Come to me, all you who are very weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for
your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11: 28-30
Lent started on Wednesday 22 nd February with Ash Wednesday and would continue until
Saturday 8 th April, a day before Easter Sunday. Originally, Lent was kept as a pre-Easter retreat:
a prolonged period of time when Christians would “tone up” spiritually. Their “spiritual
aerobics” were not unlike the intensive training an athlete undergoes before an important race
or the strict diet a person goes on in order to lose weight for medical or cosmetic purpose.
The reason why Christians took Lent so seriously from the days of the Early Church onwards is
that Easter Day was the highlight of their year. On this day, like us, they celebrated the amazing
fact that Jesus’ body was not left in the grave. He rose from dead! But on this day, they also
welcomed converts to Christianity into full fellowship of the church and welcomed back people
who had once believed in God but whose faith in Him had grown dim and whose love for Him
had grown cold. Throughout Lent, these people would prepare for Easter by becoming familiar
with the basic teaching essential to understanding of Christianity. They would be encouraged to
repent of the past failures and be shown how to live life God’s way. Committed Christians did
not escape the rigours of the Lenten season. They, too, took Lent seriously and used it as a time
to examine their life-style, to turn their backs on the sin that so easily creeps into their lives and
to re-dedicate their lives to God.
Lent means to sacrifice our most precious commodity, time: quality time for God. During Lent
we should devote our time to extra prayer, extra Bible meditation, extra reflection and serious
repentance. Such dedicated time to God would make a difference to the way we worship when
Easter Day arrives.
LENT IS THEREFORE:
- A time for spiritual spring-cleaning; a challenge to combat evil in our lives. And Lent
is a time to turn back to God. The Prophet Joel puts the invitation this way: ‘Rend
your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious
and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from
sending calamity.’ (Joel 2:13 NIV)
- A time for new beginnings. New beginnings start with repentance. Repentance is
not negative. True repentance is an active, positive attitude which effects real and
deep changes. Repentance involves recognizing the wrong, and, where possible,
putting it right. And when we repent, we are determining in our minds that we will
live differently. John the Baptist said ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’
(Matthew 3:2). Repentance means to face up honestly to the past and turn from
it… Our own repentance conjures up feelings of being sorry or guilty for something.
The biblical meaning is far deeper and richer. In the New Testament usage,
repentance turns us from sin, selfishness, darkness, idols, habits, bondages and
demons both private and public. Jim Wallis puts it this way: ‘We turn from all that
binds and oppresses us and others, from all the false worship that has controlled
us. Ultimately, repentance is turning from the powers of death. These ominous
forces no longer hold us in their grip; they no longer have the last word’.
Repentance and receiving God’s forgiveness go hand in hand. The Apostle John
writes: ‘If we confess our sins to God, He will keep His promise…He will forgive us
our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.’ (1 John 1:9). After we have
confessed, we must move on to receive and embrace God’s forgiveness and love.
To fail to do so implies that we give greater importance to our sinful self than to
God’s goodness. We must learn to accept that God’s goodness is greater than our
‘badness’; that there is joy in God’s heart in extending to us the forgiving love
which sets us free from past sin. So, we must refuse to nurse a sense of guilt and
accept the healing God offers.
- A glorious forty-day retreat. A retreat is a time to stand back; to ask; ‘what have I
been doing with my life?’ What has God been teaching me? Where have I
succeeded in living life God’s way? Where have I failed? What do I need to
confess to God or to change?’ Lenten retreat is a time to recognize our
wanderings and to determine to go back to God. Like the young man in the story of
the prodigal son, we are to make a calculated choice to come back to our Father: ‘I
will get up and go to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against God and
against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son: treat me as one of your hired
workers.’ (Luke 15: 20-24) : and enjoy our Father’s joyful restoration.
- A time to hope. Unending love is what God is. Lent is a time to experience that love
all over again. For this reason, God ‘woos’ and assures us that though we have
failed Him, He will not forsake us: ‘How can I give you up?… How can I abandon
you?… My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong.’ (Hosea 11:8).
Now is the time to make a personal response to God invitation: ‘Return to the Lord
your God and let this prayer be your offering to Him: “Forgive all our sins and
accept our prayer, and we will praise you as we have promised”’(Hosea 14:2) .
Because God’s love is perfect, when we return to Him, we enjoy security. He has
promised that He will never abandon us nor banish us from His presence — ‘Does a
woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet
even if these forget, I will never forget you. See, I have branded you on the palms
of my hands.’
- A time to re-focus; to turn away from the business which pre-occupies us for most
of the year and concentrate on Jesus.
Lent is a wonderful time we should not miss. Let us go through the rigours of the 40 days
spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayers and enjoy prolific change and growth in our walk with
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Please continue to join us on Asempa 94.7 FM – Sundays 5.30 am., Sunny 88.7 FM – Tuesdays
5:30 am; and YFM 107.9 – Sundays 6.30am; for our Radio Bible Study as well as Sunny FM
88.7 FM every Sunday at 3:30 pm. for Hymns and their Stories.