Bible Teaching aimed at helping you enjoy the Scriptures which are the Word of GOD!
Preaching by: John J. Malone, Sr - JABSBG*
One of the practices I left behind when I received Christ as Savior 32 years ago was the keeping of the “Lenten season.”
The wholesale adoption of this Roman Catholic version of ancient pagan practice by what was once Protestantism is indicative of the departure that marks our day.
Now let me be clear here: I have no qualm with anyone’s religious practice, within civil bounds. If someone wants to re-enact the weeping for Tammuz, or some other pagan practice, I consider them free to do so.
My issue with “Lent” is the Christianizing of it: the attempt by ignorant or dishonest men to sell the practice to the unsuspecting as if it had to do with faith in Jesus Christ.
Roman Catholicism acknowledges: “The Teutonic word ‘Lent,’ which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season.” Indeed. Throughout the world, one can find ancient (heathen) ritual practices – many referenced in the Bible – which accommodate themselves seasonally.
Perhaps nothing pinpoints the ascension of Bible-condemned clerisy, “the Pharisee-izing” of Christianity, the paganizing of Christendom, and the confusion reigning today than the promulgation of “the Easter season” (unless it’s the promulgation of “the Christmas season!”).
As is the case with so many “religious controversies,” the fountainhead of this one has to do with the rise of Constantine as the unified emperor of Rome, and the politicizing of the Christian faith as part of an attempt to consolidate a political base in the face of a fragmenting body politic.
By the time of Constantine, roughly 300 AD, the Roman empire featured a splintered leadership (4 ways) – ironically similar to the way the Greek Empire had split after Alexander – demonstrating that primogenitor had failed. Constantine was the son of a politically motivated general (certainly something not lost through the ages) who had found his way into the emporer’s broad household through a second marriage.
Constantine employed a form of politics that has since been heavily replicated. He did not invent the form. Because he needed to break into an status quo political hegemony, he needed to appeal to the disenfranchised – without substantially offending the bourgeoisie – in order to gain requisite political support. Those disenfranchised groups could be substantially found among Christians who were spread throughout the empire, and eastern empire factions who were regarded as second-class (or even thrid class) entities in the empire.
What is amazing today is the near wholesale adioption of “Lenten season” by supposed “Protestants” and “evangelicals!” What was once distinctly Catholic – and pagan – has now become commonplace in nearly all churches.
The gospel has been nearly lost by churches, whereby it now becomes “God’s do over,” or “a second chance,” instead of God’s gracious declaration and imputation of actual righteousness to the believer on the basis of faith alone in the meritorious works of Christ alone. As it has become mired in works-based junior forms of Romanism, it’s no surprise than abominable ritual practices with roots in heathenism are taught to God’s people.
As for me, I want no part of such abominable practices.
As a master stroke, Constantine “sanctified” Christianity, declaring it the religion of the empire, but satisficing traditionalists by incorporating pagan sites into the new religion. A second master stroke, he declared the “new Rome” to be in Istanbul, in the east, the city which after his death was called “Constantinople.”
“Lent” is one of the pagan practices which migrated into Christianity, and can be traced to the worship of Mithras. By the time of Constantine, it was a tradition in the empire, adopted as it was from the ancient Babylonian system via the mystery religions extant throughout the empire.
The “strength” of the Roman empire was its ability to rapidly absorb the culturs it conquered. For instance, Greek philosophy and language had much more impetus under Rome than under Alexander and his generals, because Rome adopted and seized upon the system of thought and language for the privileged class: it was no big deal to speak Latin, but if one spoke, read, and wrote (classical) Greek, he was considered highly educated. This snobbishness, hinted at in Romans , continues to this day.
Rome absorbed the Bablyonian’s religion, the Persian system of roadways and commerce, and the Greek language arts and military strategies.
So it is no surprise that Constantine readily “absorbed (viz. co-opted and usurped) Christianity,” and co-opted the Indo-European people with his New Rome at Constantinople.
Now, Lent is a piece of that Mithraism underlying the mystery religions, “replacing” as it does the season of “weeping for Tammuz.” In fact, this was one of the ancient abominable practices Israel had adopted resulting in the punishment by God that was the Assyrian captivity.
It should come as no surprise that a heathen practice like Lent – once found only among Catholics – is now commonplace among “Protestants” and “evangelicals.”
These who have abandoned the simple gospel of the grace of God, Who graciously imputes real righteousness to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ – on the basis of faith alone in the meritorious substitution of Christ alone – and replaced it with a system of works to be saved, prove you are saved, or stay saved, will readily adopt empty and abominable ritual practices which also hearken to some lame strata of Romanism!
As for me, I’m not the slightest bit interested in adopting such pagan, anti-gracious, abominable practices.
I am profoundly grateful to Jesus from releasing us from such religious hokum. Its a real mixed bag of emotions when you come across a brother/sister accepting without question that giving up chocolate or Diet Coke for 40 days has some sort of spiritual benefit. You want to honor our Lord’s trial in the Desert? – pray thanks during those 40 days (and anytime thereafter, as the Spirit moves you) that God has not put your salvation, or your reward, on the basis of such nonsense.
I don’t know, man. I think you’re missing the point. The point isn’t that Lent EARNS anyone’s salvation. That’s just silly. But it does help us focus on the Jesus’ saving sacrifice more.
We all know Jesus fasted for 40 days before He began His ministry, so it seems like He endorsed the practice of giving something up (in His case food – which is a bit too hard-core for me to pull off!) in order to focus and be better able to serve God.
I think it’s also about discipline. It’s a way of reminding yourself you don’t need ANYTHING as much as you need God. Every time you want whatever it was you gave up for Lent, it reminds you that you only need God. Just like when Jesus told Satan that man doesn’t live on bread alone, right? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get too caught up in the joys of this world and need the reminder.
I don’t think you ever drew a CAUSAL link between the pagan practice and the Christian one in this post. You just comment that both were there. But Jesus did it too, so it can’t always have been bad. Maybe modern-day Lent really IS based on Jesus’ practice?
Just some things to think about…
Once again, Joanna, you cannot have it both ways.
If “Lent” is about the Lord Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, then it should be more like “Ramadan” than “Lent.” If what you claim is true, then fast for 40 days AND 40 nights (something Ramadan is NOT: most Muslims eat after sundown as if there is no tomorrow during Ramadan). Moses did. Elijah did.
If that is too hard for you to pull off, then you are unqualified to “do Lent,” according to your own definition.
Jesus did not give up meat on friday, or potato chips: he FASTED.
By the way, while fasting is always presumed to be practiced in the Bible, you do not see anyone commanding anyone else to do it. fasting is to be a PRIVATE practice . While you are at it, wipe those ashes off your forehead: they look ridiculous!
Fasting is Biblical: Lent is not. You ought not confuse the two.
Now, in principle, if, because Jesus did something, it gives rise to a Christian practice, then isn’t that a rather large agenda? And don’t you have an IMPOSSIBLE one because you are female? And if the fact of Him doing something isn’t the basis for your Lenten practice, then what is it? (I know: someone in Roman hierachy tells you you must.)
Marvel not that He says to you you must be born from above.
What is NOT too hard for you is to have faith ALONE in Christ ALONE for eternal life.
