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Blow ye 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 cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.


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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The unscripturalness of observing Lent

Titus 3 v 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. 

Today is the beginning of Lent. Much reference is made to this observance. Sadly many Protestants are more and more being taken up with this religion of works.

I. The definition of Lent. 
Lent is the 40 day period before Easter, excluding Sundays, it begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. This year Lent begins on 9th March and will end on 23rd April.

Sundays are excluded because this is the day on which Christ arose from the dead, making it an inappropriate day to supposedly fast and mourn over sin. On Sunday we must celebrate Christ's resurrection for our salvation. It is Friday on which we commemorate His death for our sins. The Sundays of the year are days of celebration and the Fridays of the year are days of penance.

There are 40 days in Lent because 40 is the traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation in the Bible. Thus Moses stayed on the mount of God for 40 days, the spies were in the land for 40 days, Elijah travelled 40 days before he reached the cave where he had his vision, Nineveh was given 40 days to repent, and most importantly, prior to undertaking His ministry, Jesus Christ spent 40 days in wilderness praying and fasting, Matthew 4:2.

Since Lent is a period of prayer and fasting, it is supposedly fitting for Christians to imitate their Lord with a similar 40 day period of penance. Christ used this 40 day period of prayer and fasting to prepare for His ministry, which culminated in His death and resurrection, and thus it is supposedly fitting for Christians to imitate Him with a 40 day period of prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration of His ministry's climax, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

II. The purpose of Lent. 
Lent is observed as part of the system of Romanism that believes that salvation is obtained by human effort through the sacraments of the Church. They speak of imitating Christ. It is the old falsehood of penance, showing sufficient sorrow for sin to merit the favour of God. 

The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: 
Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season. Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. Lent is the primary time for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, because Lent is the season for baptismal preparation and baptismal renewal

During Lent a person is apply ashes to show association with sorrow for sin. 

III. The unscripturalness of Lent. 
Search the Scriptures diligently, from Old Testament to New, and you will find no mention of Jews or Christians observing an annual period of 40 days of fasting and abstinence preceding the festival of the Passover, yet today most of the Christian world observes a 40 day period called Lent. Christ fasted forty days before His earthly ministry began not before His death. 

It is actually the mark of apostate religion to command to abstain from meats, 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

Roman Catholicism states that the reasons for celebrating her major feasts, when they do, are many and varied. However:
In general it is true that many of them have at least an indirect connection with the pre-Christian [pagan] feasts celebrated about the same time of year, such as Christmas and Easter

They also acknowledge that no observance of Lent is found in the early Church.

Where did the concept of Lent come from then? The 40 days abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess and her son. This is where the 'mother and child' idea comes from.

Numerous examples have been found in history of the old pagans observing a period to mark the birth of spring. The Babylonians, Egyptians, and others among them. It was usually preceded by a feast called a 'carnival'.
Lent is part of the concept of salvation by works and sacraments. However, salvation and peace with God are not obtained in this way. That which the Lord Jesus would have us to do is come and confess our sins to Christ and be saved from them for ever. 

In this text of Scripture we are simply taught the way of salvation. There is no great mystery about it, yet it is becomes the hardest thing for men and women to discover because of the pride of the human heart.

1. Salvation is not by human effort. Paul rules out works of righteousness which we have done as a means of obtaining salvation.
It is in our fallen nature to want to do every thing for ourselves. It is a basic lesson every child has to learn as they grow up, namely that they cannot do everything by themselves. They may want to, they may push away the help that is offered but they will have to learn that help is required.

The same mentality is applied to the matter of salvation. Sinners want to play at least a part in their salvation. They are happy for God to do a part and they also want to do a part. Not so. It is not by works.

It is not even by works of righteousness. People in general have their own definition of good works. It varies from one person to another. In doing so these people are convinced that God will be pleased and His favour obtained. Not so according to this text of Scripture. Surely Lent falls into that category.

2. Salvation comes from God’s mercy. Man cannot merit or earn salvation. Neither does he deserve it.
There is nothing is us that would attract God’s blessing. The only thing we deserve is to be cast away from Him as an unclean thing. Nothing that we do will ever bring us to the place where God will find us worthy of His favour.

Therefore we should stop trying and have done with all that is associated with this false way of salvation.

