The Lenten season begins roughly 40 days before we celebrate Easter. It is a time when many Christians prepare themselves, spiritually, for the celebration of the glorious victory of Jesus over sin and death. The way believers do this preparation differs broadly depending upon whom it is you are asking.
Fasting is one common practice among followers of Christ. Fasting is the abstinence of food for periods of time for spiritual purposes. Bible fasting always has to do with food. There are some who label personal sacrifices as fasting or different spriritual disciplines as such but Biblical fasting is always in relation to food.
Some fasting is partial, such as the abstinence of sweets or deserts for a period of time. There is also total fasts which is no food and no water for a short period. The types of fasts and their duration depend upon the person completing it. What you declare in your fast, in advance, as a vow to fulfill.
There is a common theme among those observing Lent and that is sacrifice. People decide to “give up” something to help them prepare for the Easter Holy Day. However, many of the things people give up are better classified as Disciplines or Repentant Acts rather than sacrifices.
Disciplines for followers of Christ involve the “doing” of certain activities in order to help conform to a more Godly life and in the process becoming more like Christ.
Examples of some disciplines would be, but not limited to, bible memorization, attending church more, bible reading, additional prayer time, expanded witnessing, etc. Disciplines involve the “doing” of something which assists the person in growing closer to God. The act in itself does not provide the transformation but the substance of the discipline is the catalyst for renewal.
Many 'church-goers” confuse Sacrifices with Repentant Acts. Strictly speaking a Sacrifice would be the bringing of something valuable and pure to God. A Repentant Act would be purging something from your life that is not valuable or pure in God's eyes. For example: the giving up of your time in order to minister to residents at a nursing home is a sacrifice. The giving up of TV time because you spend 6 hours a day in front of it is an act of repentance. Taking canned goods to your church's food pantry is a sacrifice, but taking the booze out of your house because your drinking alcohol doesn't please God is an act of repentance.
Lent is a good time to practice all of these: Fasting, Disciplines, Repentant Acts, and Sacrifice. The 40 odd days before Easter allows us to get out of a spiritual rut and move from glory to glory and from faith to faith. You can't get different results if you continue to do the same old things. Move closer to God and He will move closer to you.
Pastor Zack Ditmar
My Plans for Lent:
Ecclesiastes 5:1-5 (NKJV) 1 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. 2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool's voice is known by his many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed-- 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
Matthew 6:16-18 (NKJV) 16 "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Matthew 9:15 (NKJV) 15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Micah 6:6-8 (GW) 6 What should I bring when I come into the Lord's presence, when I bow in front of the God of heaven? Should I bring him year-old calves as burnt offerings? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with endless streams of olive oil? Should I give him my firstborn child because of my rebellious acts? Should I give him my young child for my sin? 8 You mortals, the Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God.
Luke 24:46-47 (NKJV) 46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.