Ash Wednesday traditionally marks the start of the Season of Lent for Catholics and some Christians. Will you be fasting or giving something up for Lent? Why? Is it even in the bible? Who started this tradition?
Is “Lent” in the Bible?
So when did Lent start and who started it?
It goes way back to the early church leaders…
In AD 339, Saint Athanasius wrote that the Lenten fast was a forty-day fast that “the entire world” observed. Saint Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–AD 430) wrote that: “Our fast at any other time is voluntary; but during Lent, we sin if we do not fast.”Wikipedia
That, my friend, is a lie.
In the 350s AD, the Roman Empire was splitting and people looked to the church for leadership. The early church leaders started making up unbiblical sins to control the people.
There was no Bible back then. Most people were illiterate. They depended on the teachings of the church to know how to live righteously. That put a tremendous amount of power in the hands of priests, bishops and the pope. And the truth still holds…
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”Lord Acton
Fasting is 100% voluntary at any time.
What is Fasting?
Fasting IS in the Bible!
Jesus fasted for 40 days. Paul encouraged us to fast. Esther told the Hebrews in exile in Babylon to fast.
Last November, I did a 21 day fast for the first time — just liquids. At meal times, or when hunger pangs strike, it’s important to pull out the Bible and study the Word of God and ponder it’s meaning in your life. It’s also a perfect time to pray. This website helped me come out of the 21-day fast. (You gradually need to introduce light foods back into your diet.)
At the beginning of 2022, my church, for the first time, held a “corporate fast” encouraging us to fast for the whole month of January. So, I fasted again. Except, since I wasn’t aware they were doing it, I had just filled my fridge. Therefore, instead of a full liquid fast, I did one meal at midday, then liquids only for the rest of the day till 6:00 PM.
Fasting on Ash Wednesday and during lent is admirable, but do you really know WHY you’re fasting? If you’re fasting just because your church tells you that it’s a sin if you don’t; or it’s what’s you’re supposed to do to follow the rules; then, that’s wrong and you might as well save yourself the misery.
Reasons for Fasting
- To humble yourself before the Lord
- Because Jesus did it for 40 days and told us to do it
- To get closer to God
“Hungry people are desperate people, and they are hungry for more of God than they have ever had. They are breaking out of religious rules, regulations and traditional thinking and breaking through to more of His presence, more of His power, and more of His miracle-working power! Only Jesus satisfies hunger!”from Fasting: Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God by Jentezen Franklin. (Amazon affiliate link)
How do you start fasting?
It helps to plan it out. If you want to try fasting, try first a 24-hour period – liquids only. Then 3 days — like a weekend, then a full week. Moreover, clean out your kitchen so you don’t have any food to tempt you. Buy juices, enriched water with electrolytes, and smoothies.
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
I ask Him every morning for that self-control and self-discipline!
Jesus told us…
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:16-18 NLT
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”Acts 13:2 NLT
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. 23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders[for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.Acts 14:21-23
As a former Catholic, I never really quite understood the no meat on Friday rule. Where’s the pain in that? I think this ritual was made up to help the local fisherman and seafood restaurants. Where do you think the idea for Friday Seafood Buffets came from?
Is giving up something for Lent, rather than fasting, worth it?
I saw on Twitter once that #AshWednesday was trending. I checked out some of the posts. One person asked, “What are you giving up for Lent?”
A guy replied, “Last year I gave up coffee and I was 100% NOT like Jesus!”
Right idea, wrong motive.
King David wrote Psalm 51 after he had the encounter with the prophet Nathan who admonished him for committing adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.Psalm 51 NLT
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
Another prayer from a psalm is…
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Celebrate Lent with A Repentant Heart
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a personal Relationship with YOU!
He sacrificed HIS life so you wouldn’t have to face the Wrath of God at the Judgment Day. Which is coming soon!
If you’re ready, then all you have to do is…
Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
- Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
- Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.