Should Christians Observe Lent? Too Much Sin & Repentance?

by Kristen Gilles

in Church Communications,Worship Leading

Lent Votives In Shape Of The CrossMany evangelical Christians disagree with the observance of Lent in the Christian Calendar. One major concern is the focus that Lent puts on the confession and repentance of sins. Here is a good way to put this concern:

If we revisit our “sin problem” year after year, it’s as is if we are clinging to an Old Testament remembrance of sins, when Hebrews clearly teaches that we should now have a clean conscience because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. Is it right to focus on our old, sinful nature instead of the new nature we received when we came to Christ? If He made me a new creation and said the old has passed away, shouldn’t I be identifying with that rather than “re-enacting” the reason for passion every year?

This is a good question. However, until we are free from the very presence of sin, we will all continue to struggle with it. And although we need to continuously remember that we have been given a new nature in Christ (this is who we are now in Christ), if we don’t continuously remember how that happened, the cost of Christ’s life in our stead for our sins (the ones we committed before being saved and the ones we continue to commit while we’re saved, until we’re freed from sin’s presence), then we’re likely to become too cavalier when we approach God’s throne of grace.

We’ll be less likely to live lives of continuous repentance and confession, thus failing to realize our desperate need to depend on Christ for everything – including the strength to live each day and celebrate our victory in Jesus. We need to remember the cross and why it had to happen.

The Argument From Personal Experience

I didn’t really understand the new nature and life I’d been given in Christ until I sobered up about my daily sin struggles and came to a place of being overwhelmed by my sin. It was there that I abandoned my own efforts of making myself sinless, and discovered the reality that is found in Christ–He literally takes all of my sin away and He enables me to live a holy life that is pleasing to God. But that’s all by His merit–not my own. My heart and life only become perfect when I am hidden in the life of Christ. And I find that when I forget my sinfulness and tendency to turn from God, my heart is less inclined to praise God for what He’s done for me. I start leaning on myself again.

When I remind myself of the gospel, of why God chose to put into effect a different plan to save us (His enemies), and Christ’s conquering of the compulsive power of sin in my life, I find that I’m more able to live confidently as a new creature in Christ even when I continue to struggle daily with sin. I know it’s only by the power of Christ in me that I can overcome temptation to sin. I also know that whenever I fail to overcome the temptation, I do not need to despair of dying in sin, because Christ’s work on the cross in my place was completely sufficient–and so I continuously place my confidence in His blood shed for me, His righteousness imputed to me.

The Bottom Line

The more I reflect on my desperate, depraved condition apart from the work of Christ, the more I appreciate the sacrifice He made to save me. And the more I’m convinced that His work is sufficient. And the more I know that all of His promises are true–He’s never failed to keep His Word. He will finish the good work He’s begun in me. He will present me faultless before His throne because of HIS righteousness imputed to me. And all of that produces much more thankfulness and worship in my heart for God than any other prodding has ever done, or could do.

More On Why Evangelicals Need Not Fear The Observance of Lent:

Worship Songs For Lent:

“Lent Votives” photo from jamiesrabbits, used via Creative Commons license


Zac Hicks March 19, 2012 at 3:04 am

I love it. And I love a carefully reasoned argument from personal experience. Everything that is truly biblical should be verifiable in how it forms us existentially. The church seasons give us a sense that it’s not enough just to think about the rhythms of a given Sunday, a given worship service. There are annual rhythms, too. Just as we need confession, assurance, repentance, and joy weekly, we need it annually. The progression THROUGH Lent TO Easter grace us with that natural cycle. Thanks for the testimony and extrapolation! And…thanks for the shout-out, too.

Kristen Gilles March 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful, encouraging comments, Zac! We really appreciate you, brother.

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