Just some things to think about …
Yes grace and freedom are wonderful, no lent isn’t a law or a requirement, and yes some people do it for the wrong reasons, but brother I have got to tell you I think it’s wrong that you’re calling your Christian brothers and sisters “dishonest” and “ignorant” and saying “As for me, Iâ€™m not the slightest bit interested in adopting such pagan, anti-gracious, abominable practices.” Abominable? Really? What about the people that do it to deny themselves? (as is called for in Luke 9, deny yourself, take up your cross daily). And again with “It should come as no surprise that a heathen practice like Lent – once found only among Catholics – is now commonplace among â€œProtestantsâ€ and â€œevangelicals.â€”
Heathen? More catholic bashing.
It’s sad to see grace preached in such an ungraceful way.
And just a follow up note, I do think you’re right on about rituals and practices that obfuscate what grace is really about, but I don’t want any catholics, or non-catholics that just happen to follow lent, to feel like they’re getting clunked over the head and called heathen and ignorant.
What if they worship things other than God, or make vain repetitions in their prayers? Is it still wrong to call them heathen or ignorant? Just wanted to know the ground rules so I can be careful not to offend anyone…
Thank you for your write up on Lent. The church today is filled with all types of heathen practices and customs. There shouldn’t be any apologies for anyone who falls under the axe of the truth. After all , the truth is what sets us free. Jesus was hated and killed for daring to declare the truth how much more his we today. The fact remains that we are commanded by God not to have any part in pagan practices – read Deuteronomy 18: 9-14 – We as christians always seem to think there is a middle ground, but there isn’t. We are either going to serve God the way he wants or we aren’t. We can’t go on polluting the faith with all sorts of foreign practices borrowed from other religions and think this is acceptable to God. Paul said to the Galatians in Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Once you get seduced into believing and justifying something based on a lie, it’s only a matter of time before you get compromised in other areas. If you reject the truth continuously, you shut the door to your own salvation. Let us not deceive ourselves, what is false is false, but today all types of fancy names have been used to make what is false more acceptable. Lying is called stretching the truth, etc. Please read thessolonians 2:1-12 for the consequences of rejecting the truth.
Please clarify your remarks regarding ‘shuting the door to your own salvation’ and ‘the consequense of rejecting the truth.’ It seems, the way you spoke, that you are implying Christians can somehow find themselves unsaved after too much rejection of the truth. But you have not spoken plainly and I invite you to do so.
So that I am not guilty of the same thing, I will say plainly that II Thessalonians 2:6-12 is speaking of those that are perishing, NOT those who have been saved. And the truth they are rejecting is not merely about pagan practices, but rather Jesus Christ Himself, who is THE TRUTH.
Hilarious!!! Rejecting Lent because of its etymology is so profoundly a rejection of the intelligence that God has given us that it borders on the insane. Why not ban Easter then (named after a Nordic goddess!!!) This is why Christianity without apolostic teaching makes no sense. The early church saw this (witness paul’s constant reining in the excesses of those who had a small amount of Christianity) and provided leadership that was tested based on authority and apostolic witness. What seems to be happening here is that a tradition that emerged from the early Church (the community of believers) to acknowledge the price paid for our sins and to show the cost of salvation which found its origins in Judaic custom has not been properly researched and summarily rejected because of its association with the Catholic Church which preserved it from earliest times. My friend remember when you quote the Bible it was a living Word of God within the Christian community before finally being codified sevearl centuries after the apostles (not as Dan Brown makes out at the insistence of Constantine) Please read early Church history before you make any proncouncements!!
Lent who needs it no one who “knows” the Lord! As Jesus said “know” (experience) the truth and the truth shall set you free. Lent is man made of the flesh (touch not, eat not) if someone needs too be told too fast and too abstain from food. Such a man is carnal and devoid of Gods wisdom and power. Jesus said and when you pray don’t be like the heathen in “vain repitions” if the Devil knows your going too do it year after year, then your out of step with Gods Spirit! Jesus never said the word Catholic, eucharist, rosary, priest, popes. He did says YOU are they who SET ASIDE the word of God for the sake of your traditions. Lent as the other unscriptural words are vain traditions practices by a vain people. Which is why it is written come out from among them (pagan, ungodly, traditionalist) and I will be your God!
Hmm. I hear both sides of the story. Let me give you mine.
I also at one time believed the same thing the author here believed, until i studied a little more and found that the facts demonstrate that lent was practice by the apostles and has been dated back before Constantine and the organizing of Christianity.
Now I do agree with not practicing lent in the way the roman Catholics do so. They can really “religionize” something. But Lent is a great way for many believers to realign themselves with the cost of the gospel. It realigns us to the reality that we are called to live holy, dedicated lives to Christ. Period. There is no getting away from that high call.
This part of the gospel is hard for many to understand because Christianity has become more about what you believe and not how you live. We love to argue about how this belief is wrong and how that belief is wrong all the while missing the point that it is in how one lives that makes the real difference. Jesus said “why do you call me lord and not do what I commanded” and “not everyone who calls me lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my father in heaven” Paul calls us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God.
Now participating in lent does not achieve any of this in and of itself, and not participating in it doesn’t either. Lent is about the personal reflection and intentional devotion. It can help build Christian character. It helps with our spiritual formation. A term and concept almost completely lost in this day and age.
My fear is that the reality is that during the reformation the fear of being “to roman catholic” by well intentioned but ignorant people, we have lost a lot of good Christian character building exercises. They threw the baby out with the bathwater which was wrong. In my opinion anyway.
Here’s the problem I think all of you are having with your interpretations of lent. Yes, there are some people out there that believe the Bible explicitly supports lent, however, those who are knowledgeable knows it does not. No person is required to take part in the Lenten season and eating meat on Fridays, etc. is clearly not a sin according to the Bible.
However this doesn’t mean the Lenten season is a bad thing for Christians. It all depends on how one uses it. Currently, the Lenten season is viewed as a preparation for the holy week and specifically Easter for all Christians. This period is supposed to bring each Christian into a closer relationship with God and to remember the sacrifices that were made by Jesus in order for our salvation.
One of the sacrifices made was Jesus’ 40 day fast in the desert. Since the Lenten period is 40 days, this is supposed to be a period for Christians to remember this sacrifice made by Jesus. Now, people can do this in any fashion. They could do anything from simply remarking on his sacrifice to actually fasting for a 40 day period.
Now, depending on your source fasting can be defined as either “abstaining from all food” or “eating only sparingly or of certain types of food.” I’m sure we’re all aware that the Bible does not support “food bans” like the bans used by other religions. So, as I stated earlier, this clearly points to the fact that not partaking in the lent season is not a sin.
But, if a person uses this lent season to comemorate Jesus’ sacrifice, what makes it any different than Holy Communion? We all know that when we take the wine and bread it is because Jesus also used wine and bread on the Last Supper. The main idea for this is to recognize the Last Supper and our salvation.
The lent season can be recognized in a similar fashion. Many people eat only certain foods on Fridays during the lent season (fish). This is not required, but can be used to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice in the desert. However, food doesn’t have to be used, just as a person doesn’t necessarily have to drink wine and eat bread to be forgiven for their sins. A person could simply use prayer or just recognize Jesus’ sacrifice.
And let us not forget Romans 14:
“Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.”
You probably also realize that Romans 14 is about receiving a WEAKER brother as a brother, regardless of his errors and WEAKNESSES, not that you never mention them, or help him to be free from such things, as his conscience allows. Romans 14 does NOT allow for such a WEAK brother to teach others to join with him in his WEAKNESS.
