AWhat Is Lent?
Proverbs 28:13 (NIV)
He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
- Who came up with Lent? It’s not in the Bible. There is no verse that says "Thou shall celebrate Lent."
- Christianity copied a lot from the Jewish faith and one of the things that they did was set apart times for holy pursuit.
- The Hebrew faith spent the whole month of September in holy time. That’s when they usually celebrate the New Year; which is called Rosh Hashanah. There is ten days of self examination; when they look at their life. A Jew confesses all their sins from the past year. And then on the tenth day, they ask God for forgiveness. That tenth day is called Yom Kippur for a religious Jew; this is a very holy time.
- Lent is a lot like that. The only difference is that instead of ten days of self examination; we get 40 days of inward examination. Maybe that’s because we Gentiles sin 4 times more often than Jews do.
So where did Lent come from?
- Around 230 AD, a group of Christians started fasting for the 40 hours leading up to Easter. To prepare their hearts for Easter.
- Pretty soon, the idea caught on. Years later, they bumped it up to 7 days of fasting. And they called it Holy Week.
- And by 325 AD, the church officially made it 40 days of fasting. Now that is a lot of days – no wonder there is a day called “fat Tuesday.” And I am not going to ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do.
Besides God is more concerned about what’s in your heart than he is about what’s in your refrigerator. In Mark 7:18-20,
Mark 7:18-20 (NIV)
18 "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") 20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.'
- Jesus says that it’s not what goes into your mouth that makes you unclean. It’s what comes out of your heart."
- The secret sins in your life that you can’t quit. The grudges that you can’t let go. An issue you can’t resolve. That is what makes us unclean.
- The fact of the matter is that no one’s perfect. Romans 3:23 says that "For all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God."
Ash Wednesday ushers in a time of personal reflection and examination. It’s a chance for us to come clean; to clear the air between us and God. It is a time for us to repent of our sins. What does the word repent mean?
- True repentance is ’not just about feeling sorry for yourself because you did something wrong or that you got caught doing something wrong. It’s feeling remorseful enough to change your life. It means saying, "I’m sorry for what I’ve done. And I’m not going to do it anymore! No more giving in to the same old sin! As of this moment, I am making a change in my life for the better. Starting right now I am changing!"
Sunday morning was a little nasty – there were many little accidents. We had become quite content with the nice weather. Sunday’s weather reminded me of a story of a man who wrecked his car.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” the man says.
“But sir, you’ve just been in a terrible car accident. You’re bleeding and have some deep bruises. There may be internal damage!”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“At least have a doctor check you out, sir. We have an ambulance right here – it wouldn’t take very long.”
“I told you, there’s nothing wrong with me!”
Then the man walks away from the car accident. His wife picks him up and drives him home. Later he dies from internal bleeding.
- “There’s nothing wrong with me” can be a dangerous thing to say. Spiritually, it is probably the worst thing a person could possibly say. For a person to stand before God and say, “There’s nothing wrong with me” – that’s incompatible with Christianity, and unacceptable to God.
- HOW RIGHTEOUS ARE WE?
Let’s suppose we are a good person and only sin 3 times a day; a sin in the morning, a sin during the day and a sin at night. We sound pretty good! Let’s think for a moment. If we have made a commitment to Christ by the time we are 20 years old and die at 80 years old we will commit 65,700 sins in our lifetime! Imagine over 65,000 sins and we are a good person. “The truth is that all have sinned (more than we would really like to know) and all of us need to repent and allow the Christ to throw our sins out and never remember them. But we need to stop the sinning for Jesus sake.
- According to the Bible, a Christian is someone who stands before God and says “there’s everything wrong with me.” But we also can say that Jesus Christ has overcome my sins. He has taken away all the things that are wrong with me as long as we have confessed.”
- There are two Greek words in the New Testament for repentance. The first one is metanoia, which means to change your mind.
1. When you repent, you are changing your mind about your sin. And you are changing your mind about Jesus Christ.
2. In Acts 2:38 when Peter says "Repent and be baptized, every one of you," he’s using this word. He’s saying that if you want to be right with God, you have to change your mind about the way you’ve been living.
E. The second Greek word is anastrepho which means to turn around. Changing your mind about your sin is not enough. You have to turn your life around and stop sinning.
