I didn’t grow up observing Advent.
While we always celebrated Christmas and definitely made Christmas a Christ-centered holiday, we never had an Advent wreath or celebrated the advent season the way many Christians do.
The way I do today.
I began celebrating Advent in 2012 when I participated in the first Good Morning Girls Advent Bible study; and have made it a part of my Christmas celebration ever since.
Given this fact, it may surprise many of my readers that I don’t observe Lent.
While many Evangelical Christians have begun observing Lent, I don’t see observance of the Lenten season in the same way I see Advent.
In fact, I find their observances very different from one another.
Yes, both of them mark events in history that are essential to our faith. However the main reason why I choose not to observe Lent (followed by five detailed reasons), is because while during Advent we daily rejoice in Christ’s birth, during Lent the focus isn’t on Christ at all.
Typically, from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday the focus is on grief and repentance for our sins and self-denial.
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5 Reasons Why I Don’t Observe Lent (and what I do instead)
1. I daily live before God with a clear conscience.
Does this mean I never sin? No, what this means is that I daily allow the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of my life or attitudes that are not pleasing to God and I repent for them immediately.
“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” Acts 24:16
In fact, we don’t seen anywhere in Scripture that after Christ’s sacrifice that we are to observe seasons of repentance and grief over sin. This kind of observance was kept in the Old Testament, under the Law. But this was a custom that Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled!
As children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ, we should daily live our lives in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice and in obedience to the Word of God.
Repentance should be immediate so that relationship is restored.
2. I never make past sins or mistakes a focus.
When the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin or an area of my life that is not pleasing to the Lord, I repent and then I move on.
Any sins I may have committed or mistakes I have made are never the focus. Once I’ve repented, it’s over.
When Christ forgave me of my sin, I became a whole new person and that person has a whole new identity! This is my focus:
- What Christ has done for me
- The new person He has made me to be
- The fact that I am justified (just as if I’ve never sinned)
Even in my repentance, I don’t dwell on the transgression, I dwell on grace of Christ and that He fully forgives every time!
3. God isn’t impressed with my self-denial.
Giving up coffee for 40 days proves nothing. Especially if after 40 days I go back to drinking coffee.
While I may suffer for a week or so after giving up caffeine, which is supposed to remind me of Christ’s suffering, I am not convinced that temporary physical suffering is a biblical identification with Christ’s suffering.
In fact, all throughout the New Testament we see identification with Christ’s suffering equated with persecution, not temporarily denying ourselves something — that we will likely resume once Easter arrives.
But here’s the thing Lent has wrong, on this account:
Christ’s real suffering wasn’t physical!
Christ’s real suffering was bearing the sin of all mankind – past, present, future – on Himself and thus enduring His father turning His face from Him.
That was Christ’s real suffering.
Focusing on Christ’s physical pain without understanding the true significance of His suffering never really brings the gospel to our hearts!
4. I live a crucified life.
If I am a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am obligated to live a life of self-denial:
- Not as a way to prove anything to myself or God
- Not as a way of earning God’s forgiveness
- Not as a way of earning God’s approval
- Not as a way of reminding myself of His sacrifice
But out of obedience to the Word of God:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
What is the cross: “Not my will but thine be done.”
Self-denial should be a lifestyle for every believer! Taking up our cross and following Jesus should be something we do 365 days a year, not 40 days….while living the other 325 days less dedicated.
Self-denial has nothing to do with abstaining from a habit for 40 days, it is being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice and daily choosing to live in obedience to it and God’s Word.
5. I rejoice (boast) in the cross!
The biggest and most important reason why I don’t observe the Lenten season is because I don’t see the cross as a reason to be sorrowful.
Yes, Christ suffered – but He didn’t suffer in vain!
And Christ is no longer on cross!
For every born-again believer, the cross is not as symbol of suffering but of victory!
If there is any emotion that feel when thinking of the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, it is complete and utter joy! Because of the cross I am free!
Yes, Jesus suffered, but He wasn’t a victim.
Jesus chose to suffer. His whole existence on earth had only one purpose and that was to one day bear the sins of all mankind, endure the temporary rejection of His Father, die as the final sacrifice for our sins……
(and if we stop here, how miserable that is!!!)
And then on the 3rd day the greatest event in all of history took place – eclipsing even the event of His own miraculous birth.
God raised Himself from the dead.
While Jesus ministered on earth, He raised people from the dead – but who in history has ever raised himself from the dead?
Only God could do that!
Jesus wasn’t a victim, He was the ultimate Victor!!
And so while I don’t observe Lent, I do take time in the season leading up to Easter to rejoice in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
I reflect on the fact that this is now my identity.
I died with Christ and was buried with Christ. My old man no longer exists. That person that did all those bad things in the past, the person who was taken advantage of as a child, the person who was abused — that person no longer exists. I don’t identify with her at all, because she’s dead!
I was raised to new life in Christ. That same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me and daily enables me to live in this new life I have in Christ! This new person has a whole new identity, brand new behavior patterns, new desires, new thought patterns. I am justified – just as if I’ve never sinned.
So, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for me isn’t a season of grieving, repenting, and self-denial, it is a season of rejoicing and thanksgiving for all God has done for us!
The cross is a reason for rejoicing!