So, if you want to practice your religious behavior, it will not have an impact on me receiving you as a brother, assuming you have the testimony of Jesus Christ, of which you haven’t stated. But I will not permit that kind of false teaching to go unchallenged to the rest of my brothers and sisters, to stumble them.
After you finish with Romans 14, read Colossians 2 . You will find the man of God lives by grace through faith, the same way he received Christ Jesus in the first place (v6), departing from the traditions of men, including taste not, which are NOT beneficial to him. Go ahead and read the entire chapter.
And again, lent is not fasting. If you want to fast, fast to yourself, by yourself, and have your reward before God. Don’t make a pact with everyone around you to merely abstain from something silly for 40 days, once a year, and then go around pronouncing your great sacrifice. You have your reward in full.
yall should all repent because yalls hearts are not in the right place..ask holy spirit to give you a word before you get to typing. rember to humble yourselves and show love. instead of arguing the subject we should be talking about the cross and how the only thing that seperates us from the Lord is our sin.die to ourselves daily and remember to preach the gospel to every creature. we as brothers and sisters should pray for souls. God gave us his only perfect son to die for me (us) the sinners that we are because of his great love for us..i love you all!
fasting should be a matter of choice, not a regulation. All those who fasted in the Bible such as Moses, Elijah and Jesus were fasting to be closer to God; to strengthen their faith. The “lenten season” of “fasting” is a pagan practice in actual sense, regardless of the intentions of those who practice it. If we all just read the Bible, we can all know how to fast the right way. Thanks John Malone, for shedding some light on this matter.
I agree that more people, including (and maybe..especially) Catholics like me should educate themselves more about Biblical ties to Lent. I will admit that I went some 30 years as Roman Catholic thinking that Ash Wednesday was a Holy Day of Obligation, requiring Catholics to attend Mass. It’s not. But that lack of education is my fault. Every priest I speak with knows it’s not an obligation. I was ignorant of the practice. Now that I understand it, I do still attend, but not because it’s required, but because it HELPS…helps me get closer to Christ, which is much better than blindly following an instruction.
Regarding Lent itself, again, it helps. It shouldn’t be followed merely because it’s instructed, but because every Catholic should understand it’s our method/tool of bringing us closer to Christ. As someone wrote above, diet coke and chocolate to not take us away from Christ, and abstaining from them doesn’t bring us closer. But using abstinence as a tool, a reminder, an experiential method to understand Christ’s sacrifice…I’ll say again….it helps.
I hear many MANY people question why it’s necessary to attend church on Sunday. “…Anyone could just pray on their own…”. Yes, in theory anyone could, but they DON’T! Attending church HELPS. But in the same way, attending church while thinking about work or football isn’t what brings us closer to Christ. The two must go hand in hand…guidance from the Church and our own devotion.
I would encourage every Catholic to better understand their own Lenten sacrifice. And I would equally encourage non-Catholic Christians to 1) reach out to Catholics whom they see as abstaining from diet coke without any consideration for Christ and challenge them how it helps them get closer to Christ, and hopefully they will become better educated Catholics and be closer to Christ than their Lenten sacrifices show…and 2) have a little more understand about our methods. We are brothers and sisters.
Let’s take this comment apart a bit.
I will say this: Lent fits the Roman Catholic system excellently, both historically and in practice. I was never under the impression that Ash Wednesday was a Holy Day of Obligation (HDO). I suppose my Roman Catholic education, now over 50 years old in part, was too rigorous for me to be wrong about that one. (I’m certain far more RC’s are confused about the doctrine of “The Immaculate Conception” than they are about Ash Wednesday.)
For those of you unfamiliar with RC HDO’s, they are days which the Pope rules that if RC’s do not attend the portion of the RC mass – beginning with the “Offeratory,” where they claim priest begins to sacrifice Jesus again “in an unbloody way” in the form of an unleavened wheat wafer, and culminating with the priest eating the wafer he has so “consecrated” – you will be committing a “mortal sin,” which, if left unforgiven by a RC priest, or in the unusual case of a “perfect act of contrition,” will send you directly to the lake of fire when you die.
That’s what an HDO is. There are a few of them besides every single Sunday throughout the year. They vary from nation to nation, and even from state to state. There used to be a whole lot of them: dozens. Now they are under 10 in most countries. One is All Saints Day, November 1st. There are three “feasts of Mary” that are HDO’s including, for instance, the two false doctrines of her alleged sinless birth and her alleged bodily ascension (“Assumption”) into heaven. I remember that years ago, my brother agreed to read through the book of Acts with me in order to show me where the doctrine of the “assumption” could be found. He quit reading with me after 15 or sixteen chapters. I’m sure he read ahead, and realized we weren’t going to find it!
Now I find it interesting that the RC who wrote this comment to which I am replying found it important to educate himself on Roman Catholic doctrine, and yet remains entirely ignorant of the Scriptures of God! THIS is really essential RC’ism! The Lord Jesus pointed out to the religious leaders of His days on earth that they made the Word of God of no effect due to their traditions. Those Jewish leaders had tied up their entire generation in such a way that overwhelmingly the Lord Jesus was rejected by that nation when He came to them. Today, perhaps not as overwhelmingly, but still in mass numbers, RC’s reject the truth of Scripture, and therefore the Lord Jesus Himself, and instead hold to the traditions that men have authored and delivered to them. Lent is perhaps the epitome of this form of practice, and it is telling today that the so-called “Protestant” world (made of people who have quit protesting anything!) marked as it is with the post-modern rise of various forms of Reformed doctrine, has quietly and nearly uniformly adopted the Babylonian “Lent.”
Now, there are those who would consider that I am singularly anti-RC’ism. This is not precisely true. I am against all forms of the rebellion that commenced at at ancient Babylon that resulted in the discipline of God in confusing human language. This rebellion was, at its base, a political one, with religion being used as the “opiate of the masses.” RC’ism, in the Western World, is still the leading Babylonian protege. The rise of Islam, which some have claimed is a RC creation, is another example object inheriting features of the Babylonian class. In both of these religious systems, sacrificial work for forgiveness, for spiritual growth, or for some form of spiritual attainment is commended. “It HELPS me get closer to Christ.” Oh, really? One wonders who his “Christ” is?
The Lord Jesus Christ – yes THAT “Christ” – told the religious of His days on earth to “go and learn what this means: I will have mercy and NOT sacrifice.”
Now, does “Lent” help a RC understand “Christ’s sacrifice?” Hardly. The ONE THING RC’s do NOT understand is the substitutionary sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is to say the vicarious nature of his sufferings and death. Further, they do not understand the sufficiency, the completeness of His sacrifice. Instead, lacking this understanding – and the faith which follows – they come to us as if “brothers and sisters” and try to sell their religion to us, while they claim to be sacrificing Jesus bodily every day in their hideous idolatrous practice.
My brothers and sisters don’t participate in the hideous idolatry that is the Catholic mass. They don’t countenance the parading around of (mostly homosexual) clergy that call themselves “fathers.” They believe the Holy Spirit, and not some “Pope” with a funny hat, is the Vicar of Christ on earth. They find that “faith comes by hearing … the Word of God,” and that the traditions of men make that of no effect.
