What Should I Give Up For Lent?

James Preston Reply 4:47 PM

Yes, you read that correctly. Nothing.

Please do not give something up in order to repent of your sins. It flies in the face of the Scriptural truth that you have a relationship with the God of the Universe in the same way my son has a relationship with me.

If my son came to me saying he was going to give up eating for a week to show how sorry he was for hurting me I would be offended at his misunderstanding of my love for him.
How much more your Father in Heaven? (Matt. 7:11)

Lent is a period of repentance lasting forty days ending on Easter Sunday. It is predominantly a catholic tradition, but has become commonplace among Christians the world over. And it is confusing people. Along with entrenching the belief that God is a far out distant judge needing sacrifice for our sins.

God is not far out. He is not distant. He is not a judge. And He doesn't need a sacrifice for your sins.

I don't mean to offend any of my catholic brothers or sisters. If you are catholic, I love you. And I certainly love your Pope! (He is a remarkable leader with a clearly deep love for God!)

Please understand that I do not mean to be offensive with this article, my only intention is to help people understand their position with God. If, after reading this, you disagree with me, or will continue the tradition of lent, then good for you. May it be a blessed time and may you experience God's Love in this time. We are still friends and I still love you!

(I don't need to agree with you to have a relationship with you. Neither do I need to agree with you to like you. And you don't need to agree with me. So let's release ourselves of that pressure.)

Now, why does God not need a sacrifice for your sins?

There are two potential answers to this question:
1. His Love is unconditional and thus not requiring of anything to happen before it can be given.

2. Jesus provided all the sacrifice ever needed for all time.

I stand in both opinions. But I'm not going to explain all that today.

Today I hope to encourage you to see the danger of thinking your sacrifice is going to get you brownie points in Heaven.

Firstly, you need to understand that all of your sins have already been atoned for and paid for by Jesus. All of them! Hebrews 10 is a wonderful chapter to read to establish you in this truth. Verse 10 says that by one sacrifice we have been made holy once and for all! Verses 12-14 tell us that Jesus offered a single sacrifice for sins (plural - implying ALL sin) and that we have been made perfect for all time!

Therefore, giving something up is not going to get you any cleaner than you already are.
You are already as holy as you can get.

Secondly, God's blessing on your life is not based on what you do. It is based on who you are: A child of God.

He loves you, and wants to bless you. So if you are not getting specific blessings in your life, then it is not that you have done something wrong and thus God is withholding from you. It could be a number of things, which again, are not for this post.

God's blessings are not based on the good works that you do. For if they were, people could boast. But God doesn't want anyone boasting, He wants everyone resting in His Love for them and in the fact that He is a good Father who gives good gifts.

If you have read this far, do me a favour and read this:

Romans 4:4-13

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. ....
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

So a number of things:

1. God's blessings are not wages, they are gifts given unconditionally (as gifts are!)
2. When you believe this you are "counted as" righteous (something I will go into another day)
3. God no longer counts your sin against you (vs 8)
4. This blessing is for everyone, not just Jews
5. Abraham's blessing of being an heir of the world (that's a big blessing!) was not because he could obey laws God gave him, but it was based on his faith!

And this is the point I want to bring home...

Abraham's faith in what? 
His faith in the fact that God was good and would do what He said He would! He is a good God, who loved Abraham, and wanted the best for him!

Abraham's faith in that reality allowed him to live life with a confident expectation of blessing. He didn't live in fear that God was unhappy with him and might judge him, he lived happy, knowing God was going to look after him no matter what!

So where does that put us with Lent?

It hopefully shows you that by giving something up...
...you will not become any more righteous than you already are.
...you will not be any more blessed than you already are.
...your sins will not be forgiven - because they were already paid for at the Cross!

You see, the Gospel leaves no space for self-righteousness. Self-righteousness was the one thing Jesus fought against. And there is a danger over lent that people who give a lot up would think that they are better than those who don't. In God's eyes, this is not the case. And His eyes are the only ones that really count.

Now, let me say... I am not against giving something up, and I am not against fasting.

I periodically give things up in order to help my concentration, or to declutter my mind, or to help me focus, or as a simple practice of discipline.

But to give up "Fanta" for forty days while continuing to drink anything else equally packed with sugar is about as pointless as trying to empty the ocean with a bucket. The only thing such an exercise would do is place a "badge of achievement" in your mind and contribute to a self-righteous mindset, and a mindset that God is more pleased with you when you "deny yourself" than when you don't.

When the Truth is: He is as pleased with you as He ever could be right now!

Lent is a great time for us to reflect on what Christ accomplished for us. It leads up to the greatest moment on our calendar. Let it not be a time to focus on how far we fall short of God's standard, let us use it as an opportunity to see more of Jesus and His Great Love for us!

Happy Lent!


As a non-catholic, am I being too harsh toward the Catholic tradition of Lent? What do you think? 

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