- In John 5, when Jesus heals the crippled man by the pool of Bethesda, he says, "You’re ok physically. But you’re not ok spiritually. You’re messed up. You need to stop sinning, or something worse is going to happen to you."
- Think about driving with a GPS that tells you to turn right at the next light but you turn left. The interesting thing is this mechanical device keeps telling you to turn around or to go to the next intersection turn right and then right again and go straight to correct the mistake. Here is the thing if a GPS telling us to turn around to correct our error maybe we ought to get a message about turning around when it comes to sin.
C. “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin... But, mere time does nothing either to the fact or guilt of sin. The guilt is washed out not by time but by repentance and the blood of Christ." CS Lewis
- Repentance is when you realize that your life is going in the wrong direction. And you turn it around. And start heading toward Jesus Christ. Proverbs 28:13 tells us how to do this. Number one: You have to confess your sin. Get it off your chest.
- In Alcoholics Anonymous, they always tell you that the first step toward getting sober is being able to say, "I have a problem. I’m an alcoholic. And once you can do this, you will find mercy and understanding and support.
- The same thing is true with God. Do you remember the story of the Prodigal
Son? Remember how he disrespected his father by taking his share of the inheritance while the father was still alive? And he wasted it all on
- But after he hit rock bottom, he realized the error of his ways. And he got up and went back to his father. And he said, "Father, I have sinned against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired men."
- And do you remember how the father reacted? He could have said, "You’re not my son! You’re a loser! You’re a louse, no good low life! Get off my property!"
- But that’s not what he did. Instead, he said to his servants, "Bring the best robe. And put it on my son. Put a ring on his finger. And sandals on his feet. My son’s alive! I prayed for him to come back to me day after day. And now I have him back safe and sound! Praise God!"
- That’s how God treats each and every person who comes back to Him. In humble repentance. No matter whom you are. Or what you’ve done. You can still come back to the Lord.
- And once we confess our sins, we also need to renounce / give them up forever. Proverbs 28:13 says " He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy”
No Need to Repent
Many years ago C.S. Lewis wrote the Screwtape Letters. Screwtape was an assistant devil writing to his nephew Wormwood. Screwtape was telling his nephew how to make the "patient" leave the camp of the arch enemy, the Prince of Peace, and dwell in the camp of the real boss, the prince of darkness. It is a great read!
I would like to share with you another letter, this one written by Twisttape to his apprentice Harshwood as they discuss his training and graduation from devil’s school. He emails his apprentice.
The letter begins:
I have read the notices that you are about to graduate and begin your work on earth. Glad to hear that your training went well. I see that you will be a graduate with honors. Splendid!
Apply all of your knowledge to the task at hand, for the enemy, the Prince of Peace, God of Love is a resourceful enemy. Just when you think you have him in your grasp or one of this people, he pulls a trick and low and behold you stand empty, you lost your soul for the fires of hell.
I would like to give you one piece of advice, one bit of wisdom as you begin your tour of duty in the enemy’s camp. Throughout my tour of duty, I have learned one thing about these humans which I feel can be so very useful for you.
Humans usually have a very high regard for themselves. They think they are pretty good. They can see the faults, the sins, the evil in another, but they see only good in themselves.
My advice to you my dear Harshwood, is to encourage that thinking. Encourage it for all its worth.
The chief antagonizer, that Christ fellow, wants the humans to see their own sins, but Harshwood, blind their eyes, their hearts, their souls to that revelation. Let them think only of the good in themselves, and you, may dear friend Harshwood, will meet your quota of human beings who will spend the rest of their lives with our master, the lord of the heat and fire, Master Satan.
Let them see that when repentance is called for it is not them who needs to repent. Let them see over and over again that they are really better than the guy next to them in the pew… Let them see that they are indeed really pretty good, no need for repentance, no need for forgiveness, and then you will have them. You will have them because they will see that they do not really need that Christ fellow, and they really need is themselves. Then, then they will be ours.
For you see my dear Harshwood, when these humans see themselves as great, then they are filled with self pride, and they don’t need that Jesus fellow. This is how it will begin. They you will have them in your claws.
Good luck on your tour of duty, my heart goes out to you as you use every trick, every scheme, every evil desire, every good intention, every proud thought to win souls for our side.
Your admiring friend, Twisttape
Let us not be a victim of self-conceit but let us repent.