I agree with Rick A. here that true Christians should challenge the practices and beliefs of their RC acquaintances and friends. They should ask them why they are weeping for Tammuz when Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for their sins. They should ask them why they are hoping they might find some way to heaven when Jesus Christ offers them eternal life, starting right now, if they will simply receive Him for Who He is: the Savior of the world Who conquered sin and death, and proved it in His resurrection out from the dead. Indeed, he had power to lay His life down, and He had power to take it up again.
Where do you get this “weeping for Tammuz” stuff? Is it Chick publications? I’ve read Chick, but I don’t know where he gets his information either. Do you have any non-Chick information? I’ve looked and I can’t find it. Is there some sort of conspiracy in academia?
To the OP: Please do not mislead people about what the catholic church teaches using your understanding of what Lent is. It is not a habitual and certainly NOT a pagan practice. You can even argue in that case that the resurrection of Christ also has parallels with pagan practices. For that matter Animal sacrifices to pay for sins has been a practice in all major religions. Can you then say that the old testament teachings were Pagan too? Please dont tell me that it took 1600 years for Christians to realize that the Lent season was not a Christian practice.
You need to realize that the Lent season is a tradition that reminds us of our baptismal commitments. If you as a catholic or a non-catholic thought that people were trying to earn their way into salvation by following a set of rules YOU are terribly mistaken. Dont blame the teachings of the church if you dont understand the true meaning of the teaching or are using an example of a bad catholic to support your claim. Historically, people used to use the Lent season to prepare for their baptism during Easter. So Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has reemphasized the baptismal character of Lent, especially through the restoration of the Catechumenate and its Lenten rituals. Our challenge today is to renew our understanding of this important season of the Church year and to see how we can integrate our personal practices into this renewed perspective.
Why is Baptism so important in our Lenten understanding? Lent as a 40-day season developed in the third/fourth century from three merging sources. The first was the ancient paschal fast that began as a two-day observance before Easter but was gradually lengthened to 40 days. The second was the catechumenate as a process of preparation for Baptism, including an intense period of preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation to be celebrated at Easter. The third was the Order of Penitents, which was modeled on the catechumenate and sought a second conversion for those who had fallen back into serious sin after Baptism. As the catechumens (candidates for Baptism) entered their final period of preparation for Baptism, the penitents and the rest of the community accompanied them on their journey and prepared to renew their baptismal vows at Easter.
Lent, then, is radically baptismal.
Here are a few more answers for people who dont understand Lent.
What is the deal with Lent? When did it start?
Early on, Lent was a time of preparation for those about to be baptized at Easter. The whole Church was invited to prepare with them for the greatest of all feasts, and this preparation included acts of mortification, such as fasting, a very old way of reaching out to God. Later, those who had sinned seriously and were doing public penance would observe Lent in this way and be reconciled on Holy Thursday (rejoining the table at Mass). Lent has been observed in different ways at different times, so it is hard to say when it started. St. Cyril of Jerusalem seems to point to some kind of Lenten observance in some of his homilies to catechumen (those preparing for baptism) around 360 or so, but doesn’t address it directly. Quasten’s Patrology says there was a tradition in his time of the bishops of major cities writing to the smaller ones about Lent. St. Athanasius writes (in 332): “The beginning of the fast of forty days is on the fifth of Phamenoth [March 1]; and when, as I have said, we have first been purified and prepared by these days, we begin the holy week of the great Easter on the tenth of Pharmuthi [April 1]…” He goes on to set the date of Easter for that year at April 11. This was apparently a custom of long standing, so we would have to put the observance as starting before this. The earliest reference I can find is in writings of Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria from 248 – 265. His letter to Basilides answers the latter’s questions about the duration of Lent. It used to be available on the web, but it is gone now. You should be able to find it in the library, but let me know if you don’t. By the way, there is more than one Basilides, so make sure it is the letter of Dionysius to Basilides. Other ancient writers on Lent are: St. Basil the Great (d. 379), St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), Severian of Gabala (d. 408).
Where is this Lent in the Bible?
The bible does not necessarily mention this but there are enough verses supporting what people abstained from and how fasting plays a role in our everyday faith. The practice didn’t start until a few centuries later. But Fasting and abstinence are very old spiritual disciplines, but they aren’t really doctrines taught by the Catholic church but the church encourages fasting and abstinence especially during this season. We use them because they seem to help us in OUR faith. Of course, the prophets said that they are only useful after everything else is in its proper place: sacrifice without obedience is useless. So, it’s a practice in some religions, including many Christian denominations, but it isn’t the same as the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes. Theoretically, it could be dropped at any time. I should mention that abstaining from meat on Fridays is just one form of penance. For American Catholics, we only abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent (and Ash Wednesday), but we are all supposed to remember the sacrifice of Jesus in a special way on the other Fridays, too, in whatever way is most meaningful to us (helps us pray, etc…).
What do Catholics abstain from? What scriptures support this?
This has changed over the centuries: in the past, people abstained from foods prepared with fat, or they fasted in a more strict way throughout Lent. Some people still observe Lent in this way. Meat is (or at least was) the food of the wealthy, and to give it up was to eat the food of the poor, and so to remember one’s poverty before God. It is a devotional practice of ancient (Jewish) origin, and not really based in Scripture, except for the ideas in Isaiah 22:13, Daniel 10, etc… Abstaining from meat was a sign of penance or sorrow for sin, but eating it a sign of merriment. The current practices regarding meat in Lent (or any time of year) could change (and they have), because they are not a part of Christian doctrine, but only practices that help us in our faith.(Even though it is not a doctrine itself, it surely does help us in our faith. Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season.)
Why abstain from meat?
I’ve heard two things that sound right, I’ll put the stronger one first: 1) Abstaining from meat is a way of practicing self denial and taking on a kind of voluntary, temporary poverty as a kind of “gift” to God. The idea of penance, which is the larger idea here, is thousands of years old, reaching back to the early Hebrews, at least. Some people wore sackcloth and ashes, others fasted and wept. It is a way of stripping away the tokens of wealth and power for a short time so we can remember who we are. We do this on the day Jesus allowed everything to be taken from him so we could see who he is and be saved. As part of this, meat (except fish) tended to be the food of the wealthy, and still does. Red meat especially isn’t practical for the poor, because of the expense, space, equipment (freezers, for example), and such. In wealthy countries, the “poor” can still afford it in some form, but poor people in other countries (without electricity and refrigerators) might never eat red meat at all. 2) The idea is we avoid bloody (red meat) food out of respect for the Crucifixion, because Jesus gave his blood for us. Fish are okay, because they are “bloodless.” (To the ancients, fish didn’t appear to have much blood.)
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Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
The problem with the arguement in favor of recognizing lent as a “Christian event” is that they are all based on man’s understanding, not God’s Word. The argument “because it helps me to get closer to Jesus” does not make it Biblical. There are many “Christians” who smoke pot and claim that it helps them focus more on God. The practice of “contemplative spirituality”, or the act of meditating to completely clear out one’s mind of all thoughts, uses the same excuse…”it helps me…”.
The question isn’t whether you think the practice helps you or not. The question is “does the Holy, Holy, Holy God of the Bible want me to partipate and recognize lent as a Biblical practice?”.
That is it. There is no other issue to be determined. If the true church should practice lent, then there would need to be some sort of Biblical basis for it. There is not. This is not like communion, where the Lord said “when you do this”, and when Paul warned us against doing it in a sinful manner. This is not like Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days…His fasting did not help Him serve the Father “better”. He perfectly served the Father at all times in His life. Jesus 40 day fast was, in and of itself, part of Jesus’ perfect service to the Father. It did not “help” Him draw closer to the Father, it was as a RESULT of His perfect relationship that already existed with the Father. And, not to mention, it only occurred once, right before His public ministry.
