The 40 days before Easter are commonly known as Lent. Characterized by prayer, fasting and abstinence, Lent is a solemn season, set aside for special focus.
Not all Christians observe Lent and those that do, do so in varying ways. There are no commands about Lent in the Bible and so this isn’t a salvation issue. This isn’t something you have to do. In my particular church, observing the season is encouraged, but not required. The form and level of fasting is up to the individual.
Personally, I like Lent. I like the idea of a specific set of days dedicated to renewing my relationship with the Lord. Of course, I can do this at any time. But as we live out the weeks leading up to Easter, the central moment of the Christian faith, I find it important to reassess my priorities. I ask God to heighten my awareness of His presence and voice. I ask Him to show me what things might be getting in the way. What He asks me to give up is different every year, and it’s always easy for me to understand why doing so is needed.
It’s all about the preparation.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a party or a feast. Our Lord certainly did (Matt. 11:19)! The trouble is that we see celebration as coming in only one form. It must be loud. It must be full of people. It must have good food and good drink. But parties don’t just happen. Friends don’t just suddenly appear and the barbecue pit doesn’t light itself. Throwing a party takes thoughtfulness. Guest lists, the purchasing of food, the selecting of games and music. It means setting aside other tasks or pleasures in order to bring focus to the event.
Resurrection Sunday is the single greatest celebration of the Christian life. Jesus is alive! Our sins are forgiven! Should we treat this day as any other?
That is the point of Lent. These days when we give up something in order to be closer to God, when we turn our eyes to Jesus in a more intense way, prepare our hearts for the party. In our sacrificing, we identify in however small a way with the sacrifice of Christ. We catch a glimpse of what He gave up to save us. He could have stayed in eternal glory. He did not have to come. And yet He did.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:21-23a)
No longer enemies. Brought into relationship with God by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Free from stain. Set apart.
Whether you choose to formally observe Lent or not, I encourage you to take some time to think purposefully about Jesus and what He has done for you. Really hone in on the weight of sin – no longer on your shoulders! – and how it was impossible for you to remove it. Praise Him for the determination and abiding affection it took for Him to stay on that Cross – to stay on that Cross for you.
Because, my friend, if you were the only person who was ever going to live on this earth, He would have done it. He looked through the halls of time and onto your sweet face.
You were worth it to Him.