Lent: Give Up, Get Low, Gain Christ

This post was written last year for the lent season and has been adapted for 2016!

This post was written last year for the lent season and has been adapted for 2016!

The season of revival is upon us. In the blink of an eye, tiny sprouts of green will bud on the trees and the drops of color will sprinkle the ground. Spring is coming. My heart races at the thought of spring each year. By the time March comes around, the bare trees and bleak skies have made my heart burn for color and life. The seasons come and go every year, echoing the sound of revival and restoration. For centuries, God has continued His work of redemption in the spring, bring what was once dead back to life. What an incredible picture of the gospel? What a magnificent painting of grace!

Along with Spring in all its glory comes Easter, the beloved celebration of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter celebrations begin on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified for our sins. This day is one of remembrance of His incredible sacrifice. We weep over our sins, but have the hope of the resurrection just around the corner. Easter Sunday is my favorite day of the year. I can hardly wait to get to the celebration! But in the celebration, we must never forget what was required of our precious Savior, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Lent is the season that precedes the Easter celebration. The meaning of the word lent is “spring.” The early church used the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare their hearts. The usual acts of preparation included fasting and praying. It is a time to intentionally stop and remember Jesus Christ and His journey to the cross that we were meant to bear. The season of lent, in its accompaniment with spring, is an incredible collision of the bittersweet nature of the gospel. We were once sinners, dead in our transgressions, opposing God in our waywardness. But God, in His rich and abundant mercy, sent His only Son, Jesus, to take on our penalty so we could have everlasting life with Him. (Ephesians 2:4-5, John 3:16)

This beautiful collision of gospel and grace leads us to the cross in humble adoration and a holy recognition of Jesus’ sacrifice as well His conquering of death. Ann Voskamp described lent in this way: “Don’t think of lent as a working your way to salvation. Think of it as working out your salvation.” The discipline of lent has become a lost art in our culture. Giving up something is not the common practice. However, when we give up something in order to focus on Jesus and get low to see Him in our proper place, we gain a pure and reverent awe of Him. This gift of mercy is one I don’t want to miss in this season.

The practice of lent and fasting may be a brand new concept to you. The excuses on why not to participate or to incorporate fasting into our regular routine may already be flooding your mind, but let me urge you to examine your heart. What is too precious that it can’t be given up to know Christ more? What is more important than gaining a fresh perspective on grace? Nothing. Christ is greater than anything in this world and any desire our heart runs after. He is worthy of our sacrifice and worthy for us to put our life on pause to meditate on His goodness.

Why We Don’t Fast

The reasons we come up with to bypass participating in lent pale in comparison to knowing Christ in His fullness. First, we fear failure. We fear slipping up within the 40 day period of time. In college, I decided to give up coffee one year for lent. It took me forever to reach the conclusion that I could do it. I wanted so badly to make excuses as to why I couldn’t give it up and feared not having the so-called willpower. In reality, I was worshipping the morning cup of caffeine. The Lord used that season to break a stronghold and teach me that my strength comes from Him alone. The fear of failure is combated with the greatness of God’s grace. If you do mess up, look to Him! Leave it at His feet, and embrace His abundant grace (upon grace upon grace) He extended to you at the cross.

Second, we are unwilling to sacrifice something precious to us. In reality, we worship what we won’t give up. When I decided to give up coffee in college, God revealed to me how quick I was to worship something manmade. My unwillingness shined the light on the idolatry of my heart. Recognizing what we aren’t willing to give up is the first step to freedom. Leave it alter with Christ.

Lastly, we fear man. What will others think? We fear getting a cup of water instead of a latte at a coffee date. Breaking the social norms is not, well, normal. But it absolutely is sanctifying, and God’s will for us is sanctification - that we become more like Christ.

Why We Give Up To Gain Christ

The reasons not to fast are heart issues at the core. When you look at the benefits of fasting, you will see Christ’s glorious face shining brilliantly. We give up something (whether it be food, social media, spending money, or even time during the day) in order to become more like Christ. In the giving up, we gain everything. We trade the temporal for the eternal. We also give up to understand Christ in His suffering. Philippians 2:5-11 describes the humble act of emptying ourselves beautifully. Take a few moments to meditate on these words or read them out loud:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

“That every knee should bow.” How powerful is that? Lent is a bowing of the heart and the body in a humble adoration of Jesus sacrifice and lordship. We also participate in lent to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter, Christ’s resurrection. 

The 40 days of lent are a beautiful act of worship. In the laying down of your own will, you gain the will of Christ. In Luke 9:23, Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Him. That is the purpose of lent. May we willingly give up, get low, and gain the unfading treasure of Christ alone. 

How To Practice Lent

Jesus warns us against pharisaical fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. Take this time to focus on the Lord rather than display a false “holiness.” According to Scripture, when we fast we are to fast “in secret,” “in grace,” and “in spirit and truth.” Meeting with God in secret is one of the most life-changing decisions you could ever make. I pray God blesses this time of basking in His goodness and grace!

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 10th this year!

Below are a few ways to participate in lent this year:

  1. Purchase a 40-day Give Me Jesus journal and use this journal throughout your journey of fasting and preparation. You can choose a book of the Bible to study or a passage to meditate on throughout the 40-days. Use this time to get alone with God everyday and meditate on His Word. Write out the Scripture, get on your knees, and listen to Him as you sit at the feet of Jesus.
  2. Read Desiring God’s “Love To The Uttermost” during Holy Week.
  3. Give up something precious to you in order to gain the most precious gift of all, Christ Jesus. It could be social media, a certain food, spending money, TV, or anything that takes up time daily. Replace these things with intentional time to focus on the Lord.

May we begin this season of fasting, praying, and preparing with our eyes set on Jesus. 

Your sister,

Gretchen