Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.
The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.
The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.
For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.
If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:
1. Give up Lent for Lent.
2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.
3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.
4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.
5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.
6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.
7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.
8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.
9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.
10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.
11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.
12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.
13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.
14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.
15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.
16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.
17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.
18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.
19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.
20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.
21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.
22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.
23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!
24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.
25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.
26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.
27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.
28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.
29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.
30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.
31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.
32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”
33. Give up worrying and trust God.
34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.
35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.
36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.
37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.
38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.
39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.
40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.