Should Evangelicals Participate in Lent?

This week, Pastor J.D. answers a question from one of our listeners, Brennan: “Should evangelicals participate in Lent?”

Show Notes:

  • This one is going to be one of the classic, “yes, no and it’s up to you” kind of answers.
  • First of all, if you’re not familiar, Lent is the practice that some denominations observe by setting aside the 40 days leading up to Easter (actually, it technically ends on Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter) to devote themselves to prayer and fasting.
  • Traditionally, Lent is started on Ash Wednesday, which is where participants signify the start of lent by drawing the cross on their foreheads with ashes.
    • People usually fast from something during during this time… “giving ____ up for lent.”
  • Let me start by saying that I do not really observe lent, and lent is not part of our Baptist “calendar.”
  • However, there is certainly not any harm that necessarily comes from observing lent—and in fact, I strongly believe that more Christians should set aside periods of time in their lives where they devote themselves to fasting and prayer.
  • Part of the resistance to this is that there is a certain stream that teaches that these rituals earn merit with God and only in doing these are you filling yourself with grace—a sacramental approach where participating in these rituals fills you with grace.
    • And the counter to that is our righteousness has been gifted to us through Christ and there’s nothing we can do to add to it—this is not directly commanded in the Bible so why do we need to do this?
  • What I want to say is there is a value in attaching yourself to the historic Christian calendar. Many Christians have approached this with the right spirit for many years.
    • I’m all for more time spent in prayer and fasting, and if doing that with the global church is helpful, then that is great.
    • At the Summit Church we do things a little differently. For the past three years, at the beginning of the calendar year (usually January/February), we have what we call 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer. Each year it’s been an incredibly powerful time both for me personally and for our church.
  • Sometimes when people fast, they don’t really understand why they’re doing it. This happens with Lent, too. People think that because they are hungry, God will listen to them.
    • The gospel would say, “No, God’s attention to you, his love, is not conditioned based on how hungry you are.” Fasting is really about putting yourself in a position to hear from him. It’s less about getting you in a position where God likes you and more tuning your heart to the Father’s. 
  • To make sure we’re clear, the commandment of God is that we pray and fast often, but the exact form of the, the calendar in which that happens, isn’t subscribed. 

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