When Saul waited on Samuel, and then decided to make the sacrifice on his own, was God pleased? Even though the sacrifice was not made according to God’s exact instructions, wasn’t it still a sacrifice nonetheless? Certainly God would see the good in this act in wanting the sacrifice to be made…or was Saul using man’s understanding to try and please God?
When Uriah reached out and kept the Ark from touching the ground, why did God strike him? The ark was not supposed to touch the ground. Why would God get so angry as to strike him dead? It wasn’t his fault it was being carried in a disobedient manner, it was David’s.
I could go on and on and on about bringing our own sacrifices to the Lord, or supposedly obeying the Lord in some way that we justify through man’s understanding, but in the end it is still disobedience.
Lent is simply not supported Biblically. All arguements to support it by taking Biblical principles and passages out of context is in danger of doing what the serpent in the Garden did…you realize that out of the 45 words he spoke (depending on the translation), 43 of them were basically repeating what God said and either reversing the meaning or taking out of context. Context is everything and taking Scripture out of context is a wile of the devil.
So, based on God’s Word, not man’s understanding, the question is does God want you to practice and recognize lent? That is the only question that matters.
Chag Sameach! May you all be blessed this coming Pesach as we commemorate our Lord taking His people from slavery in Egypt to freedom; only to later set us free from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of His Perfect Son and our Holy Saviour.
Lent may not be commanded in the Bible but I wouldn’t call it a sin. Paul writes in Romans 14:1,2 – “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgement on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (NIV) and it goes on to say in verse 4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?”. The entire chapter of Romans 14 deals with this.
If you believe in Jesus Christ as your savior and you would like to observe Lent, I see no sin. Likewise, if you have a solid faith in Jesus Christ and do not desire to observe Lent, I see no sin in that either. Of course, I’m not the judge and that is my point, only God can judge a man’s motives. No, Lent is not commanded in the Bible. Yes, faith alone in Jesus Christ is all that is required for salvation. As long as no one is fooled into thinking observing Lent or any other denominational dogmatic practice is required for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith alone. That’s it!
So kudos to you if your faith is strong enough that you feel no need to observe Lent.
And kudos to you who have a desire to observe Lent in order to draw closer to Jesus Christ.
More Christians should follow Paul’s advise on “not passing judgement on disputable matters” and not try to convert other christians to different denominations and be more focused on witnessing to non-believers.
Dragging paganism into the lives of people, and then calling it “Christian” is beyond distasteful.
That which does not proceed from faith is sin.
Faith comes by hearing God’s Word.
Lent does not proceed from God’s Word, and as a practice is sin.
Roman Catholicism is, at its base, heathenism, not Christianity.
I agree , it’s pagon all the way, read the Word people. Better yet KNOW the Holy Spirit, He will cause you to KNOW all things that pertains to God. O Simpson
Response to John Malone’s post:
Your ignorance amazes me.
FYI, Catholics are NOT the only ones that observe the Lenten season. You might want to educate yourself. Using your own logic, you might also want to term Eastern Orthodox churches, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, some reformed churches and some Baptists as non-christians because they hold services to mark the beginning of lent.
Heres some food for thought Mr.Malone. You talk about human traditions. Here is one for you: SOLA SCRIPTURA. The foundational principle of Protestantism that has given rise to 30000+ so called Christian denominations
Response to Keith:
Looks like you did not read my entire post. Please go back and read my post and then you might understand what the true teaching of the church is. No one here said that lent is a necessity and no one said that its supported in the bible. You need to read first and understand the TRUE meaning of Lent as taught by the church rather than debating it using your own understanding of what Lent is. so go back and read my posts before you start throwing in bible verses in the mix. All the points you have raised are no way in line with what the Catholic church teaches.
For all you bible christians who believe in the concept of Sola Scriptura, remember that this is a human tradition developed in 1600s and if anything this is UNBIBLICAL. The church guided by the holy spirit put together the bible as you and I know it today only in 392AD. The church existed before the bible was even put together. The Bible didnt form the church but the church put together the bible. The concept of Sola scriptura is HERESY and completely unbiblical. For that matter the bible doesnt even come with a table of contents. You need to believe in the authority given to the early church that put together the bible. That church is the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC church that the bible itself talks about.
Also, remember that the bible itself says that the PILLAR AND FOUNDATION OF TRUTH is the CHURCH and NOT the bible. The Bible is materially sufficient(as stated in 1 Timothy) but it was always the church that interpreted difficult teachings and it was always the authority of the church that Christians trusted up until the 16th century. Sola scriptura just gave the common man the power to interpret the bible the way he wanted to hence forming 30000+ protestant denominations that you see today everybody claiming to be guided by the holy spirit. something to think about huh? I would rather trust in the authority of the church that traces its roots back to Jesus himself rather than trust a tradition that came about in 1600s giving birth to multiple bodies of christ. the truth of the bible is absolute and hence there can be just ONE body.
I pray that you will come to know the fullness of truth that the bible teaches this Lenten season.
This is interesting, I have been in churches that have done lent as well as ones that haven’t done lent. And all of them are non-Catholic in nature.
I see no reason to go after fasting, seeking God in prayer or reading the bible. But I will pick apart this about lent as I see it.
Walking away from let’s say chocolate for 40 days will not draw you closer to God. 40 days of prayer?? Didn’t the bible say we need to pray always?? As for the reading of the bible, shouldn’t we do that as regular practice as Christians. So in fact most of these things are just vain practice of looking holy on the outside, when it is a heart matter that the Lord God is seeking in our lives.
And this doesn’t need a season, or a holiday to do. But we need to do a fearless moral inventory daily. What have I done to harm my Christian witness, what is blocking me from God in what I do in my daily life? These are questions to be asked daily by us all. Not just during some season called lent.
As a pastor I knew years ago said to me ” we need to keep short accounts with God.” IE we need to confess to God ourselves of things daily. I agree this is a tradition of man, and we need to look at lent in a way that has us looking at why we want to do it. Is it to please men?? Or are we HONESTLY seeking Gods face, and that can only be answered by us alone. And it will remain between God and ourselves.
So I have chosen not to do lent, Do I love the Lord Jesus any less?? NO! As my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ grows each day. I don’t need 40 days to decide to trust God at his word. Will I put down those who do celebrate lent… again NO! As it is between them and God on this matter.
I just know this I will take the Lord at his word, and his word is the Bible. And for me the bible is enough authority for me to decide what traditions of men I should follow and what ones I need to lay aside.
The True Meaning of Lent
What is Lent? Why is it so widely practiced by “Christians” of this world? Is it because the Bible commands it? Did Christ or any of His apostles observe Lent? What about the first century Church? What does the Bible teach about Lent?
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). (Read our booklets The True Origin of Easter, Christ’s Resurrection Was Not on Sunday, and How Often Should the Lord’s Supper Be Taken? to learn more.)
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).
And fourth, “to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts” is a false tradition taught by this world’s brand of Christianity. It is not taught in the Bible. God is not setting up His kingdom in the hearts of men. (Request our free article “SEVEN PROOFS God’s Kingdom is Not Here Yet” to understand more.)
