Summary: Does lent serve any purpose for a Protestant?
Does lent serve any purpose for a Protestant?
Let’s look at several reasons for a Christian to fast and pray.
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Joel 2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming, For it is at hand:
In ancient times trumpets were blown as a warning that war was coming. This time the warning is of God’s judgment coming. For them it meant a day when God would punish a rebellious nation. For us it pictures the final judgment day.
Joel 2:2 A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. A people come, great and strong, The like of whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many successive generations.
For them this signifies the approaching Chaldaean army. For us this pictures the final battle when Jesus returns.
Joel 2:12 “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
“Turn to me” is the positive side of repentance. A genuine change of heart is pictured here in fasting and genuine grief.
Joel 2:13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.
Outward expressions such as ashes at Lent and the ancient custom of tearing the clothing are okay, but the most important thing is a positive change of heart. God’s great desire is to be kind to us, but like any loving parent, He will not do so in a manner that encourages continued harm to ourselves and others.
Joel 2:14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him—A grain offering and a drink offering For the Lord your God?
Of the five major classifications of offering (Deuteronomy 1-5), these were a communal meal shared by God and man, also pictured in Christian communion.
Joel 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly;
Another purpose of trumpets was to announce a holy day. Atonement was such a fast day, but this seems to be a special fast day, including a sacred assembly. The word “church” comes from a Greek community assembly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into a public place. For Christians it means that we are called out from the world to a heavenly assembly.
Joel 2:16 Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.
This is an urgent assembly. Even weddings must be put on hold.
Joel 2:17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, “Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ”
Today’s church is in the same position as ancient Israel. We have sinned against God and should likewise weep and repent.
Psalm 51:1-2 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
David mentions three aspects of sin: transgression, iniquity and sin itself or rebellion, guilt and wrong.
Psalm 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
To acknowledge our wrongs takes a big man. Notice how many in business and politics are just small men, claiming as some have, that they have nothing to repent of.
Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
There seem to be three steps involved: 1) change of heart, the meaning of repentance in Greek, 2) confession to God, and 3) proof/fruits of repentance, a changed life, sanctification, becoming holy.
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
We are all born into a sinful environment. Whether or not we are born with a sin nature is a disputed topic.
Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.