What is Lent?
2 Corinthians 13:5-6
Good Morning from the Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team to all who are listening to or reading this message. What a glorious day to worship God!
The title of today’s Message is “What is Lent?” Our Bible reading comes from the New Testament Book of II Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses 5 and 6 which says (ESV): “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.”
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the most precious reason to observe Lent with gratitude and praise. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior and Redeemer. We are continually humbled at the love You displayed through the sacrifice of Your Son on the cross; may we commit to remembering the price He paid as we offer our own sacrifices for Lent. May our focus be on You now in adoration and praise. Our hearts are full of deep gratitude for how You’ve worked in our lives. In the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, help us recall the many blessings You’ve given us. May we purpose to let this season of Lent be a time of thanksgiving, rejoicing in our souls to You, the God who saves us. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Lent is a 40-day season beginning with Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday and today is the first Sunday in Lent. When we count the days in Lent, we omit the Sundays and refer to them as the Sundays in Lent because Sundays are always “Little Easters.” So even during the season of Lent, the Sundays in Lent carry with them the joy of Easter morning, when Mary and the disciples found Jesus’ empty grave.
The season’s forty days come from the gospel passages about Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. After his baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and praying. In turn, his 40-day wilderness journey is reminiscent of the 40 years that Israel spent wandering in the wilderness after they left Egypt. Jesus returns to the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.
Lent is intended to be a season of preparation. It is a time to set aside our wants and needs, to come humbly and meek before God, recognizing our need for a Savior above all. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, reminds us that we are from dust and return to dust. (Genesis 3:17-19). Ash Wednesday serves as a reminder that we will die and face the consequences of sin. The meaning and purpose of Lent is to reflect on our sinful nature and praise God for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to serve, live, and die for our sins.
Lent continues into the Holy Week with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday events. Maundy Thursday commemorates the day Jesus celebrated Passover with is disciples, washed their feet, and retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer. During the Passover Meal, Jesus institutes the act of Communion.
Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified. It is called "good" because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. Without this "good" day, we would not have the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life in heaven.
Lent ends on the glorious day of Easter, when we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. We are no longer cursed to the grave, but our sins are forgiven.
The season of Lent is intended to revive our faith. Lent should not be viewed as a legalistic or compulsory act, but rather as a fantastic opportunity to set time apart for spiritual cleansing, renewal, and preparation.
During Lent many will often fast from a meal or a luxury item and replace the time they would have spent eating, with prayer. If you want to give up something during the Season of Lent that is fine, but what God really wants over the next few weeks is for us to search our hearts and decide to give ourselves every day to discipleship. To take each moment and live each moment as we make every effort to strive toward perfection and rise above mediocrity. While the season of Lent is about penitence and recognizing our flaws and sins and responding with apologies and atonements, Lent is also about maturing in our faith and growing in our sanctification and holiness. Lent should be used as a time to reflect on the significance of Christ’s death, both for humanity as a whole and for their own lives.
At the end of Lent, we will see Jesus during His last week in Jerusalem. We are in between the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain and the cross and the tomb of Jesus. This signifies in our own life just a flash in time, a moment between our own birth and our own death. Lent is therefore radically about new birth. It is an invitation to faith and to enter into a deeper appreciation of salvation. Lent is to pass through the ashes of trial and temptation and tribulation and enter into pardon, forgiveness, blessing and alms. To go from sack cloth and ashes to grave clothes covered with frankincense and myrrh. None of us have anything to do about when we are born and little to do about when we die. But it is these moments in between life and death, in between Lent and Easter we ask, do our lives have meaning? Does our faith have value? Are our hands like Jesus’ nail pierced hands reaching out to invite and encourage those who are in need? Do our feet like Jesus’ nail pierced feet take us to serve the least, the last, the lost?
There’s a poem titled “The Pit” and I’d like to share a little bit of it with you. Picture in your mind’s eye a great pit: a pit perhaps of your own devising, or perhaps one devised for you by others. Visualize a pit into which you have fallen and cannot get out of.
A man fell into a pit, and he couldn’t get out.
BUDDHA said: "Your pit is only a state of mind."
A HINDU said: "This pit is for purging you and making you more perfect.”
CONFUCIUS said: "If you would have listened to me, you would never have fallen into that pit."
A NEW AGE PERSON said: "Maybe you should network with some other pit dwellers."
A SELF-PITYING PERSON said: "You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit."
A NEWS REPORTER said: "Could I have the exclusive story on your pit?"
A FEDERAL BUREAUCRAT said: "Have you paid your taxes on that pit?"
A COUNTY INSPECTOR said: "Do you have a permit for that pit?"
A REALIST said: "That’s a pit."
An IDEALIST said: "The world shouldn’t have pits."
An OPTIMIST said: "Things could be worse."
A PESSIMIST said: "Things will get worse."
BUT JESUS, SEEING THE MAN, TOOK HIM BY THE HAND AND LIFTED HIM OUT OF THE PIT.
A pit is an awful place to be, particularly a pit created by the power of sin and temptation. But we are not alone. There is One who has managed to avoid the pit and who seeks to help us out of the pit. His name is Jesus, and through Him, God is able:
able to help;
able to save;
able to redeem.
Not only is He able - He is willing. And not only is He willing, He has already acted: acted to save us and to bring to the world a new day; acted to bring to each of us a new life.
We do not have to dwell in the pit. We do not have to accept the pit. Rather, we can reach out our hand to the One who has stretched out His hands for us, and who still reaches out for us today. We can reach out to Christ, and through Christ reach out to others around us and let them know that there is a better life, a life that is given freely to all who desire it.
This is the hope that we have. This is our hope of God’s goodness, God’s ultimate loving purposes for us. This is no vain hope. The fallen nature of our world, however tempting it is to believe in, is not what God wants for us. Through Jesus, God has shown us His goodness and His ultimate and complete love for us, planted more deeply than all that is wrong.
We are just beginning the season of Lent. This is a time when we prepare our hearts and minds to once more live through the events of Holy Week and Easter, Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is through those events that we are assured of God’s ultimate and complete love for us, and we can know the reality of God’s hope that is ours.
John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
If you haven’t trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to invite Jesus to come into your heart and life right now.
I John 5:13 tells us: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Jesus has provided the gift of salvation to us which gives us not only hope for today but hope for eternity.
In Romans 10:9, we are told that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
We receive salvation when we:
(1) Repent of our sins.
(2) Trust Jesus Christ as our Savior.
(3) Confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, invite Him into your life right now.
Or maybe there are those who are far away from Jesus. Have you allowed your comfortable, personally focused desires to act as an eclipse between you and God? Is Jesus obscured or completely blacked out of your life? Do you miss Him?
All it takes is to open yourself and say "I want things to be different. I know things need to be different. I know what’s wrong, what doesn’t belong and I invite You, Jesus, to come and change me.”
When we turn back to Jesus in repentance, when we ask for forgiveness, intending to live a godly life, God’s mercy reaches out to us with a message of love. God is a God of mercy, of redemption, of restoration and of renewal. Just come by faith to the throne of grace to receive it. He is waiting for you with open arms. Repent all over again and get back to fulfilling God’s plan in and through your life.
Let us pray: Thank You, Father, for being a perfect Heavenly Father for us, for sending us Your Son to save us from our sins, and for putting Your Holy Spirit into each one of us so that we are never without Your presence. Help us to depend on You, to trust in Your truth, and to serve like You. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible, please click here and may you be blessed by singing along with "Revive Us Again."