Since when do Baptist churches pay attention to Lent?
Well, lots of them don't. In fact, this is probably a pretty good question since I would guess that most Baptist churches don't. But that doesn't mean that none of them do. At United Baptist Church, we are learning about all the seasons of the church calendar and how they can help us to walk closer to Jesus.
At UBC, we look at the church calendar as a simple plan that helps us walk through the Jesus Story together every year. Lent is the part of the plan that leads up to the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the celebration of his resurrection. Therefore, it is generally used as a time to remind us of our need for repentance and doing things to actively bring our focus onto Jesus. There are many ways to put this into practice, and many people throughout the history of the Christian church have found lent to be a refreshing time of renewal in Christ.
The blog InternetMonk.com recently published a very helpful introduction to Lent originally posted on the blog of Mark D. Roberts. It provides a very nice explanation of lent and the practices of Lent for folks who might not be familiar with it. I'd like to share a couple of useful quotes here, but you can read the whole piece here.
First, let's address some of the objections about Lent just being one more thing that we are required to do. Lent is neither recommended (it's not even mentioned) nor prohibited in the Bible. I find it best to look at it in a similar fashion to committing yourself to a plan to read the entire Bible in one year. It's not required so it's not bad if you don't do it. On the other hand, good can come from it if you do it. But remember this:
Let me be very clear: Lent is not a requirement for Christians. Dallas Willard has said that if a certain spiritual discipline helps you grow in God’s grace, then by all means do it. But if it doesn’t, don’t feel like you must do it. I’d say the same about Lent. If it helps you prepare for a deeper celebration of Good Friday and Easter, if it allows you to grow in God’s grace, then by all means keep it. If Lent isn’t your cup of tea, then don’t feel obligated to keep it. You should realize, however, that millions of Christians – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Independent – have found that recognizing the season of Lent enriches our worship and deepens our faith in God.
Then there is the issue of fasting. Fasting is the spiritual practice of depriving yourself of something for a period of time, in order to devote additional time and energy to prayer, meditation, and Bible study. There are lots of ways to fast, and lots of reasons to fast. To my mind, one of the most important reasons is to bring my idolatry out in the open.
I don’t think my effort at fasting makes God love or bless me more, I do think it raises my awareness of how much I depend on other things in life rather than the Lord. I see how easy it is for me to set up all sorts of little idols in my life. Fasting, in some way, helps me surrender my idols to God.
Of course, there is no requirement saying that fasting is the only way to observe Lent. Instead of taking something away, you might do just as well to add something to your life. Pick something specially intended to take your mind off yourself and focus it on caring for and serving others, and of course, our Lord Jesus Christ.
If your church sponsors a Lenten Bible study, you might choose to join this study. Or you may want to participate in some act of kindness, such as feeding people at a homeless shelter. I like to add something that I can do every day. It needs to be realistic, given my nature and patterns of life. So, for example, it would be a bad idea if I decided to get up at 5:00 a.m. to pray for an hour each day of Lent. This would stretch me so far that I’d surely fail. But I could take on additional Bible reading....So, as we enter the season of Lent, I am grateful for the saints who have gone before me, some of whom discovered the blessings of giving up something in Lent, while others grew in their faith by adding a Lenten discipline. No matter what you do during this Lenten season, I pray that God will draw us closer to him, and prepare us for a fresh experience of Good Friday and Easter. May God’s peace be with You!
And that's the whole point. Lent is NOT about doing something to get God to love you more, or earn points you can trade in for divine favors. It is simply a traditional time to do simple things that get our minds off of ourselves and our own agendas, and ask God to work in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus.
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