One of my favorite things about the Old Testament is how methodical the steps were for the Children of Israel to follow and remember “Yahweh” God.
Because of the wandering nature of their lifestyle for many years, (think no iPhone, calendars, Siris, Alexas, or even Post-It notes.)
God meticulously used leaders like Moses to lead the Israelites into habitual practices that lead them back to God.
Think of all the events that bring remembrance and focus back to God…
-passover: the celebration of the exodus from egypt
-rosh hashanah: the jewish new year – the shofar blows – followed by ten days of repentance
-yom kippur: the day of atonement- spent praying and fasting
-communion: a NT example of remembrance
These events thorough and detailed were annual reminders of what God was doing in the lives of his people. All these events helped the Children of Israel to remember, “oh ya, my God is good, and this is why I follow him.” It’s hard to forget what God has done when you celebrate it each year. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, at times celebrated by many like Christmas in the United States (for some that means heartfelt remembrance of the infant Christ, for others that story is known but less appreciated, but no matter where people fall on the matter, the day points back to God.)
so, what about lent?
Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, and there are some records that point back to the practice much further than that.
One of the oldest Christian traditions isn’t practiced by many modern Christians any longer. So, let’s talk about what is it and how you could benefit from it.
Lent is a time to repent, to refocus on God, and for 40 days leading up to Easter to prepare our hearts to fully appreciate what Christ did for humanity. This is traditionally done by denying oneself of something (in the history of Lent this has been food, or meat specifically but it can be anything that you give up, in order to further focus on God.)
The practice of Lent runs from the day sometimes referred to as “Ash Wednesday”, until Easter Sunday. Every Sunday during Lent you don’t have to observe your “fasting,” because you are instead preparing to celebrate the final victory we have in Christ. Some people say that because Lent equals a “tenth” of your year, it’s your own way to dedicate a specific piece of your year to the pursuit of God.
why evangelical christians could benefit from the practice of lent
1. Preparation: The practice of Lent is supposed to be a powerful time of renewing your relationship with God. Just like the Children of Israel each year had physical events that they followed and practiced to bring them back to God; Lent serves the same purpose. When Easter is often one of the highest attendance dates of the year, we can become uber-focused on that angle, forgetting to let God prepare our hearts as he brings people to our churches.
2. Self-Discipline: Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all participated in 40-Day fasts from food. While the spirit of Lent isn’t just about fasting from food, there is something beautiful in our over-processed, instant demand American culture about not only having discipline but relying on God to see us through. So, let’s just say you gave up coffee for Lent, despite the ibuprofen you’d have to take for a killer caffeine headache, you’d also get the privilege of relying on God to see you through in circumstances that you might not normally do so. We don’t always get such opportunities, but Lent provides one.
[Tweet “Lent in and of itself is a practice of growing roots.”]
3. Tradition: Let’s be honest, Evangelical churches can sometimes harp on old denominations over their “strangely” traditional practices. While at everything.church we are surely for the merging of church and culture, we also know there is something really sacred about taking part in something that millions of other people have done for over a thousand of years.
Evangelical churches are definitely the fastest growing churches, especially with the movement of church plants everywhere. However, fast-growing doesn’t mean deep roots. Deep roots grow over time. Lent in and of itself is a practice of growing roots, for forty days you plug into prayer, worship, and gain an expectancy of the glory of Easter.
so, consider giving it a try. lent starts this wednesday, march 1st, 2017.
Prepare your heart in a new way, and don’t forget to tell us how it goes.