VIDEO Why Celebrate Lent When It’s Just a Tradition? – Should Christians Observe Lent?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.Ephesians 1:7

Nowhere does it say in the Bible that Christians are to spend 40 days praying and fasting in the lead-up to Good Friday and Easter. Nor does it speak of an “Ash Wednesday” or “Holy Week”.

So why do so many churches mark the Lenten period, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends in the Holy Week?

And why think about this, when we are struggling with many other challenges—such as the COVID-19 outbreak—now?

In case you’re wondering, Lent is a season celebrated by many of the more traditional or liturgical churches. During this season, believers prepare for Good Friday by putting a greater emphasis on repentance and self-denial as they reflect on Christ’s death and resurrection. Typically, it involves fasting or giving up some luxuries, and a greater note of solemnity in church services and events.

All this is to remind Christians of their sin that put Christ on the cross. This grief is marked by the “ash” of Ash Wednesday, which falls on 26 February this year. Lent lasts 40 days, evoking memories of Jesus’ period of fasting in the desert (Matthew 4:2). Some churches also mark Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with His disciples.

All these days, which have been practised by Christians over hundreds of years, are meant to encourage believers to spend time thinking about our sinful state and how only Christ can save us from the grip of sin and reconcile us with the holy God (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14).

Lent is obviously not compulsory. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing. 1 Corinthians 10:23 notes that “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.” But the opposite can also be true: not all things are mandatory, but they can be helpful.

With many churches and Christian organisations rolling out printed and online resources or holding special services to help people observe Lent—not to mention, temporarily stopping mass gatherings and other meetings—why not take the opportunity to spend some time reflecting on the meaning of the cross?

Perhaps we can start with these simple things each day:

Pray: Thank our Heavenly Father for sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins.

Repent: Think about what we’ve done wrong and our struggle with temptation, and how we can only overcome these weaknesses with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Reflect: Read the Gospel accounts of the days leading to Jesus’ death on the cross, His resurrection, and how they can transform the way we live and love others.

Fast: Abstaining from food (if it is safe) or something we like (for example, an indulgence or luxury) can help us focus on what Jesus gave up for our sake. —Leslie Koh


Jesus, thank You for dying for my sin
so that I can be forgiven and reconciled to the Father.
I want to spend the next few weeks
reflecting on what You did for me,
please help me honour this commitment to You.

Should Christians Observe Lent?

Unexpected Change

Today's Devotional

You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. James 4:14

In January 1943, warm Chinook winds hit Spearfish, South Dakota, quickly raising the temperatures from –4° to 45°F (–20° to 7°C). That drastic weather change—a swing of 49 degrees—took place in just two minutes. The widest temperature change recorded in the USA over a twenty-four-hour period is an incredible 103 degrees! On January 15, 1972, Loma, Montana, saw the temperature jump from −54° to 49°F (–48° to 9°C).

Sudden change, however, is not simply a weather phenomenon. It’s sometimes the very nature of life. James reminds us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (4:13–14). An unexpected loss. A surprise diagnosis. A financial reversal. Sudden changes.

Life is a journey with many unpredictable elements. This is precisely why James warns us to turn from “arrogant schemes” (v. 16) that do not take the Almighty into account. As he advised us, “You ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’ ” (v. 15). The events of our lives may be uncertain, but one thing is sure: through all of life’s unexpected moments, our God will never leave us. He’s our one constant throughout life.

By:  Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray

When facing sudden change, how do you respond? What do you think an appropriate faith response to life’s surprises should look like?

Father, forgive me for the times I worry over things I couldn’t anticipate or can’t control, and help me to find my rest in You.

Two Gates, Two Ways

Matthew 7:13-14

The broad path is easy to find. In fact, unless you make a conscious choice to avoid it, that’s where you’ll find yourself walking. Most people like this wide road because it’s comfortable, fairly easy, and culturally acceptable.

What those who travel the broad road fail to realize is that it doesn’t lead to life. All the “promises” it gives of satisfaction and fulfillment end in disappointment because it’s a path without God.

The narrow way, however, follows the direction and desires of the Father. In Matthew 7:14, when Jesus Christ talked about our options, He said, “The way is narrow that leads to life.” And what’s the narrow way? It’s “the way and the truth and the life”—in other words, Jesus Himself (John 14:6). Those who enter by the narrow gate of faith in Christ find the peace and joy of a relationship with Him, which truly satisfies the heart.

Which path would you say you’re traveling on today? The narrow way isn’t always easy, but it’s where we’ll find fullness of joy, peace, and righteousness (Psalm 16:11; Eph. 2:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30). And if we choose Jesus, He promises to be with us throughout eternity.