So where did Lent originate? How did it come to be so widely observed by mainstream Christianity?
Approved by Official State Religion
Believe it or not, Lent was never observed by Christ or His apostles. He commanded His disciples to “Go you therefore, and teach all nations…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus never commanded them to observe Lent or Easter. He did, however, command them to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. In fact, during His last Passover on earth, Christ gave detailed instructions on how to observe the Passover service. He also instituted new Passover symbols (John 13:1-17).
Notice what Alexander Hislop wrote in his book The Two Babylons: “The festival, of which we read in Church history, under the name of Easter, in the third and fourth centuries, was quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as Easter…That festival [Passover] was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. ‘It ought to be known,’ said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive [New Testament] Church with the Church of his day, ‘that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.’”
Lent was not observed by the first century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other form of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state. (To learn more about true Church history, read our book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History!) In A.D. 360, the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed.
Originally, people did not observe Lent for more than a week. Some kept it for one or two days. Others kept it for 40 consecutive hours, falsely believing that only 40 hours had elapsed between Christ’s death and resurrection.
Eventually, it became a 40-day period of fasting or abstaining from certain foods. “The emphasis was not so much on the fasting as on the spiritual renewal that the preparation for Easter demanded. It was simply a period marked by fasting, but not necessarily one in which the faithful fasted every day. However, as time went on, more and more emphasis was laid upon fasting…During the early centuries (from the fifth century on especially) the observance of the fast was very strict. Only one meal a day, toward evening was allowed: flesh meat and fish, and in most places even eggs and dairy products, were absolutely forbidden. Meat was not even allowed on Sundays” (Catholic Encyclopedia).
From the ninth century onward, Lent’s strict rules were relaxed. Greater emphasis was given to performing “penitential works” than to fasting and abstinence. According to the apostolic constitution Poenitemini of Pope Paul IV (Feb. 17, 1966), “abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of the year that do not fall on holy days of obligation, and fasting as well as abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday” (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Today, Lent is used for “fasting from sin and from vice…forsaking sin and sinful ways.” It is a season “for penance, which means sorrow for sin and conversion to God.” This tradition teaches that fasting and employing self-discipline during Lent will give a worshipper the “control over himself that he needs to purify his heart and renew his life.”
However, the Bible clearly shows that self-control—temperance—comes from having God’s Holy Spirit working in the life of a converted mind (Gal. 5:16, 17, 22). Fasting—of and by itself—cannot produce godly self-control.
Paul warned against using self-denial as a tool to rely on your own will. He called it “will worship.” “Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:20-23).
God did not design fasting as a tool for penance, “beating yourself up” or developing will power: “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?” (Isa. 58:5-7).
God’s people humble themselves through fasting in order to draw closer to Him—so that they can learn to think and act like Him—so that they can live His way of life in all things. Notice what the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Thus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the Lord” (9:23-24). Fasting (and prayer) helps Christians draw closer to God.
Lent’s Ancient Roots
Coming from the Anglo-Saxon Lencten, meaning “spring,” Lent originated in the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. “The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess…Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz” (The Two Babylons).
Tammuz was the false Messiah of the Babylonians—a satanic counterfeit of Jesus Christ!
The Feast of Tammuz was usually celebrated in June (also called the “month of Tammuz”). Lent was held 40 days before the feast, “celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing.” This is why Lent means “spring”; it took place from spring to early summer.
The Bible records ancient Judah worshipping this false Messiah: “Then He brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz” (Ezek. 8:14-15). This was a great abomination in God’s eyes!
But why did the church at Rome institute such a pagan holiday?
“To conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianity—now far sunk in idolatry—in this as in so many other things, to shake hands” (The Two Babylons).
The Roman church replaced Passover with Easter, moving the pagan Feast of Tammuz to early spring, “Christianizing” it. Lent moved with it.
“This change of the calendar in regard to Easter was attended with momentous consequences. It brought into the Church the grossest corruption and the rankest superstition in connection with the abstinence of Lent” (The Two Babylons).
Before giving up personal sins and vices during Lent, the pagans held a wild, “anything goes” celebration to make sure that they got in their share of debaucheries and perversities—what the world celebrates as Mardi Gras today.
Abomination Masked as Christianity
God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). He never instituted Lent, a pagan observance connecting debauchery to the supposed resurrection of a false Messiah.
God commands His people to follow Him—not the traditions of men. God’s ways are higher, better than man’s (Isa. 55:8-9). Men cannot determine for themselves right from wrong or how to properly worship God. Why? Because “the heart [mind] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9), and “the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (10:23). God designed us and gave us life. He knows how we are supposed to worship Him.
To be a Christian and properly serve God, you must live “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4), recognizing that His Holy Scriptures “cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
God commands Christians to flee from the pagan traditions and customs of this world (Rev. 18:2-4), currently led and deceived by Satan the devil (II Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9).
Lent may seem like a sincere, heartfelt religious observance. But it is deeply rooted in pagan ideas that counterfeit God’s plan.
God hates all pagan observances (Jer. 10:2-3; Lev. 18:3, 30; Deut. 7:1-5, 16). They cannot be “Christianized” or made clean by men. That includes Lent.
Now you know the true meaning of Lent.
thank for the Bible study
I have now read all the postings above on the subject, after initially trying to find the scriptural basis for lent observance. What I found staggering after a while, was how some resorted to denomination bashing, veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) insults and even misconceptions based on little or poor research.
How sad it is for me to see how the commandement of Christ, that we “love one another as we do ourselves” is so easily forgotten.
As for my thoughts on Lent, I have come to a personal conclusion that it’s observance, its methodologies of observance and the rationale behind it should be based on a personal relationship with God. It is NOT a ‘pillar of faith’. May God guide us all in finding the truth! Including ME!
Coming from catholic background for over 40 years, lent was a way to prepare yourself for Jesus but also was taught if you failed at your promise or ate meat on Friday you were sinning. I became upset when st patircks day fell on a Friday during lent and the pope decided we could give up meat on Thursday instead so we could all indulge in corn beef sandwich on that Friday. (some sacrifice) Then every one announced what they were giving up for lent, which i later learned we are not to boast about our sacrifices. I have since left the Catholicism 4 years ago and really saddens me that many Catholics live guilt based religion,relying on more than Jesus Christ
If any Christian continues to weep for Tammuz, or celebrate the pagan form of any season then they definately are disgraced. As for me and my house we will glorify the Lord for 40 days prior to Easter, on Easter and for the days after Easter until we celebrate Pentacost. We also will celebrate December 25th as the birthday of Jesus and the 4 weeks prior to Christmas as the season of Advent. We celebrate our salvation on every other day of the year as well. On these special seasons we celebrate a particular aspect of the the life and ministry of the Messiah, using these to focus ever more clearly on the life pured into our hearts by the once for all sacrifice of the “Lamb of God.” It is no doubt these seasons were once pagan, however, if today we celebrate the birth, life, death and resurection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during those seasons, then, Jesus has truly overcome the once pagan expressions. Thanks be to God! It is not the date on a calendar that makes a day Holy or unholy, it what you believe about that day or season. If you belive those days or seasons to be pegan then by all means pay no attention to them, however, if a person chooses this day or that day to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who are you to question it? The peace of the Lord be with you always.
