Lead Me to the Cross
Christians in the free-church tradition, like Baptists, are not obligated to observe Christian holy days like the 40 day season of Lent. Our understanding of trusting the grace of Christ includes the idea that no additional acts or works on our part are necessary to receive forgiveness from God beyond our faith in the free gift of God. Nevertheless, many Christians, including Baptists, observe the season of Lent as part of their Christian devotion. Doing so represents the belief that we not only have “freedom from” required works, but we also have “freedom for” sharing in the spiritual wisdom of the greater body of Christ in the Church that spans the boundaries of nations and the centuries of Christian history. Here are some good reasons to use our ”freedom for” observing Lent as a form of spiritual devotion leading up to Easter.
1. The season of Lent uses our secular calendar to tell the Christian story. The spring calendar includes baseball season, March Madness, and spring fashion season. Observing Lent helps us to mark time as followers of Jesus by preparing for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. We use the time to remember our baptism and renew our commitment to walk with Jesus as his disciples. Observing Lent helps us to “number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
2. Lent provides an opportunity to experience the benefits of spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, fasting, and engaging in Christ-like service. Spiritual disciplines do not help us to earn the grace of Christ, but the grace of Christ doesn’t exclude our efforts to receive what Christ gives us. The grace of Christ promises that our efforts to grow closer to Jesus in our daily lives will be met with the same grace that brought our salvation. As Paul wrote in Philippians, we can “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” because “it is God working in [us] to will and to do God’s good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
3. Fasting from some activity or item during Lent can be a helpful way of letting our lives be shaped by God’s will rather than by the desires that are promoted to us from the surrounding culture. We fast not because the items we give up are bad, but because we want to train our desires to love what is best, the will of God in our hearts and in our bodies.
4. Fasting or abstaining in Lent has the most benefit when we not only “give up” something, but we also “take up” some practice or habit that draws us closer to God. Prayer, Scripture, worship, devotional readin, acts of kindness, service, and encouragement, all remind us that we abstain from doing something that is good so that we can give our time to other things that are even better.
Christians in the free-church and Baptist traditions don’t have to observe Lent, but we don’t have to miss it either. It is an opportunity to give focused attention to following Jesus’ call to “take up our cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). We are able to follow Jesus during the seasons of Lent and Easter because he took up his cross and made a way for us to be reconciled with God and share in God’s abundant life.