The purpose of Lent - from Paula
We are not obligated to observe Lent because it will not gain us any special favor with God regarding our salvation. But for those who willingly choose to observe Lent it provides opportunities for us to draw near to Him ~James 4:8.
Lent is a time of repentance, and of sacrifice. In the Old Covenant sacrifice was one of physical activity. In the New Covenant it is the ‘spiritual sacrifice’ of our faith, thoughts, and prayer. During lent we we fast to tame the flesh and not allow any fleshly wants or desires to come before God.
According to the Bible, the Israelites were freed from Pharaoh in order to be free to sacrifice to the Lord.~Ex.3:18. And we have been freed from our bondage to sin and to Satan so that we might sacrifice our lives to God and become “living sacrifices”.
At first, the Israelites wanted to make the covenant with God. But when the reality of what it was going to cost them in terms of the conduct of their lives — they wanted it only on their own terms. They grumbled and wanted to turn back when food was in short supply. And they got tired of eating manna, living in tents and wandering around in the hot wilderness. So they turned away from God and created a false idol - the golden calf.
During their journey the Israelites continued the cycle of rebellion - repentance - rebellion –repentance – rebellion, just as we do today. That is why while Lent is not obligatory, it can serve as a reminder to rededicate ourselves to God and turn away from sin and from any false idols that we may have set up in our lives.
We do the same thing with God the Israelites did. We start out with enthusiasm and good intentions, but as soon things are not going our way we grumble, complain and pretty soon we are setting up false idols in our lives. Self-sacrifice loses its appeal when we are called upon to exercise it.
As Christians we have to practice self-sacrifice in order to continue our relationship with God. We have to “come apart from the world” and overcome the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”. ~1st. John 2:16
They could have turned back but they chose of their free will to enter into a Covenant with God. The hardships of their journey were a consequence of the decision they had made to follow God’s law.
We also enter into the New Covenant with God of our own free will. And being a Covenant Christian is not a free ride. We are required to take up our own cross to follow Him. This is why Jesus told us if we want to be His disciples we must “count the cost”. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, he is not able to finish it.” ~Luke 14:28-29
This is another passage that shows how our own free will comes into play. We should count the cost before signing up for duty in His service.
Jesus then used salt as an example. “Salt is good but if the salt has lost it’s flavor, it is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! ~Luke 14:34 This is a warning that we may be salt today but if we are careless, we could easily become worthless.
Children often don’t think of the consequences when they do things. Even teenagers get caught up in passion and forget the consequences of their actions. When we don’t consider the spiritual consequences of the things that we do, it shows that we are spiritually immature. And if we keep going in that direction we could find ourselves in some real trouble.
It is true that we can repent and turn back to God at anytime, and any day of the year. But the season of Lent is a reminder to stop and examine ourselves if we are doing things today that might lead us to drift away from God tomorrow.
Selfishness has a way of creeping in without our noticing it. But our Christian calling requires us to sacrifice all that we have and even our lives if it becomes necessary to serve God. Some of us have set up false idols, and some of us need to tame our tongue, and some of us are too attached to material things, - and the list goes on. Lent is an excellent time to stop and practice self-sacrifice.