Summary: As we kick off the season of Lent in 2013 we take a look at the 40 days of temptation of Christ in the wilderness and see what this means to us in our lives for Christ today.
There is a saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
This is the first Sunday of the Lenten Season.
Lent is a non-essential.
Lent is not a Biblical doctrine nor is it a Scripturally mandated activity.
On the other hand it is not sinful nor does it break the Word of God in any way that I can determine.
Although some folks would have you believe that the observation of Lent originated with the apostles there is no evidence of this in the Bible and the tradition has undergone various configurations since it was originally observed around AD 600.
Many of you who were out and about on Wednesday probably noticed some folks walking around with dark smudges on their foreheads. That is because it was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
In the ritual of Ash Wednesday ashes are applied to the foreheads of those seeking to repent, as in sackcloth and ashes, or, as a sign of their impending mortality and the need for righteousness. This ritual was instituted near the end of the first millennium after Christ.
Now, the first day of Lent originally fell on a Tuesday providing for forty days before Resurrection Sunday, however, eventually Sundays were declared to be feast days and were excluded from the Lenten fast so the date had to be pushed back to the preceding Wednesday.
All of this was very interesting to me but if we individually decide to participate in the tradition of fasting for Lent we need to be sure that we do so out of a desire to grow closer to God and not out of a desire to follow a tradition for the sake of the tradition.
Remember, when God sees us fasting He looks at the heart to see why we are fasting. When God looks at us He doesn’t check to see if we have a black smudge of ashes on our forehead, He checks to see if we have spiritually clean hands and a pure heart.
My friends, the attitude of Ash Wednesday and of the Lenten season should be our continual attitude; day in and day out, week in an week out, year in and year out until He calls us home.
God, search my heart, show me my sin, and by Your grace help me to turn away from my sin and to never turn back! Help me to make that my lifelong attitude! Help me to be pleasing to You and obedient to Your holy will!
In the same way that Lent is observed for 40 days there are many 40 day periods in the Bible.
In the great flood the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights.
When Moses went up on the mountain to receive the 10 commandments from the Lord he stayed up there for 40 days.
Elijah was able to travel for 40 days with just the food that the angel brought to him at the start of the journey.
And, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days at the start of His ministry. But, before we look at that Scripture let’s just flash back to God’s endorsement of Christ Himself.
It is the very beginning of Christ’s ministry on earth! Jesus is now thirty years old and is thought by many to be a son born out of wedlock to Joseph and Mary. This, of course, was a completely understandable assumption since it would be nearly impossible to believe Mary’s story of the angel and the miraculous conception of the Child by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had just come from His baptism where God had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to Jesus in the visible form of a dove and had spoken from heaven in a voice audible to all present as it says in Luke 3:21b-23
“As He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.’”
Now, that’s not a bad endorsement, is it? But, what happens next?
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry.
“The devil said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
“The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give You all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to’