Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lent. Do We Really Understand It ?

Lent:  The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial.

That of course is the traditional definition of Lent, the period leading up to Easter, the celebration of Christ's Resurrection from the grave.  It is suppose to be a time of fasting and of giving up of "luxuries" .  

Has it  become more about "talking" about what one gives up and becoming similar to New Years resolution, often made but seldom kept?  Certainly there are those who are faithful and do set aside certain things during this time but is that really what Lent is about?
In the definition of Lent it speaks of self-denial but what is and where is the real self-denial of those who claim to be Christians?

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus speaks of what denial is:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

Some say, What a harsh thing it is of Jesus to command us to take up our cross for does not a cross mean death?  

Indeed it does and we need to remember that it was Christ who took up HIS Cross and DIED for US with no complaint. He DENIED Himself to become sacrifice for all. Without such denial and His taking up of the Cross we would be without hope.
Did Jesus mean that we were to die on the cross in a literal scene of the word?  No, but we are to die to ourselves, in the manner of how Paul spoke of putting away the old man and putting on the new.
Romans 6: 5-6 --  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

How can one be crucified without a cross?  Unless we take up our cross we can not die to self  as Paul was speaking of in his use of "putting away of the old man".   If there is no death how can there be a resurrection and thus follows the question--  How can we be resurrected into a new life with him?

  Romans 6: 7-11-- For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 Romans 6: 3-4-- Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Ask yourself ; Is true denial of self our goal not only in Lent but through the rest of the year as well?
If the answer is yes then we can truly celebrate Lent as well as Easter.

If the answer is no or there is a sudden silence within, perhaps we need to stop and consider what Christ did for us.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   Romans 5: 8

 A clearer definition of Lent could be since this sums up the entire definition given above. 
John 3:30  He must increase, but I must decrease.

Let us find the true meaning of Lent rather than just making platitudes and a show of piety to satisfy our own needs and that of the world. May we take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him so that indeed we will decrease so that He can increase. 


Z said...

I've had some scorn directed at me because I observe Lent; it's not something many Christians like because they feel it's legalistic or "too Catholic"...
My feeling is more along the lines you describe here.
It's giving up something, really understanding how that feels and appreciating Christ's sacrifice for us....a daily reminder at least for these 40 days! We should always remember.
It's a commemoration but it's so much more than that; we must die to self and that's a very tough concept for many Christians, and especially secularists! Sounds awful, but it sure isn't.

Faultline USA said...

Thank you for this beauiful reminder of the true meaning of Lent.

Ticker said...

Z, Observation of Lent is something one chooses to do or not do. I stopped the formal observation some years ago because of what I mentioned in the post. It seemed that it had become more of a New Years resolution thing rather than a time of real focusing on what Jesus did for us. If one wishes to observe Lent in the true sense of the word then I am all for it. I prefer to remember each day.

There is a little story that I sometimes tell and it is fitting here I believe. I was having a discussion on a different subject but a similar one with a Pastor. He was in disagreement on how often we should observe a certain sacrament. His church observed the time about four times a year.
I asked the man if he loved his wife and he said most certainly. I asked if he had a picture of her and he replied , most certainly. I asked him if she were to die if he would turn the picture toward the wall and only look at it four times a year and remember her (or in the case of Lent, once a year) He was very upset and said "of course not, I would look at it every day."
I replied, "case closed."

His congregation began observing the sacrament each Sunday.

I feel the same about Lent. That is the reason for writing about it in this way.

Thank you Faultline, glad you were receptive of the message.

Z said...

Ticker, I couldn't agree more so my comment was misunderstood.

Of course Lent isn't about your salvation, Lent isn't something anybody must do. Lent is something some of us choose to do to even more exquisitely, for 40 days, remember His sacrifice.
All of us don't remember every single day, and we ought to, and we usually do, but Lent brings it home really well for many of us.


Ticker said...

Oh no Z , your comment was not misunderstood I just addressed this to you agreeing with you but adding my own thoughts as well.

sue hanes said...

Ticker - Somehow I missed this dicussion before.

Didn't Jesus Die So That We Could Live?

Live The Lives That He Couldn't Because He Was The Ultimate Sacrifice - For Us.

It's kinda like when you lose Someone you have Loved - that was Very Important in your Life.

Do you want to spend too much time Grieving - or should you Grieve - but then get on to the Business of Living? Isn't that what the Person Who Died Would Want You To Do? Live - because that's what they would do if they could have back their Life.

But - Ticker - of course it is appropriate for us to spend time before Easter each year in Meaningful Remembrance of His Supreme Sacrifice - HIS LIFE.

But it is the Choice of Each Person - to do so and how.

Thanks Ticker.