Why and How to Participate in Lent

   Last night, in the traditional church calendar, was ASH WEDNESDAY. The day set aside to symbolically cover yourself in the ashes of humility and repentance as you draw close to God heading towards the joys of Easter. We encourage our Church to participate in Lent.

    Lent is an extended period (40days) of fasting and seeking God in anticipating and preparation of  Easter. Throughout the days of Lent we fast (purge/detox) and we practice active repentance (refill/renew and serve others). Each Sunday of Lent is meant to be a day of celebration. A thanking God for Christ’s saving work at Easter!

   What Lent is NOT: Not simply one season of time to feel sorrow for your sin or brokenness. Not a substitute for everyday repentance and subsequence grace. Not merely a time of self discipline for personal gratification (i.e. weight loss, eat better, rest more, better spent free time). Nor is it a means by which we can build our own self-righteousness so that God might be more pleased with us. We are pleasing to God because we are in Christ already. We are accepted by God because of Jesus’ victory at Easter.

   What Lent IS: Lent has a sense of Job 42:6. There is an emphasis placed on the limits of our mortality, and our sorrow for sin but it doesn’t stop there. It is to be a daily awareness, as we fast, of our continued need of Christ as we live in relationship with God.

  LENT in this way:

  – Don’t just pick what your fasting or purging from but why. 

I heard on a podcast a list of the items most people fasted from for Lent 2016 :

  Top 8:  fizzy drinks, coffee, sweets, meat, school, social media, alcohol, and chocolate (yeah ‘school’?!)

These may all be good things to lent from- my concern is when and why we choose what we lent from. What are the on-going spiritual obstacles in your life? The sinful habits, attitudes or false idols (those things that you feel will some how rescue you from your present struggles of living) that you keep turning to? Those very things that cause you to trust in yourself or in anything else for your worth, ultimate joy or significance?

FASTING STEP 1 – Purge/Detox

   Pick one or two of the big patterns of your life that, when you look back over the years or months, you can see that you have tried to replace the God who has made you with this sinful habit.
   Lent is a time of repentance where you participate with God’s Spirit in detoxing or purging your life of this things you have turned to for comfort, control, self-gratification instead of engaging with and trusting in the God who knows you. Take steps to detox or purge the environment in which you live life of those things that become triggers to continue in these patterns of sin.

FASTING STEP 2- Refill/Renew

    Pick one or two new patterns that you would like to pray for God to start or renew in you. Begin to fill the voids of the detox not simply with self-efforts but with new or renewed ways of connecting your life to God. I.e instead of decompressing on junk rest (facebook, instagram, etc) begin to journal through one of the Gospels or through a lent guide; Instead of consuming your time with lust or hidden fantasies read through Psalms 20-60 -one a day- rewrite the Psalm into your own prayer to God. OR read Pilgrim’s Progress over the 40 days of Lent;
      Be creative; The important thing is by turning your attention to God in prayer and personal worship you will begin to grow more and more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s, leading and promptings.

FASTING STEP 3- Reach Out To Others

   You have picked a true spiritual struggle in your life. Have made steps to purge your environment from triggers that habitually lead you into sin. Have committed to some personal alternative actions to refill and renew your focus on the good work of growing in delight of the cross and in communion with the Holy Spirit. It’s time now to walk repentance out by serving others. Find ways that you can quietly or secretly serve others. The ways should be in keeping with the sinful habit you are asking God to change in your life. If you are in a small group or have a couple close Christian friends ask them to join you in Lent and make time to meet with them weekly to talk about what you are learning, how God is moving during this time of Lent and to pray.

If you are a comfort eater ( are in the habit of making food your idol). Purge/detox from this habit; Fill your time that you would be eating with time of worship (reading scripture, praying, prayer walking, writing a Psalm into a prayer, etc, etc); Plan on two times during lent of buying groceries for a needy family or friend and surprising them with it or have it delivered to their house anonymously. Make plans to meet with a couple of friends weekly to be accountable to your Lent repentance and progress.

2. If you struggle with lust and fantasy (are in the habit of making fantasy your place of entitlement). Purge/detox the environment where and when you tend to do this most. Fill your time with reading Pilgrims Progress, or the Psalms, praying, or reading a Christian biography. Plan on writing a note of encouragement to those in your life of the opposite sex who demonstrate godliness, thank them for their commitment and example for following Christ, send it to them in the mail anonymously. Make plans to meet with a couple of friends weekly to be accountable to your Lent repentance and progress.

These are just simple suggestions. But repentance means an active participation of the sinner alongside of the Holy Spirit in the ‘having been set free from sin’ truth of our lives.
Be creative but keep your heart focused on Christ’s good work accomplished on the cross so that you could be set free in Him.

  We don’t encourage Lent because that’s what good Christians do (legalism).  We encourage Lent because we are fickle of faith. Fasting/Spiritual Disciplines is a Biblical means of both restarting, continuing and experiencing the graces of repentance and faith. You can fast, pray and repent anytime in your year – this period of time happens to end with a corporate celebration of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and so seems all the more sweet.

  Attached is a few resources for you to consider using as you go through the 40 days of Lent. You may find that Lent is a good time to jump start a new spiritual discipline in your life as you seek God out -take a look at these suggestions.

Brad Somers

lead PAXnorth Church