A few months ago, I shared my thoughts on the widespread dismissal of seasons such as Advent and Lent by Protestants. The two differ mainly in that, while many Protestants have never even heard of Advent, everybody knows about Lent. When the topic arises, many Evangelicals shut down faster than a Southern Baptist being offered a cold beer.
“Lent,” to many, conjures up one of two images: either the pious, somber Pharasaical types who, like those Jesus described in Matthew 6:16, “put on a gloomy face…so that they will be noticed by men”; or the sporadic church attenders who flippantly give up something for Lent, complain about it whenever possible, and look forward to Easter solely because it means they’ll be done putting in their time for God.
Both approaches, of course, miss the point — essentially, because they fail to account for grace. Consequently, it has fallen out of favor in Evangelical circles. In my humble and very personal opinion, however, this may be a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Several years ago, I quietly took a forty-day break from Facebook. I don’t like to consider myself an addict, but…well…wasting time on it is far too easy. Furthermore, I, for one, tend to spend too much emotional energy on hoping that something I wrote would be as witty as I thought it was and lots of people would “like” it. Which, let’s face it, is very self-serving.
Not long into the Lenten season, I realized that I did actually have more time for devotions than I thought…that I hadn’t always been truly present with my children when spending time with them…and that I had been in danger of getting too wrapped up in needing “the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:43). When Easter morning arrived, I was more fully prepared to revel deeply in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Not because my self-denial had gained me one ounce of God’s favor — again, to believe thus would fail to acknowledge God’s grace — but because I had consciously taken time to lay aside what encumbered me so I could fix my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Giving something up isn’t about earning points with God. It isn’t about proving your worthiness to Him. It’s about taking the time to re-evaluate the ways you spend your time, and to examine the areas in your life in which you have gradually allowed something to become more important than God. Very few things — even Facebook — are inherently wrong; almost anything, however, can become an idol, distracting us from the only One who truly deserves honor and praise.