Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent.
By definition, “Lent, in the Christian church, is a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.”
Many evangelical churches pretty much ignore the observance of Lent. In other traditions, observance includes praying, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. At Church of the Open Door, we believe that because of God’s grace in salvation, doing penance and mortifying the flesh are not what God requires.
Having said that, I do believe that the idea of Lent has value. It’s an opportunity to go deeper with God and prepare our hearts and minds for Good Friday and Easter.
IT REMINDS US
On Ash Wednesday millions of Christians receive the imposition of ashes on their forehead, a stark visual reminder of their sinfulness and mortality . . . and therefore also their need for a Savior. Ashes are usually imposed in the form of a cross to signify that the curses of sin and death will be rectified through the crucifixion of Jesus.
The point really is to acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a Savior. As believers, we know that our sins were covered on the cross, but we also know that we sin, daily, and need to come to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness.
First John 1:9 says it clearly, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
IT POINTS AHEAD
Though we begin Lent with the bad news of our fallen human condition, even that news points ahead to the good news that is to come on Good Friday and Easter.
Bob Roush, a friend, put it this way, “Being a sinner does not mean exclusion from the community of Christ. Rather, it is a prerequisite to membership. As Jesus said after his encounter with Zacchaeus, ‘For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost’ (see Luke 19:10). Jesus came for sinners. Jesus came to save folks like Zacchaeus, and me, and you!”
Fasting and praying during Lent keep before us the fact that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Then, on Good Friday and Easter comes the good news—Christ died for our sins and arose from the grave to give those who believe in Him eternal life!
IT INVITES US TO FOCUS
Observing Lent includes giving up something that distracts us from Jesus. It may be food. It may be obsessing over sports. It may be a TV show that occupies our mind, or, horror of horrors—social media.
One of the tenants of this season is increasing our giving to the Lord. Perhaps there is something we can “fast” from in order to give more—Starbucks, eating out, shopping, etc.
What is it that takes away our focus on our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ? “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (from “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen H. Lemmel)
In these 40 days from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter, let’s find what it is that we can sacrifice.
Let’s use this time for personal reflection to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Because of His grace,
Senior Ministry Coordinator
P.S. If I can be praying for you during this season of reflection, or encourage you in any way, I would love to know.