Dear Friends,

Some of us come from church traditions that never practice Lent. In fact, our church tradition would say that Lent is a bad idea. Some of us come from church traditions where Lent was practiced, but we want to leave that tradition behind. We know firsthand the abuses and superstition that accompanied Lent. Some of us have used Lent to our good. Today I would like to say a few words about the benefits of Lent when shaped by the Gospel.

First, we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone. No amount of good works can add to Jesus’ finished work upon the cross. Our whole Christian life, from regeneration, through sanctification, to glorification is a result of having received “the power of God for salvation to all who believe.” (Romans 1:16). However, as we are more deeply gripped by the Gospel, the Gospel begins to shape us into a life more like Jesus. The Gospel begins to prod us to make changes. The Gospel begins to draw us to make changes. The Gospel begins to ground change in our life.

On one hand, this work of the Gospel is to be a day-to-day thing; on the other hand, we human beings have seasons in our life where certain endeavors or tasks become more important. Lent should be seen in light of the Gospel and Lent should be seen as a season of life that we enter into to draw closer to Jesus and to become more like Jesus. Christians from long ago thought that the period of time leading up to a remembrance of Jesus’ death upon the cross and His resurrection was an appropriate time to enter into a season of “Gospel change” in who we are and how we live. As well, they saw how often the period time, 40 days, was used in the Bible. So these long ago Christians began the practice of a 40-day season of life devoted to drawing closer to God and seeking to live a more holy life – in the hope that our “drawing closer” and holy life would continue in our daily life after Lent. In other words, a Gospel understanding of Lent does not see it as a type of “punishment” or “spiritual labour camp” that we are glad is over when it’s over so we can get back to having fun. If Lent is understood in light of the Gospel, it is a season of deepening that leaves us deeper in our day-to-day life.

Some Gospel disciplines for Lent. Commit to: extra time reading good Christian books; extra time in Bible reading; extra time in prayer; learn a Christian discipline like journaling; meet weekly with others to watch a great sermon from someone like Tim Keller and then pray together; fast once a week; fast from social media; write a letter of encouragement to each of our missionaries.

Friends, pray that Messiah will be a prayerful, Bible-teaching evangelical church in the heart of the city with a heart for the city and the world.