Salvation is by free grace. Salvation is the free gift of God. It flows from God’s infinite mercy, love and grace. We cannot earn it but we can receive it as a free gift. God out of the abundance of His mercy has provided salvation. He moved first towards fallen mankind. Man does not merit it, God freely bestows it.

Sinners need to fall upon God’s mercy and obtain salvation in this way, Micah 7:18.

3. Conversion is by the Holy Spirit. You do not grow into conversion as Rome claims.
Salvation is by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. It is the Spirit of God that makes dead sinners alive. He renews that spiritual life which died in Adam when he sinned. Spiritual life is brought into our hearts once more by the Spirit.

Conversion is not a process but an act. Conversion takes place in an instant. A sinner is either dead or alive. He/she is not in between somewhere. He/she is not half alive or half dead.

Salvation is by the washing of regeneration. Regenerating grace is here meant. We need to be born of the grace and power of the Spirit. It is comparable to washing with water for its purity and cleansing virtue, hence all who are regenerated and sanctified, are said to be washed and cleansed, having their hearts purified by faith, and their consciences purged from sin by the blood of Christ.

It is the washing of regeneration we need to save us from our sins not the washing of water. It is only the blood of Jesus Christ that will cleanse from sin. 

Titus 3:5 teaches a different ay of salvation as compared to what lies begin the concept of Lent. 

6 comments:

Alan Carr said...

Rev McClung,

Would you be able to write something on the unscripturalness of observing the 12th July too?

Alan Carr

Rev Brian McClung said...

Alan

That would be difficult in that of itself I am not aware of anything unscriptural about remembering God's gracious deliverances in the past.

The Scriptures would certainly speak against the drunkenness that attends the 12th July demonstrations.

Brian McClung

Alan Carr said...

Rev McClung

Not entirely convinced by this response.
You know where I'm coming from and I believe my point requires a fuller response.

Why the embracing acceptance of the 12th July remembrance/celebrations and the refusal of to see
Lent as something equally worth pursuing as an act

If I made the appropriate changes in your article and replaced "lent" with "the 12th July" then do u not agree that the same argument applies to each occasion?

Aren't you suiting yourself with a tailored argument?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Alan

I have no idea at all where you are coming from! I entirely fail to see any parallel between Lent and the Twelfth.

The gaping difference between Lent and the Twelfth is that no one that I know holds that observing the Twelfth gains any merit with God, which is the whole basis of Lent or that they are imitating any aspect of the life of Jesus Christ.

I know I haven't attended a Twelfth demonstration in a few years but I do think I would have heard of those changes if they had taken place.

As indicated before my complaint would be the drunkenness and sheer ungodliness that accompanies the Twelfth, not the Twelfth itself.

Brian McClung

The Beaudoins said...

It seems as though you are under the impression that Lenten sacrifice by Christians is in effort to earn our way into God's heart.
Rather, it is a way for us to remember Christ's own sacrifice for us every day for that period. I am already saved, and it has been beneficial to participate in Lent, because I am more prayerful, have studied more of the Bible during the period, and remain cognizant of God's great love for all of his children.

I am a former Episcopalian, now United Methodist. It isn't a part of the United Methodist practice or doctrine to participate in Lenten sacrifice, but I do it personally to bring myself closer to Christ. Your calling it "unfortunate" makes me sad.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Beaudoins

Observing Lent as a means of attaining salvation by works is exactly what Romanism does. Lent is described as being part of the Romish sacrament of penance. Rome believes that it is through the sacraments that salvation is obtained.

Rome has described the sacrament of penance as the means:
'by which the benefit of the death of Christ is applied to those who have fallen after baptism'
and that this:
'as necessary to salvation for those who have sinned after baptism, as baptism itself is for the unregenerate'.

There is no command in Scripture to observe Lent.There is no sacrament of penance in the Scriptures.

This is not the way that God has commanded to 'remember Christ's own sacrifice' as you claim. The Lord's Supper/Communion is God's appointed means of grace. This is the New Testament sacrament instituted by Christ and not penance/Lent for this purpose.

What is the urge to engage in unscriptural means and methods that will not bring any lasting benefit? If we neglect the means of grace that God has ordained then we lose the benefit intended.

Biblical Protestantism has long rejected Lent. It is only the ecumenical Romanising tendency that wants to take us back to Rome that find value in Lent.

Brian McClung