“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
So begins the yearly Christian season known as Lent, a follow-up of sorts to the season of Advent.
While during Advent we celebrate the various “comings” of Christ—first as a baby born to take away the sins of the world, and second as the victorious king come again to put the world to rights—during Lent we take a more contemplative posture, examining ourselves and our own mortality in order to remember what Christ did to break the chains of what led to death in the first place, our sins.
In the book of Hebrews we find the perfect marriage of these two important Christian seasons:
Since all his “children” have flesh and blood, so Jesus became human to fully identify with us. He did this, so that he could experience death and annihilate the effects of the intimidating accuser who holds against us the power of death. By embracing death Jesus sets free those who live their entire lives in bondage to the tormenting dread of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15, TPT)
Consider this: Jesus became one of us and lived our life in order to experience our death, so that he could break the power of death reflected in the opening words above! This is what we reflect upon and celebrate during the season of Lent. I am pleased to share I was part of helping write and put together a 40-day devotional for the Lent and Easter season, called Grace and Hope: A 40-Day Devotional for Lent and Easter, available today for Kindle and iPad.
For those Christians unfamiliar, Lent is a forty-day journey of self-reflection and self-denial that prepares the believer for Holy Week leading to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Throughout this period Christians are invited to examine themselves as they remember the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf. It’s also a time for setting aside our past sins and failures in light of the blessed future hope of who we will become by God’s grace. Accompanying this season of repentance is fasting, almsgiving, penance, and prayer.
Lent officially begins with Ash Wednesday, a solemn service in which we’re called to remember our mortality and express our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. We are invited to remember that one day we will return to the dust from whence we came, and it is by God’s gracious gift that we will be resurrected from the dead and given everlasting life.
Traditionally, this season has been marked by fasting from food and entertainment as a way to experience, in some way, Christ’s own self-denial. You may have known a friend or co-worker who gave up chocolate or Facebook, wine or TV—perhaps you yourself fasted from something or some experience for Lent as way to prepare for Easter. While it may sound silly, these forty days of self-denial are meant to help believers identify with and understand the depths of Christ’s own self-denial on our behalf through his suffering and sacrifice on the cross.
But why forty days?
The number “forty” is deeply scriptural: God sent rain for forty days and nights during the great Noah flood; Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai with God; the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years before gaining the Promise Land; and Jesus went into his own wilderness and fasted for forty days, where he was tested and tempted by Satan before he began his ministry.
So it is this deep, biblical history that inspired early Christians to begin setting aside these days to focus the heart and prepare the soul to celebrate the most important events in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is this practice that inspired this Lent devotional using a faithful and fresh, reliable and relevant new translation of the Bible, The Passion Translation.
For each of the forty days Lent is observed, Monday through Saturday, we have selected a meaningful passage of Scripture for meditation. You’ll also find a short devotion based on that day’s reading and a special Lent prayer to help guide you through this holy season of self-reflection and self-denial, prayer and fasting, repentance and remembrance—all to prepare you for the hopeful words “It is finished!” and the even more wondrous words, “He is risen!”
We trust this version of God’s Word will kindle in you a burning, passionate desire for him and his heart, while impacting the Church for years to come. We also pray this Lent devotional will encourage and inspire your faith in the One who bore our pain and shame, so that you could be declared “Not guilty!” and enjoy everlasting life in the age to come!