Lesson from Amos: Don’t Enter Gilgal

“But [do not] . . . enter into Gilgal . . . for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity.” (Amos 5:5)

Gilgal was the place of new beginnings. Twelve memorial stones from the Jordan were set up at Gilgal after the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:3). The nation was circumcised there in preparation for their possession of the land (Joshua 5:5). The Passover was celebrated (Joshua 5:10), and the miraculous manna ceased (Joshua 5:12). The victorious campaign in the hill country of Judea extending to Kadesh-barnea and Gaza was conducted from Gilgal (Joshua 10:15). The great battle at the waters of Merom was conducted from Gilgal (Joshua 10:43; 11:5). Saul was crowned Israel’s first king at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15).

Yet, the activity at Gilgal began to obscure the Word of God. Saul compromised and sacrificed at Gilgal to try to gain God’s blessing. His desire for political favor resulted in direct disobedience to God.

A zeal for “righteous action” without obedience can result in evil. Jephthah’s foolish vow and subsequent bad leadership led to a horrible slaughter (Judges 11–12). Micah’s selfish desire for a personal priest led to terrible apostasy (Judges 17–18). A Levite’s false zeal for revenge led Israel into civil war (Judges 19–21).

When activity substitutes for holiness, the cause starts to justify the activity. Activity then becomes necessary to preserve the cause, and dedication to the activity is equated with loyalty and holiness. In many cases, preservation of a memorable event overrides biblical truth. We don’t need “activity” at Gilgal as much as we need “abiding” in Christ. The “branches” need the “vine” (John 15). HMM III

Desire to Be Filled To The Brim

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with me Spirit.

—Ephesians 5:18


Again, before you can be filled with the Spirit you must desire to be filled. Here I meet with a certain amount of puzzlement. Somebody will say, “How is it that you say to us that we must desire to be filled, because you know we desire to be? Haven’t we talked to you in person? Haven’t we called you on the phone? Aren’t we out here tonight to hear the sermon on the Holy Spirit? Isn’t this all a comforting indication to you that we are desirous of being filled with the Holy Spirit?”

Not necessarily, and I will explain why. For instance, are you sure that you want to be possessed by a spirit other than your own? even though that spirit be the pure Spirit of God? even though He be the very gentle essence of the gentle Jesus? even though He be sane and pure and free? even though He be wisdom personified, wisdom Himself, even though He have a healing, precious ointment to distill? even though He be loving as the heart of God? That Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your Life!   HTB042-043

Even so come, Holy Spirit! Amen.


The Holy Spirit in Creation

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

—Genesis 1:26


God is creative. He has not relinquished His place as Creator, even though the specific work of forming the first heaven and earth has long been completed.

The Holy Spirit as one of the blessed Godhead is also creative. He is forever bringing new things into being, forever giving out and setting in motion, forever making “all things new.” Wherever He is at work, the effects will be creative rather than conservative, though we should know that He also conserves whatever He creates. To create and not conserve would be to waste the creative act. But the whole psychology of the Spirit is toward the creation of new things rather than toward the cautious preservation of what has been created.

It should be said that the Holy Spirit always creates in accord with His character as very God of very God. He stamps whatever He does with the mark of eternity. It has upon it the quality of everlastingness—the dignity and holiness of the Deity set it apart. TWP036

Christ makes the difference between death and life, always and everywhere. He is the Prince of Life, and whatever He touches lives. TET060


Love and Hate

Romans 3:23

Stephen spoke. The council swore. Stephen preached. The council plotted. Stephen seized the opportunity. The council seized Stephen.

The high priest begins the interrogation saying, “Are these charges true?”

(Acts 7:1). Instead of pleading the fifth amendment, Stephen takes the next 50 verses to remind them from whence they came. He preaches expositorily from their scriptures to set the record straight. Without mincing words, he methodically addresses the sins of “our fathers.”

How did the Council react to these honest accusations? How would you react? Be honest. With rage? Fury? Hate?

And Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, surprised them again by gazing heavenward and saying, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56).

That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, salt rubbed into an open wound, a modern day “in your face.” With one accord, they cried out and cast him outside where they began to stone him.

Then Stephen did something amazing. The one who had “told it like it is” surprised them again by crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60).

He had learned his lesson well. He was imitating the Master. This was the consummate example of love in action. Jesus taught him to hate the sin and love the sinner. Hating the sin is a sign of strength. Loving the sinner is an act of gentleness and greatness.

How does one distinguish between the sin and the sinner? Sometimes, as parents, we face the same dilemma. As parents of two active boys, my wife and I were often guilty of not being able to separate the soot from the son. Now you’re supposed to hate the soot and love your son. You’re supposed to separate your feelings toward the soot from your feelings toward your son.

It’s a very thin and delicate line that separates the soot from the son. It is that same line that separates the alcoholic from the burned-out businessman, the sin from the sinner, you from yourself.

All of us have been guilty of “falling short” and missing the line. It is humanly impossible to separate the sin from the sinner, but it is heavenly possible to hate the sin and love the sinner. Christ recognized the difference when He spoke to the thief on the cross. Stephen understood it when he prayed within earshot of a young man named Saul. And with a little help from the Spirit, you too can keep on keeping on!

Joe Noland, A Little Greatness