Once again this year, we have decided as a church community to observe the season of Lent. Without fail, this announcement will elicit a few raised eye-brows from the crowd, and a few more questions about why we do this. Why observe Lent when we aren't a formal, traditional church? Why do Lent if we're not Catholic? Why do Lent and put ourselves under a kind of "bondage" when we are free in Christ?
many of us, however, we have found the experience of Lent to have an
odd appeal to us, and in this post I want to try and explain why.
In Hebrews 11:25, 26 we read,
chose to share the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the
fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the
sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking
ahead to his great reward.
While living in Egypt as
a young man, Moses had the opportunity to choose a life of comfort,
riches and ease. He could have lived out his days in the Pharaoh's
palace and enjoyed the benefits of that life. Moses, however, chose
differently. He realized that he was not at home in Egypt- that his real
people and his real purpose lay somewhere else. So he intentionally did
some very difficult things. He identified with the slaves. He followed
the leading of God's Spirit. He stared down the Pharaoh and he took a
million people through the Red Sea. Why? Because in his heart he
believed in a better land, a better place, where God was leading him and
the people. Sacrifices and hardship would be worth the journey. Giving
up the treasures of Egypt would be a small sacrifice in comparison to
living fully alive as the people of God.
In many ways, I
see us facing the same choice. In a metaphorical way, we live in the
palace of Egypt- our modern life offers us a continual feast of
self-satisfying pursuits and possessions. We have the choice to live out
our days here, or we can choose as Moses did to sacrifice for a better
I don't know about you, but the "treasures of
Egypt" have a way of gripping my mind, and eventually my heart. Things
that I once knew nothing about have become essentials in my day-to-day
living- coffee, email, Kindle, Words with Friends, ESPN- the list could
go on and on. As I hold these treasures in my hand, I realize that none
of them are bad or sinful in and of themselves. They are tools and
objects. But at the same time, I also realize that my hands, and my
life, can be pretty full. Lent is an opportunity to willingly lay some
of these things down for a time so that I might come before God with
empty hands. Lent is a time to say, "God, show me how to follow you into
a better land. This Egypt is not my home- I want to belong to your
So, may I encourage you to enter willingly
into a time of self-denial on some level? We might be tempted to see
this as a yoke of slavery- doing without something we love- but we need
to see that it is a bold attempt to throw off true slavery. You see, the
treasures of Egypt will always keep us bound to Egypt, and this kind of
slavery keeps us from belonging fully to God. Sure, on a spiritual
level we are fully His already, but on a practical level we know this is
not our full experience. We are captive to our possessions and our
pursuits. What would it look like to throw off these captors and to
journey with God into the wilderness of transformation? That is the
purpose of Lent.
What will you choose?
If you know what you are laying down for Lent, post it below!
May you know that God longs to lead you on a journey into His great reward-