FYI friends in Christ, we must not forget that our salvation only comes from our faith in HIS death on the cross to pay for our sins. AS a raised Catholic who has recently grown in spirit thanks to born again ministry and a committment to reading God’s word, I see both sides of the fence. Reading your posts brings me to the conclusion that Lent should not be “larger than life” to where people think that it helps them be saved. But if it is truly in one’s heart a solemn practice of observance and reflection of CHRIST’S trials , than it is OK with me. Not all practices are in vain. Communion ,itself, is a practice requested by Jesus when He said “Do this in memory of me.” I know there are many not so adhering Christians out there, but lets not stereotype all Catholics or Protestants who practice Lent as being necessarily wishy-washy in their faith. I feel that this may be what some of us our doing by attacking Lent. Deep down we want to attack certain ” Christians” but it’s not our job to judge their faith to GOD , right.
I enjoyed the Bible reading about Jesus in the wilderness (Math. 4, NT)at last Sunday’s Church service that I attended and notwithstanding that I also, in my own mind, questioned its relationship and relevance with the Christian tradition of Lent.
However, unlike some other contributors, I did not and do not have a problem in relating that account (by Matthew, of Jesus in the Wilderness) to a Tradition of Lent, that is there for a purpose and has having meaning to one, who calls himself a Christian. Some call that e.g. ‘reflection’ and have or others have similar or other explanations.
The purpose that I took from that Bible reading is mine and mine alone – it may be the same or similar to anyone else’s purpose or dis-purpose but everyone’s experience of coming to terms with what the Bible or Christian tradition is implied to mean or say to me is still my (our’s/their’s) own individual and intellectual & spiritual property, in my opinion.
This is why the tradition of Lent has survived as it has meaning and purpose – or it would have long been forgotten and not even be now mentioned in any Church.
Much that we believe & practice as having Christian religious and spiritual belief, purpose and meaning Christians may not even be mentioned at all or be mentioned directly in the Bible – but can be and indeed, some consider to be essential to progressing one’s spiritual condition as being a Christian following the teachings and words of both Jesus Christ and as provided to us in the Christian Bible:-
e.g. ‘cleansing the soul’, ‘purging the conscience’, ‘repentance’ – all related – some could, no doubt, get heavily hung up on the semantics. Indeed, I would argue that Lent is a very good tradition in this area of spiritual awareness and necessity.
For me the purpose and meaning of Lent can, ultimately, be summed up in a single Bible quote:
Mat 7.21 (KJB Cambridge Edition)
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Of course, I’m ‘privately’ open to the possibility that the Christian tradition of ‘Lent’ may not be the essential ‘will of my father’ – but I’ll leave that for a ‘higher authority’ and meanwhile, I’ll carry on enjoying the effort that my Church makes to keep me in touch with what is regarded as the very best Christian practice.
Thank you all and God Bless!
According to the Holy Scriptures, there is only ONE faith. (See Ephesians 4) It is upto everyone to search the scriptures to determine what that one faith is, like the Bereans did in the book of Acts.
I engaged in such a search back in 1981. For the first 20 years of my life, I was a member of a denominational church…that is until I began to ask questions about why in that particular denomination we observed some of the practices that we did. When I so inquired, I was not given any SCRIPTURAL answers by the ministers, and that really upset me.
When I was introduced to the Church of Christ, I will admit that I did not become a member immediately. I was angry at and sceptical of it’s self-professed “narrowness”. However for some reason, I kept going; and each Sunday that I chose to show up, I was allowed to ask as many questions as I felt I needed to (either right there on the spot during the sermon or privately one-on-one afterwards), and was never harrassed by anyone to become a member. I discovered that getting a Bible answer (rightly divided) to a Bible question was their standard practice. I was impressed with the simplicity with which the worship services were conducted. All things were done decently and in order…and I was learning more and more with every service I attended! The Church seemed to follow the scriptures very closely and with a reverence that I had never seen before. Baptisms into the church (into the Lord’s body) were done based on how they were done in the scriptures. In fact, all of the practices of the Church worship service (and examples of everyday Christian living) were Bible-based…and I really started to appreciate what I was witnessing before my very eyes! And the A cappella singing! Nothing like it in the world! A hymn sung with the human voice as it’s only instrument is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience! The entire congregation…no choirs or soloists on display, no piano, no drums, no organs. I had come from a church environment that had all of these things, yet strangely when I visited the Church of Christ, I didn’t miss the instrumental music in the least!
The great commission to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” is an assignment that every believer has to embrace and own. Yet I try my best not to force people to see things the way that I now see them. I try to speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent. I also try my best not to add to nor subtract from the scriptures, as Revelations warns us against. I just try my best to follow the bible doctrine as Christ left it to the Apostles (which means you yourself have to study, study, study and then study some more!!).
Think about it…neither Christ nor the Apostles ever forced anyone to obey their message back in the lst Century and today’s modern-day disciples shouldn’t do it either! Simply impart the scriptures to anyone who is willing to listen and then let the truth do it’s own work.
I don’t believe I have to follow the mandates of Lent because I don’t have any biblical example that the early disciples did so. I refer to myself just as a Christian because I can’t find any of the denominational names: Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Protestant, Pentacostal (the denomination I came out of!) in the Bible. I believe there is only one Church (one body) because the scriptures say there is only one Church…not because I’m trying to judge anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings.
I did not call the Church narrow, CHRIST HIMSELF did! And I want to be in that narrow way…and I believe I have found it.
God bless you all in your search for truth in the Holy Scriptures!
I really want to engage deeper in the scriptures and make my point for I decided that there are many good points in our current era we all found ourselves together in. And the main main point for me is that once I received the gift of salvation at a congregation that was intentional about reaching the un-churched and they simply lived like Christ and welcomed people , once that I admitted I was a sinner and in need of His grace the Spirit, the Holy Spirit entered and taught me much much more than the church rules and patterns. I began to do things moved by the Spirit solely and they were more Christ-like and I needed no the rituals I prayed and surrendered daily and when I failed the Spirit always made it uncomfortable. The rituals are good the same practices the Spirit did in my heart without man made calender dates is all. We should worship Jesus any day , His birth and death any day. The Spirit is the knowledge that came from heaven and many churches and denominations are all just trying to make a tool a church center to be that center point and vessel so others may come to these disciplines and become disciples. Man needs a living illustration but I believe(know now because of what Christ has done in me through the Holy Spirit the Counselor) that once people receive Christ for real the Holy Spirit enters and the temple (not the building in Jerusalem anymore) but the Body of Christ enters and when we obey it and try to follow the Spirit does the things without a church telling you as an individual how to do it. But the church(any which is the building or denomination saying they are Christ centered) is within its rights to adopt a regular practice each season to have a guide line. But the actual church are the people who really received Christ and the Holy fire and Holy Spirit reigned down on them and they are the disciples who become the church wherever they are at and they should meet up at least 2 or more to assemble and try to share that glory and serve the lost and least and serve anyone anywhere as the Spirit leads to be more like Christ. These theological details are non essential when you simply allow the Lord of all king of Kings to be your grace and truth and righteousness and follow , wherever that may be and allow the church and His merciful bride to be your home and center point to get the strength you need to serve others and share with others and love others and wash the feet of others and glorify the Son wherever you are placed on earth. Too many American churches (we are all guilty) have compartmentalized Jesus in their lives as a check list of some kind to check off all the items of the religion along with the american dream and that’s not true to the Word of God.
