As you may be aware, today is the first day of what many people around the world observe as Lent—a 40-day period leading up to Easter. Lent is often associated with some kind of fast—giving up chocolate or coffee or computer games or Facebook.
Some people fast during Lent as a means of self-control without attaching any spiritual significance to it. Others believe that by observing a Lenten fast, they can somehow merit the grace or favor of God. Of course, we know from Scripture that it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
But many Christians observe the Lenten season as a meaningful way of meditating on the sufferings of Christ on our behalf. They choose to deny their flesh as a daily reminder that Christ died and rose again to deliver us from slavery to sin and self.
A Lenten fast may take different forms, but I believe there is value in taking such an extended period of time to clear out the clutter that accumulates in our hearts, to say “no” to things that may have become too important to us, and to cultivate greater love for Christ.
The churches I grew up in did not observe Lent in any formal sense. But in recent years, I have started setting aside these weeks to fix my eyes on Christ in a more intentional way. I select one or more books on the life and passion of Christ to read during the Lenten season. I ask the Lord to soften and prepare my heart to commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and to make the gospel more real in my life.
In recent weeks, the Lord has been drawing my heart to Him in a deeper way. I have a fresh longing and thirst to know Him more intimately, and am looking forward to seeking Him more earnestly during Lent. I have selected a couple of books to read and am starting a Bible study on what it means to love Christ with my whole heart. (In the past, I’ve enjoyed books such as The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders, The Suffering Savior by Krummacher, and John Stott’s The Cross of Christ.) This year, I will also be putting aside some things that could distract me from pursuing Him, including one of my favorite diversions, Words With Friends.
None of these spiritual disciplines makes me any more spiritual. Nor does it mean someone who does not fast is any less spiritual. We are saved and sanctified by grace alone. These practices are simply tools that many have found helpful in denying their flesh and deepening their devotion for Christ.
How about you? Do you have any plans to fast from something in order to feast on Christ between now and Resurrection Day?