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Lent and the Bible

By: Pastor Robert Harbin

My family has a tradition at dinner time that many would view as a great religious practice. Before eating we all join hands to ask God’s blessing on the meal. This would appear to be a great tradition but it is one born of necessity. We started this practice when our children were young to teach them to wait for the blessing to end before eating. And so a tradition began.

Although this seems very spiritual there is nothing in the Bible to direct us to hold hands before we eat. When a genuine Baptist considers traditions within religious practice, the first question to be asked is, “Is it scriptural?” This requires us to closely examine what the Bible says about the tradition of Lent. Many events in the Bible are associated with the number 40, such as the 40 days of rain when Noah and his family were in the ark, and the 40 years the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. None of them, however are associated with the Cross and the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ.

Many Christian denominations make the 40 days of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness their reference justifying the practice of Lent. But closer examination of the scriptures confirms that Christ’s time in the wilderness was to prepare for His earthly ministry and not His sacrifice on the cross. New Testament churches did not practice anything resembling Lent during the first three centuries following Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Nothing in the Word of God establishes the practice of Lent. Catholic writer John J. Dietzen testifies to this fact in The New question Box— Catholic Life for the Nineties (Guildhall Publishers, 1988). He states that many traditions around Lent have “at least an indirect connection with Pagan feasts celebrated about the same time of the year.” According to writer John Deedy, in the Catholic Fact Book (Thomas More Press, 1986) because Lent was observed around 339 A.D. “that’s early enough” to be considered an acceptable practice for Christianity. The question is, “What is the correct criterion to establish a religious practice. Is it scripture or is it age?”

Another problem associated with Lent is the spiritual implications. The practice of Lent is built upon a form of penance. The Bible teaches repentance. Some may ask what is the difference? Penance seeks to do something that makes one acceptable to God. Repentance is turning from sin and siding with God against yourself. We are all sinners and only by “Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” can a man be justified and acceptable to God (Acts 20:21). Penance, however, is not a biblical principle. How can I practice something contrary to the teachings of the Bible and think it makes me acceptable to God?

There is a great deal of foolishness when it comes to giving up things for the season of Lent. Some individuals are very serious about what they give up. Yet many will give up some frivolous thing like chocolate. How will that gain God’s favor? Many do not take this tradition very seriously and this becomes something they do only because of habit; but it does not come from the heart. This is the result of religious traditions in the practice of Christianity that have no scriptural basis. Although these rituals may appear spiritual God only accepts His chosen sacrifice. You may feel better but your spiritual condition is no better. (Matthew 15:2 – 9; Mark 7:5 – 13)

There is nothing wrong with setting aside a time to remember the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must be very careful to not allow the bondage of traditions to blind us to the true freedom that exists only in Christ. Jesus said it best in John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The Meaning of Easter

By: Pastor Robert Harbin

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, many will walk into churches across our nation only to see a dead Christ still on the cross. Many will fear that God is so distant that they will never find acceptance in Him. A dead Christ who will not receive us is not cause for celebration.

The power of the Gospel to save is found only in the Resurrection. Throughout history many have been crucified on a cross in the same manner as Christ, but He is the only One who arose from the dead! Jesus Christ is not dead; He is alive and seated at the right hand of our Heavenly Father. (Ephesians 1:20) He lives forevermore! He died once, for all, and will never face death or the grave again. The proof of the Resurrection is an empty tomb. A place most have never seen. Yet, by faith, those who have accepted His sacrifice on the cross as payment for their own sin, will see the One who, by His own power, walked out of that tomb alive. Just like Jesus said to Doubting Thomas on the Sunday following His resurrection: “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:26-21)

For those who have put their faith in the Christ who died, was buried and rose again, this day of Easter is a joyous day. We should enter our churches as the psalmist commanded in Psalm 100:4; “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless his holy name.” Because of Christ’s resurrection, and my acceptance of His freely-offered gift of salvation, my eternal destination is changed. I will spend eternity rejoicing with Him in Heaven. Now that is something to celebrate!

For those who have not trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, Easter Sunday would be a great day for your salvation – today would be even better! Then you could truly celebrate Resurrection Sunday with a heart filled with joy that only comes from a personal relationship with the Risen Christ.

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