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To Lent or Not to Lent?

Why we choose not to practice Lent at Christ Community Church

Lent season is coming soon. This year, Lent begins on March 6. Before long, we will be seeing people post what they have “given up” for Lent, or some of our coworkers will show up with a spot of ash on their forehead.

At Christ Community Church, we choose not to practice Lent. Here are some of the reasons for our decision. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. We are happy to answer.

What is Lent?

Lent is forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on the Saturday before Easter. Traditionally, forty days were chosen to represent the time Jesus is tempted in the wilderness before beginning His ministry. The 40 days do not include Sundays. During Lent, people are encouraged to fast or give up a specific indulgence as a way of having self-examination and reflection before God. Some use the opportunity to volunteer and serve for the sake of others. Others have defined devotions that will help them prepare for the upcoming season when we celebrate the Resurrection. Some churches teach that Lent is an obligation and to neglect its practice is to sin.

Lent is an extra-biblical, conscience-binding practice

Lent is an extra-biblical practice lacking Scriptural warrant. In other words, there is no indication that we are to practice Lent in the New Testament. The New Testament does teach that we are to fast, serve others, read the Bible, and deny ourselves. These are all good Christian practices. But, there is no Bible passage which teaches us to practice these disciplines within a specific allotted period of days or as a corporate activity.

The Scripture speaks against such conscience-binding practices. A conscience-binding practice is to encourage people to participate in something which, if they don’t, they may think of themselves as sinning. For example, the Apostle Paul warns against compelling people to forbid what the Bible does not forbid (Romans 14:1-12). Some might say that during Lent, we should forbid eating meat (or chocolate), yet the Scripture does not forbid the eating of meat. To uphold a standard for holiness which the Bible does not uphold is to bind the conscience of another.

Lent will not change our heart

It is impossible to “program” the hearts of people to become devout, contrite, or repentant. Too often, we experience how our heart may become tainted into having a self-righteous attitude with our Christian practices of Spiritual Disciplines. We might post on social media how we do something spiritual in the season of Lent. Jesus teaches that our fasting and praying ought to be discreet. The last thing we need is to add rituals with the hopes it will sway people to have more adoration for Christ. Our trust is that the preaching and teaching of the glories of Christ and His work on the cross are fully sufficient to accomplish a work of God in the heart. We desire to make much of the sacrifice of Jesus rather than to puff ourselves up.

We are not against the practice of Spiritual disciplines

Some may interpret our not practicing Lent as being against fasting and denying self. Many people easily justify how Lenten practices may be adapted, so they are wholesome. The proliferation of blog posts on the subject attests to their ways of justifying extra-biblical practices to achieve righteous ends. We encourage people to practice Spiritual disciplines all year, not just during a specified time. After all, what good are the sacrifices of Lent if we precede them with the indulgences of Mardi Gras?

Lent blurs the truths of sanctification

Lent is a “gray area” of church practice. It is within our Christian liberty to undertake Lenten practices. Those qualified in the Scriptures may easily find verses here or there to justify why Lent may be good. However, in doing this, are we not being naïve to the inability of many Christians to make clear distinctions between the gray area of Lent and what may be permissible? Just because some might understand how to draw the line to make Lent “good” (which is very hard), do we trust new believers to do the same? Can those who are not yet adept in the Scriptures articulate the difference between good and bad Lenten practices and beliefs? And, if the majority are able, but a minority are unable, are we not accountable to how we disciple the minority (the weaker brother)? All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Rather than spending time trying to justify a questionable, practice, our efforts are better-spent teaching and preaching the complete and utter sufficiency of Christ rather than try to justify a questionable extra-biblical practice.

Tradition and Culture do not dictate truth

There are many traditional churches in our region who practice Lent to be right before God. The Scripture teaches there is only one way to be justified (made right) before the throne of God and that is by faith in Jesus Christ. When we, as a church, support any Lenten activity or practice, we may unknowingly endorse “works-based” salvation. Those who practice Lent to make themselves holy before God may hear of our church practicing Lenten activities, and they will not distinguish our practice as having a different “heart” than theirs. They will think we practice and worship in the same way when we do not. We trust in the work of the cross while they may trust in rituals.

Ours is a faith of distinctions which separate us from the culture. Adopting Lenten practices is more about embracing our culture than it is about adhering to Scripture. Practicing Lent will dangerously erode our distinctive of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and Scripture alone.

Glory be to Christ!

Do you desire to fast before Good Friday so you may understand more the afflictions of Christ? Great!
Do you desire to put together a devotional reading plan which highlights the Passion Week? Go for it.
Do you want to deny yourself an indulgence for the sake of helping you keep your mind on Christ and His sacrifice for our sins? Well done.

Don’t let your good intention be communicated in association with Lent. It will obscure the glories of the sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work to make us holy, blameless, justified, righteous, and above reproach before the throne of a thrice-holy God.


About Allen Burns

Allen serves as an elder and is the Staff Pastor-Teacher at Christ Community Church