he has bestowed on you. There is nothing we can ever do to earn or deserve our salvation, all we must do is receive it!
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Love Jesus. Love each other. Love your city.
Harvest, go be the Church!
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