264. Lent. What is it? Any relevance for me in 2018?

(This is adapted from an article I wrote this year for a Christian Magazine in Florida USA. It has recently been published.)

If we were to ask people on the street what is “Lent?” they may come up with an answer like this. “Lent is when you give up something for a while.” That answer would be pretty prevalent throughout the world. However they may not be able to go much further in their description of Lent.

I am sure readers would be very impressed if I were to say, “I am not going to have any cheese for the whole 6 weeks of Lent this year!” They could think,” What a sacrifice. What self-denial!” {Unless of course they were to hear my wife’s voice in the background saying quietly, “He hates cheese! He never eats it!”) The unbridled admiration would vanish in an instant. It seems that observing Lent is meant to cost something.

Well, how did Lent start and what does it mean for us today? The forty days of Lent are based on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness overcoming all the temptations of the devil before beginning His ministry. It has become a time that some people use for personal reflection on their lives; for examining their motives; and for re-establishing their goals and priorities in life for the coming year. There is a negative component {in giving up something) but with a positive outcome in mind.

Over the years I have heard many people tell others about the things they have given up for Lent. One person gave up sugar for Lent. Another man gave up some sporting activities in order to have more quality time with his family. Others have given up cigarettes or alcohol for the duration of Lent. Others gave up spending money on non-essentials. Others decided to give some financial support to charities during Lent. There were even some who gave up their time to attend Lenten services and activities at their churches.

However every time I think of Lent I think back to what Jesus gave up, not just in the wilderness facing the devil but throughout His life on earth. The Bible passage that challenges me is from Philippians 2:6-8 where St Paul wrote of the self-giving of Jesus, “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death-and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.” (The Message Version.)

It has always amazed me that some individuals have been willing to give up their own lives for the benefit of others. I think of the many stories of courageous American and Australian soldiers who “took a bullet” for their fellow soldiers and never came home from war. How sad to think that there were so many service men and service women who also died protecting others but their self-sacrifice was never seen, never noted and never recognised. (Except by God.)

Lent reminds me that Jesus as the Son of God didn’t just give up “something for Lent.” Rather He gave up His own life as He hung willingly on the cross for sinners like me, so that we might be forgiven and have eternal life. Incredible that creatures should be willing to die for their fellow creatures! Even more incredible that Jesus as the Creator of all things was willing to die for His creatures.

I suppose that the least I can do, in response to His sacrificial love, is to open the door to my heart to Him so that He can fill me with His healing presence. AND as St Paul writes, allow Him, by His Spirit, to give me the willingness and the ability to do His will for the rest of my life, Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

It would be a good thing, this Lent, to give up my self-reliance and begin to depend on Him for every remaining moment of my life! How about you? What would you be willing to give up?

Blog No.264. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 11th February 2018.


About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 264. Lent. What is it? Any relevance for me in 2018?

  1. Pingback: Index of Blogs | holbeck

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