Baptists and Lent

I have been a Baptist for a long time, most of my forty eight years. I grew up being a Royal Ambassador (RA) and looking forward each summer to Vacation Bible School. I remember Thanksgiving Services, Christmas Eve Services, and Easter Sunrise Services. Lent, or any type of observance of Lent was not something I remember. We Baptists just didn’t do Ash Wednesday or Lent, at least not at Harmony Baptist Church in Banks County.

The following is a good description of Lent for those of you wondering just what observing Lent means. It is taken from the Bible Gateway Blog entitled: What is Lent?

Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion.

Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is commonly observed by many Christian denominations—Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others—although not every Christian church or denomination does so. Because Lent is not officially instituted in Scripture, observing it isn’t in any way a “requirement” of Christianity. However, Christians from many different theological persuasions choose to observe it as a way of focusing their thoughts on Jesus Christ during the Easter season.

How does one observe Lent? It differs from person to person and church to church, but some of the things Christians opt to do to observe Lent include:

  • On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), some Christians mark their foreheads with ash as a symbol of sorrow and mourning over their sin. (See Job 42 for an example of ash used as a symbol of repentance.)
  • Special worship services or special devotional activity during Lent, that focuses on the human need for repentance. This often takes the form of extra Scripture readings and prayer.
  • Some Christians choose to give up a habit or behavior during Lent as an exercise in prayerful self-denial. This might range from something as simple as not drinking soda during Lent to a full-blown program of fasting.

The choice to observe Lent is a personal one—the whole point is to focus your heart and mind on Jesus during the journey to Easter. There’s no requirement to observe it, nor should you feel guilted into participating. However, millions of Christians around the world do observe Lent each year; if you’ve never done so, why not give it a try? Whether you observe Lent in a small or major way, you’ll be amazed at what happens when you devote a part of each day to reflecting on Jesus Christ and God’s Word.

About twelve years ago, I attended my first Ash Wednesday Service, at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, in Athens, Ga.  I wondered what a Baptist Church was doing celebrating Ash Wednesday and Lent. The ashes that are put on your forehead, in the symbol of a cross, remind us of the passage from Genesis 3:19: “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” It reminds us that we are only on this earth for a short period of time and we need to make every second of every day count for something good.

This year I decided to use the time of Lent as a time of self-denial. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that after Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by Satan for a period of forty days. Satan tried to tempt Jesus into sin when he was at his weakest point. Jesus fought the power of Satan with scripture and he remained without sin during this time in the desert and throughout his time on earth.

For me, Lent has become a time to draw closer to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am reminded of the great sacrifice that Christ made for all of us and I am reminded of the fact that I am not without sin. This period of self-denial has drawn me closer to God especially in my daily prayers.

It was fine that we didn’t celebrate the season of Lent in my childhood church in Banks County. However, I am certainly glad that my current church decided to make this time of Lent, a part of our yearly worship time. I feel that I have grown each year and that God uses this time to continue shaping my life into something useful for his kingdom.

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