“the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ”
And herein lies another problem in that the Bible does not command us to make any special observance at all on the day of the Resurrection. (I won’t use the ‘E’ word because we are actually forbidden to even speak the names of pagan deities in accordance with Ex. 23:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. and Joshua 23:7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:)
We are also forbidden to worship God in such a way that imitates pagan practices.(in accordance with Lev. 20:23 And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. and Deut. 12:4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.)So if Lent itself is an imitation of an earlier pagan practice, ACCORDING TO GOD’S OWN WORDS, we are forbidden from doing it.
My take, Christians should draw themselves nearer to God every seconds of their lives not only in lent or any other religious activities. God is not looking at our religious belief but our relationship with Him through His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus has already set us free, free to do the will of God in our lives NOT free to sin.
Don’t ask man for advice. The Lord’s life in you is your true advice. Honestly, advice for one situation isn’t always good for another. And Jesus warns not to argue or to be divided as so many Christians are nowadays. If you feel one with the Lord in pursing Lent by all means go for it. If you are still not sure about it, pray with a companion but honestly only the Holy Spirit provides us with the true guidance about our Christian life and what is truly righteous in the eyes of God.
I ran across this ‘Bible study’ as I was reading about Lent. I am sorry I did.
To those who reached out to give a history and explain your personal story of how Lent has impacted your life, I thank you. It was helpful.
For those who felt the need to chide, insult, and nitpick: you dig into scholarly depths for slivers of cherry-picked ‘truth’ to hurt others, and you ignore the basic, simple, amazing gift that any child or simpleton can understand: For God so loved the WORLD (believers, pagans, Jews, atheists, agnostics, and yes, even Catholics!) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not parish (like every single one of us deserves) but have everlasting life.
God is good. He loves you. Period. No qualifications needed. If you accept His love and trust in Him, your life will change in ways you can’t even imagine. In your journey, if you consider (or were brought up) practicing an observance or tradition, just know that your actions, the historical significance, and others’ opinions are secondary; your heart is what God sees. Did you take Lent to heart? Or did you go through meaningless motions? And there’s no need to justify to an man. It’s between you and your Lord.
And please, Lord, help others see past human short-comings and pettiness in this thread to see the truth of YOU. Forgive us.
You can have your say here. Carry on with your liturgy.
But tell us also this: you quoted a Bible passage that says whoever believes Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, HAS everlasting life.
Do you agree that those who have believed in Jesus Christ possess eternal life, which is to say a life with God that will absolutely result in a resurrection body and eternal bliss with God no matter what may happen to them or by them after they have so believed?
The best advice for any Christian to follow is to act in faith. All else, according to the Scripture, is sin. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Therefore to act in faith is to act according to the Word of God. “Lent” is not in the Word of God. If you have some Bible principles to go by that ends up being “doing Lent,” I’d sure like to know what they are.
I can tell you that by following Bible principles, I never considered doing Lent again, as I was taught to do as a child in the Roman Catholic system.
Not Lent, not Advent, not Holy Days of Obligation, not Sacraments, or Masses, or Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, nor the Roman Catholic Priesthood, not the Pope, nor a host of other Roman Catholic practices can be found EVEN IN A CATHOLIC BIBLE, which, by the way, is not the true Scriptures of God.
Mr Malone, thank you for responding.
I agree that God needs no help or addition from us. At all. His grace was given to all freely, regardless whether we accept it. To add laws to or subtract laws from scripture is a great sin.
While works will not gain salvation, faith does lead to works. Man knows us by our fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Frankly, your delivery stinks. I am not Catholic. I happen to be a baptist, though what that has to do with anything, I don’t know. But then that is exactly my point. What if lost people stumble across your article as I did? You’re a beacon on a hill, alright, but what are you advertising?
I see value in your back to basics approach to Christ, especially if you’ve known empty religion filled with busy-ness distracting from the gospel. That is surely a danger our Catholic friends must be made aware of and fight against. Conversely, those of us who take a simpler approach must fight other dangers such as legalism and judgement. Love is the conduit here. If it is not taught in love or corrected in love, then the heart is lost. Simpler: you may win the battle, but you’ve lost the war.
There is only one Savior, but there are many, many ways to worship Him! Worship him through Lent! Worship Him through simplicity! Through song or silence. Through prayer and fasting. Through tithes and service. Through obedience and forgiveness. But always through love.
Worship is only and always according to truth.
The Roman Catholic system, a thoroughly corrupt religious system, systematically keeps people away from truth, and turns them to vain things. Like Lent.
“…they that worship God must worship him in Spirit and truth.”- John 4:24.
“…thy word is truth.” – John 17:17
I believe the fact of the matter is that many brothers and sisters who are vehemently against Lent due to it not being firmly and unquestionably mentioned in Holy Writ may have to confront certain conclusions in this line of logic. That is to say, you would have to have complete disregard for other practices not mentioned in the Bible.
Consider these practices that most Christians adhere to although they are not directly mentioned in specific detail in the Scriptures:
3. Gathering together EVERY SUNDAY as a church body (remembering the Sabbath can take many forms without church tradition such as subjective appreciation in the privacy of one’s own home).
4. Hearing or preparing a sermon EVERY SUNDAY (but it’s good for edification, right? It’s still not specified in the Bible and therefor by definition of many posts here, not biblical).
5. Alter Calls: the Christian church didn’t even have alters for the first 1,500 years.
6. Substituting real wine with grape juice for the Eucharist: Jesus Himself said to do what He did in remembrance of Him. And He drank real wine.
7. Refusing to partake of the Eucharist every time people gather.
I’ll stop here since I seem to be moving into things the church doesn’t do that we are supposed to do. But I hope that I have provided enough examples to show that there are certain things that the church does out of tradition. Here tradition doesn’t need to be a nasty word because the Spirit is often involved in tradition.
To exemplify my point, the Spirit not only inspired the Bible, but also those who compiled the Holy Books together. The Bible has not always existed – the church existed first. And indeed there are ample criteria that authenticates the Bible, but surely men had to be inspired to understand that criteria. So we cannot say “The Bible doesn’t say how the Bible was compiled or translated, therefore we should not read the Bible nor be obedient to the teachings therein.” That would be ludicrous. And certainly there are ludicrous practices of Lent just like there are of other Christian means of grace that are practiced ignorantly. But that doesn’t nullify something done in the spirit of glorifying God and drawing nearer to Him if it isn’t unbiblical in the sense of contradicting the Bible.
Does the Bible teach us to fast? Yes – as long as it is done properly and privately. Does the Bible teach us to repent? Yes. Does the Bible teach us to remember the death and resurrection of our Lord? Yes. Does the Bible teach us to seek closeness with God? Yes.
Putting all of these concepts into a potent period of time doesn’t seem wrong to me. We should be doing this all year round, but to claim the capacity to do so carries a bit of hubris and blatant disregard for the power of the flesh (sinful nature). If one doesn’t realize the power of the flesh, then he or she will fall victim to the flesh and never truly appreciate the power of the Spirit.
If your concern is the pagan etymology of Lent, then I would remind you that Christmas and Easter also have pagan similarities if taken on a mere historical basis. Moreover, so does the Devil!
I’ve just offered my thoughts in hopes of shedding some light on the truth in the spirit of love. I hope that we can join hands in this this pursuit even in disagreement. If we cannot get along with our own spiritual brothers and sisters… how can we claim to do so with a broken and lost world?
Peace and love to you all.