What Lent is and what it is not
There is a lot of confusion out there about what Lent is and what it is not. This is my attempt to clarify things. First, Lent is not mentioned in the Bible. It is an extra biblical tradition, and if done with the right heart, one of the best ones, in my opinion.
What it is not: Lent is not a time to change yourself, though it may have that effect. It is not a time to change the world, though we should be trying to do that. It is not a way to prove how good of a Christian or how disciplined you are. It is not a way to earn righteousness or favor with God.
What Lent is: Lent is primarily about remembering Jesus sacrifice for us. It combines two sacrifices he made, with one obviously infinitely more important than the other. Jesus, while preparing for his ministry, spent 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and praying. At the end of the 40 days, Jesus was able to refute the temptations that Satan provide him with. This is where we get the 40 days of Lent.
But Jesus also sacrificed his body and his life to defeat sin and death and so that we would have the opportunity for eternal salvation. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice. He died on Good Friday and was raised up on Easter Sunday. This date is the most important date in the history of the worlds and is one of joyous celebration for Christians around the world. We end the period of Lent on Easter Sunday as a celebration that Jesus sacrifices was completed and successful.
The reason to practice Lent: Lent is intended to be a way for us to remember how hard the sacrifice was that Jesus made. We have a tendency to take for granted the historical fact that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. We forget just how much of an effect this has on us. Lent is a way for us to get closer to God, to align ourselves with God’s will and most importantly, to remember the ultimate sacrifice that was made on our behalf.
How to practice Lent: These are just going to be some principals on how to implement this so as not become legalistic. It is meant to give some ideas, not to be a rule book or a checklist. If you give up something that you purchase, such as Starbucks, or ice cream, use the money you would spend and donate it to a charity or to your church. When you give this money over, remember 2 things; first, it was not your money anyway. God gave it to you and now you are giving some back. Second, the money and the coffee you are sacrificing is nothing compared to the sacrifice that Jesus gave in our place. If you are giving up a hobby or a meal or something that takes time, take the time that you would be eating lunch and use it to study the Word, or pray.
Again, the point of Lent is to remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ, who is God, came down from heaven as a man, lived a perfect life, committed no sin, died on the cross to pay the price for our sin, and rose from the dead to defeat Satan, sin and death. Live this and celebrate this.