For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. -John 3:16
Lent, the period of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, is a period of reflection on the gift of salvation through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after His crucifixion.
Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. Lent can also be a time of self improvement. Some Christians choose to give up a habit or behavior during Lent as an exercise in prayerful self-denial. Some Christians commit to a special devotional activity during lent- for example, daily Scripture reading, special prayer, or volunteer work. [Adapted from Bible Gateway]
On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), some Christians mark their foreheads with ash as a symbol of sorrow and mourning over their sin. (See Job 42 for an example of ash used as a symbol of repentance.) Today commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert. During this time Jesus ate nothing and was tempted by the devil three times (Luke 4).
- The devil tempted Jesus and told him to turn stone to bread to feed himself. Jesus responded and said “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone“. (Luke 4:4)
- The devil tempted Jesus again showing him the all the kingdoms in the world and telling Jesus that it could all be his by bowing down to Satan. Jesus answered “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” (Luke 4:8)
- The devil tempted Jesus one last time to throw himself off of the highest point of the temple and summon angels to catch him. Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12)
Jesus resists the devil, stands firm in His faith, and the devil leaves him, but only until “an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)
We experience the same temptation today, and the devil still waits for “an opportune time” to pounce on us. 1st Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Yesterday I shared that I was going to approach Lent 2015 with three areas of self-improvement. Here’s what I’m working on:
1. Eliminating distractions: For me that looks like getting rid of 40 things each day. Yesterday I tossed 40 items from the junk drawer. Today I’m getting rid of 40 items from my hard drive that are outdated. Tomorrow I’m putting together a donation bag of 40 clothing items that I no longer need but can bless others. Clutter = distraction and if I can reduce the clutter and the distractions I am more available to His purposes.
2. Increasing devotional time: I am recommitting to my schedule of reading through the Bible in 365 days by adding 40 minutes of daily devo time to my schedule (do you want to read through the Bible in a year?). I have a few weeks of reading to make up but by doubling up on the reading I’ll be back on track mid-way through Lent. Each time Jesus answered the devil’s temptation He answered with a direct reference to Scripture. We know the devil prowls around us like a lion ready to leap so we need to be ready with our own answers based in Scripture.
3. 40 acts of kindness: I only set the goal to complete the acts of kindness but I did not formalize what they would be. Instead I’m remaining aware of what those around me need and being available for whatever that looks like. It may mean something different every day- I’m excited to see what doors God opens.
However you choose to celebrate Lent, there are 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord.
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes