Approaching Easter (ReLent Article Download)
Do you remember getting ready for Easter as a child? In my family, preparation involved getting a new Easter outfit but not much to do with preparation for the Easter services. For most of my friends Good Friday was good because there was no school. About half of the kids in my neighborhood were Catholic and sometimes they would tell us what they were giving up for Lent – we didn’t even use that word in my church – often chocolate or ice cream, maybe a TV show or heaven forbid, all of TV. They would give it up, like a new year’s resolution, but they got to do it again 40 days later.
I found out much later what Lent was all about. It’s the period before Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter.
The idea of giving something up for Lent began with encouraging new believers to prepare for baptism but over time it changed to include the whole church and shifted from an emphasis on preparation to one of abstaining. Give any institution a few hundred years and it can take a practice, based on some good thought and intention, and move it into a hollow ritual.
The practice of Lent with the idea of abstinence alone feels empty, almost an attempt to gain God’s grace. But the idea of preparation and giving something up so that you can examine and give more attention to a life transformation can be good.
In three of the four gospels we hear Jesus say “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Self-denial is important but that’s not enough. Being a disciple is also about taking up and following.
This year instead of Lent why don’t you “ReLent.” Reset your heart and mind: prepare for Easter by letting go of things that are keeping you from growing in your faith and taking on habits, actions and attitudes that demonstrate your commitment to Christ.
Scripture over and over tells us to ReLent: let go of this world. In Ephesians 4:22 we’re instructed to put off our old self; and Romans 13:12 tells us to put aside the deeds of darkness. Many other passages encourage us with the same admonitions (cf. Luke 14:33; Prov. 3:6; 1 Pet. 5:7; Heb 12:1; Eph. 4:25; Col. 2:11; Rom. 12:1).
Scripture also tells us what we are to take on. In Ephesians 4:24 we’re told to “put on the new self” (cf: Matt. 6:33; Phil. 1:21; Rom. 13:12; Eph. 6:11; Col. 3:10; Col. 3:14; 1 Thes. 5:8). So the Christian life is one of putting off the old self and putting on the things of Christ. But it’s putting off with a purpose.
We can use Romans 12:1-2 as our guide in this time of ReLenting.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our motivation for letting go of this world should not be fear or an attempt to gain God’s approval but the mercy that God provided for us; what He’s done for us in His sacrifice on the cross, offering us grace and mercy. We let go of this world because Christ let go of His to purchase our salvation. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Our response then should be to offer our whole being as a sacrifice of Worship to Him.
Let go, don’t be conformed to this world, but take on, and be transformed to do God’s will. So instead of speech that practices deceit–speak the truth and spread the gospel. Instead of lips which spread poison–words that bring healing. Instead of feet that are quick to shed blood–hands that lift up those who are fallen.*
We’re called to die to this world; that’s what sacrifice means (Romans 6) but it’s a “living” sacrifice so we must continually renew our position of worship by making our lives “holy and pleasing to God.”
“Paul tells us to recognize and reject the pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that characterizes the world and to embrace God’s will for all character and life.” ** Don’t conform – Transform
So as we move toward Easter – ReLent. “Let go” of this world and “Put on” Christ.
Here are some suggestions to encourage you in that journey.
- Spend time each day dwelling on the mercies of God.
- Remind yourself that the only rational response to Christ giving us all of himself is to give all of ourselves to Him.
- Determine what part of your mind needs renewing.
- Ask yourself: What part of this world are you holding on to too tightly and commit to ReLent. Let it go. Decide to take on a Christian grace to replace what you’re letting go of.
- If you are resentful or bitter – determine to let that go and to pursue peace
- If you are driven by your preferences – determine to pursue the interests of others.
- If you are caught in unclean habits, confess, claim victory and pursue holiness.
During the month of March we will be giving you some time during the worship services to ReLent: to let go of what’s holding you back; to “throw off that sin that so easily entangles you”. Put it away and leave it there. Put on godliness and let that become your habit.
During the Sunday Worship services complete the “I put off” card. Then during worship go to the stations provided, crumple that card up and let go of it into the basket, symbolizing your letting go/putting off that issue in your life. Also, take the card at the station, write on the back what you are committing to put on and then put that card in a place that will remind you daily of your commitment.
We will be praying with you as you move forward, that you would grow in your walk with Christ as we remember Christ’s sacrifice and celebrate His victory over sin and death for us.
* The Message of Romans, John Stott, page 322. ** Romans 8-16 for You, Timothy Keller , page 106.
Resources (Resources Download)
Books (Suggestions from the Harvest Staff)
The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Arthur Bennett
The Inner Chamber, Andrew Murray
Christians Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, Wayne Grudem and Elliot Grudem
The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt
At the Throne of Grace: A Book of Prayers, John MacArthur
A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love, Milton Vincent
The Bible Promise Book
Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets them Free, Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, Lysa TerKeurst
Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper
A Call to Die: A 40 Day Journey of Fasting from the World & Feasting on God, David Nasser and Chris Tomlin
True Spirituality: Becoming a Romans 12 Christian, Chip Ingram
The Forgotten Way Meditations: The Path of Yeshua for Power and Peace in This Life, Ted Dekker
Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Sarah Young
The Necessity of Prayer, E.M. Bounds
Trusting God: Even when Life Hurts, Jerry Bridges
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, Bob Goff
The Green Letters: Principles of Spiritual Growth, Miles Stanford
Harvest Life Groups
Life Groups meet on various days and locations throughout the week. Stop by the Ministry Information Desk and fill out a Life Group form.
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