What are you giving up for Lent this year? The practice can be useful. It can serve to remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus made—he gave up his life! Of course, the custom is entirely optional. One Christian may give something up; another may do nothing. Both can please God!
The heart of the Lenten season isn’t that we give up something, but that we give up someone. That someone is ourselves! Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:23-25 NIV 1984). You lose your life when you turn to Jesus as your Savior. Instead of trusting your own works or goodness, trust in Jesus!
The gospel is at the center of the Lenten season. Some mistakenly think that in Lent we focus on ourselves and our sins. While we do confess our sins, we still focus on the gospel, just with a different tone and mood. Giving up your life means that you focus on Jesus during Lent. Ultimately, looking to Jesus’ forgiveness will renew our faith, not giving something like coffee up for six weeks.
The Old Testament prophet Hosea put it this way, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds” (6:1). During Lent, our focus remains on how God heals us. His law tears us up by reminding us that we don’t deserve anything from him. But the same God offers forgiveness to those who trust in him. Lenten renewal doesn’t come from what we give up, but from the Savior whose love renews us.
And a quick warning about Lent: It isn’t a time for “poor Jesus” thoughts: “Oh, look what he suffered!” The book of Hebrews tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Jesus knew what he was getting into when he came to earth. He considered it a joy to be your Savior!
Yes, our sins cause us to grieve. But let us not miss the joy of this season. It is a quiet joy — the joy of forgiveness, new life, and renewed hope. Our spiritual well-being is based on the events we celebrate in Lent. Be sure you see the joy of what Jesus willingly did for you.
Giving something up for Lent? If you’d like to, go for it! But be sure that you take something up for Lent — Jesus! Renew your faith by focusing your attention on his healing and forgiving work as your Savior.
Pastor Tim Wempner
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