What is Lent?
Lent is a 40 day season (excluding Sundays, considered "mini Easters") that begins on Wednesday, March 6, about 7 weeks before Easter. It is important that we remember that Lent has the same focus and intention as all of Christian discipleship: worship of and intimacy with God. This season is historically marked by two spiritual disciplines: fasting and prayer. These disciplines are inextricably connected, as the purpose of fasting is to focus one's attentions and affections on communion with God through prayer. (More on fasting to follow)
It is also important to remember what Lent is not. Lent is not a season to earn extra points with God through our works, as we believe God is already fully and finally pleased with us through the work of Jesus (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 2:8-9). Lent is not a time to fast for personal gain (i.e. fasting from food with the intention of weight loss). As Peter J. Leithart explains, the beginning and the goal of our fasting is the feast we've already received in Christ. We fast to remember and give thanks for the abundant grace and provision we enjoy, and we fast in faith that there's an even greater feast to come: the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9).
What is fasting?
Fasting is an age-old spiritual discipline that allows followers of Jesus to enter more fully into the gospel story through self-denial. Self-denial is a tool that enhances the space and attention in our bodies and minds to be more fully rooted in the gospel. Self-denial can and should be uncomfortable, but this isn't because we rejoice in self-deprecation. We deny ourselves because Christ denied himself (Philippians 2:5-11). Fasting is an attempt to identify with the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13, Philippians 3:10), so that we can better praise and glorify God for his goodness, deliverance, grace, and mercy.
The traditional method of fasting is to refrain from eating and/or drinking, be it one meal a day, one day a week, etc. Fasting from food is biblical (Jesus himself fasted 40 days in the wilderness before his temptation, Matthew 4:1-2). Feeling physical hunger reminds us of our humanity, our need for God to provide us with food to survive. These feelings of hunger can and should push us deeper into prayer and awareness of God.
Fasting from food may not be an option for you if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a pre-existing health condition. So consider fasting from another comfort: perhaps your favorite drink or treat.
We will be observing a different fast each week of Lent: food, television/movies, social networking/internet, caffeine/sweets, radio/music/podcasts, shopping for non-essentials, and sleep. Each of these fasts is outlined in detail in this devotional. The purpose of these fasts (or self-denials) is the sharpening of our vision of God's presence by limiting worldly disctractions.
How to use the devotional
We've been so blessed by The Village Church to use a version of their Lent Devotional. Feel free to print a copy to use at home, or grab one from the Resources Shelf in the lobby of our space.
This devotional will walk you through each of the seven weeks of Lent using the Gospel of Luke and supplemental passages to consider. There is a detailed guide at the beginning of the devotional that explains all you will need to know!
What is Lent? - Video from The Village Church
Keep the Fast, Keep the Feast - Article by Peter J. Leithart
The Seasonal Nature of Lent - Article from The Village Church
A Prayer for a Gospel-Saturated Lent - Prayer by Scotty Smith
Oaks Lenten Playlist - A spotify playlist