Unlike New Year’s, Christmas, Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day and other pagan holidays that are celebrated by the secular, non-religious world, the Lenten season is observed by dedicated religious believers.
From Ash Wednesday to Easter, many solemnly mark their foreheads with ash, “fasting” (or abstaining from certain foods or physical pleasures) for 40 days. This is done to supposedly imitate Jesus Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-2). Some give up smoking. Others give up chewing gum. Still others give up over-eating or cursing. People vow to give up anything, as long as it prepares them for Easter.
People who observe Lent may be religious, dedicated and sincere—but they are sincerely wrong.
Let’s examine Lent, its practices and customs, its historic and religious origins, and its true meaning from the Bible’s perspective, not from the “traditions of men” (Mark 7:7-9).
Examining Lent’s Purpose
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”
On the surface, this belief sounds sincere. However, it does not agree with the Bible, God’s Holy Word, the only source of true spiritual knowledge and understanding (John 17:17). God, through the apostle Paul, commands Christians to “continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them; and that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:14-17).
First, understand that the “celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ” to which the preceding quote refers is so-called “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunday”—holidays deeply rooted in ancient paganism. They were instituted by mainstream Christianity in order to counterfeit and replace the Passover season. Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread were observed by Christ, the original apostles and the New Testament Church—including Gentiles. God commands His people to observe them today (I Cor. 5:7-8).
Second, the Bible says that we are purified—cleansed, set apart and made pure in God’s sight—by the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:11-14, 22; 13:12). This, along with faith (Acts 15:9) and humbly submitting to and obeying God (James 4:7-10) through His truth and prayer (John 17:17; I Tim. 4:5), makes us clean before God. No amount of fasting, abstaining from physical pleasures or any other form of self-denial can purify us.
Third, you cannot, of and by yourself, create within you “the desire to do God’s will.” True, God has given mankind free moral agency. But the carnal, natural mind cannot—will not—submit to God. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit…Because the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:5, 7).
Only through a converted mind, actively led by the Holy Spirit, can God work “in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).