One of the benefits of being raised an Anglican (Protestant) is in the understanding of the church season known as Lent. This period of 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on the Saturday (known as Holy Saturday) before Easter, is a time of reflection, repentance, prayer, fasting, and meditation. Some Baptists and other evangelicals see this church observance as a move of works-based righteousness; however, the early church fathers expressed the importance of godly living and reverent recognition of a holy God. Ashes are given on the forehead of the Christian as a symbol of our mortality, remembrance of provided grace in salvation, and the dust from which man was created. Here are just five great reasons why every believer should observe this time.
#5 Reflection & Mediation on the Word of God
It has become evident that there is a lack of Biblical knowledge, an almost illiteracy in the church. By setting aside a devoted time for 40 days, the believer is recognizing the importance of the Word of God to transform the soul within. Meditation on the Word is not Yoga or some ancient mysticism, but a deeper spiritual awareness and thinking of how one is living, applying, and demonstrating the Word of God in their daily life. 40 days may just turn into 365 and what’s so bad about that? Good habits create good character.
#4 Setting Aside Time for Prayer & Fasting
These two disciplines are connected throughout redemptive history. The aspect of placing the spirit in command of the flesh is vital. In a world where food, beverage, or even technology, rule the flesh, it is imperative for believers to set aside a purifying and cleansing time for renewal. During this time, the believer is not seeking riches, glory, or prosperity from God by works, but is placing his or her soul within the wonderful hands of God; stating that God is Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the faith. Fasting may include that social media you need a break from, or the 50th cup of coffee that you really need to part with, or even that food which is clearly affecting your mid-section. The basic principle is to put the spirit in control of the flesh—you may just enjoy life without the items you select to neglect—pray about which ones you want to loosen the grip from in your life. Do you have a vice which “owns” you? Lent is the perfect time to start new, in preparation for Christ’s sacrificial gift on the Cross.
#3 Explore The Inner Self
This may sound like some Eastern contemplative hoopla, but the comprehension of examining oneself is Biblical. The Apostle Paul states that a believer should examine oneself prior to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:28), so as to not eat and drink of the cup in an unworthy manner. What is nobler than examining your motives and actions in daily life for the worship of Christ? Why not examine yourself in this 40 day period? Ask the Lord to reveal your heart. Read and pray over Psalm 51. Is there any unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, or anger in your life? This is a great time to release your flesh from all the ties of bondage, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
#2 Reach Out to the Community
During the 40 day Lenten period, why not dedicate some time to giving to the needs of the poor, destitute, hungry, or homeless. Soup kitchens and local charities, like food banks, are always in need of help. Not only is this noble too, but it is Kingdom minded, listed in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), and it kick-starts the observance of mission work. You never know, this can turn into a great way to network for Kingdom and church growth, but make sure you do it with a heart of joy, serving others as Christ served.
#1 Listening to God Voice
By far, this is the number one reason. So many believers lack quiet time with God and have no idea what His voice sounds like; the whisper in the ear while in prayer, the wondrous beauty of the Holy Spirit’s presence in walks, or the sweet surrender to the Awesome power of Christ. Why not take a vow of silence for a day? It may give you and others around you a break. Or take a long walk instead of using the car, the much needed exercise will be good and honestly, that’s how you were designed; it can be a stress reliever too. While in the car to and from work, turn off the sound and talk with God. When you get home from work, leave the television and computer off; keep the earbuds out your ears, put the iPhone down—take time to hear the voice of the Almighty—He loves you so much and desires that intimate time.
Matthew Fretwell is married, has three daughters, loves Jesus, being a dad, people, and coffee. Besides being an author (Denied Desires; Identity Theft, Sanctificagious, 30:1 Manhood), he’s Pastor of a comeback, church planting church (Oak Hall Baptist) in Sandston, Virginia, and is the founder of Job 31 Ministries. Matt’s an advocate board member of Living Bread Ministries, a global comprehensive Church Planting organization. He also writes for Church Planter Magazine.