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Not Your Grandma’s Lent

Not Your Grandma’s Lent

By Erica Boutwell on February 22, 2017

A few months ago I wrote a very personally challenging article about pursuing a life of radical holiness in an extremely unholy world. You can read the full post here. In it I explore a common theme in scripture where God is calling His people to a life set apart from the rest of the world.

Leviticus 20:26 says, “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”   

1 Peter 1:14-16 says, As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’.”

Just to name a few.

But how do we pull off holy living in a culture armed and ready to drag us down at the first opportunity? Well, lucky for us, we don’t serve a God who doles out commands then leaves us on our own to figure it out. He supplies us with plenty of scriptures to give us guidance as we navigate these tricky waters. Scriptures such as . . .

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.  – 2 Corinthians 7:1

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  – Ephesians 5:3

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  – 1 Corinthians 10:19-20

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2

“It would appear that we are to do any and everything we can think of to keep our minds, hearts, eyes, ears, and bodies as pure and clean as humanly possible. It seems to be pretty clear too, that this is not something that will happen passively. It will take a proactive, aggressive, and seemingly radical effort on our part to pull it off. The reason being that not only are we called to pursue holiness, but we are called to do it while still going out and making disciples. Sure, you could hole up in some underground bunker with nothing but a supply of food and a Bible in order to avoid all worldly influence. But what good are you down there? 

The Word gives us so many reminders to pursue holiness and instructions on how to do it because in order to further the Kingdom we will be forced to be out among an unholy world – one that is growing more depraved by the minute. And no matter who you are, if you surround yourself with that which is against God, and fail to guard your heart and mind, you will undoubtedly get taken down.” (taken from earlier post)

So where do we draw the line? Many believers hide under the cloak of “staying culturally relevant” to justify their pursuit of worldly desires. And unfortunately for a lot of them, that relevance has become a full-on camouflage, making them almost unrecognizable as a Christ-follower. But how did Jesus do it? How did He manage to maintain his holiness while mixing it up with the worldliest of the worldly? I believe that his motivation is what set him apart. He didn’t hang out with tax collectors and adulterers just to understand their world better. He spent time with them in order to show them a love they’d never encountered before. He invested in them so that they would leave changed, not the other way around. He was able to do this so effectively because of his deep, intimate communion with the Father and his commitment to a bold level of purity. Is it supposed to be any different for us as believers, as spiritual influencers, as leaders in the Church?

If you’ve had time to look at your calendar as it’s flown by, you may have noticed that Lent starts next Wednesday, March 1st. For many churchgoers, this season serves as an opportunity to sort of re-center their spiritual lives by removing something for the 6 weeks leading up to Easter. For many it’s something like caffeine or sweets. For others it’s a worldly pleasure such as television or social media. Whatever it is they choose, the purpose behind eliminating it for those 40 days is to try to emulate the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before he began his years of earthly ministry. It’s an attempt to make a personal sacrifice so that the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on the cross weighs a little heavier on their hearts and minds. But then what?

As I was reflecting on past years when I’ve chosen to participate in Lent and am still being challenged by what the Lord spoke to my heart when writing the post I referred to earlier, I began mulling over several questions in my spirit.

Should Lent look different for mature believers as opposed to those younger in their faith?

What about for leaders in the Church?

How could we approach Lent in such a way that the effects are lasting?

Perhaps you’ve observed Lent for as long as you can remember or maybe this is the first year you are considering participating. Whatever the case, I wonder what it would look like for us to prepare for that holy season with a healthier portion of intentionality and purpose. What if, as leaders of God’s people, we decided to amp things up and instead of just choosing something to get rid of for a few weeks, we did a full scale inventory of our lives and began pruning out all of those things that distract us, that are not God-honoring, and that hold us back from pursuing the holiness we are called to? Can you imagine the eternal reverberations that might cause?

Maybe this year we still choose that one thing to eliminate for March 1st – April 16th, but instead of going about our daily lives for those 47 days (did you know that you don’t include Sundays in the day count?) we pray fervently for God to reveal to us those things that just don’t belong in our lives – those things that take up way too much of our time, attention, money, conversation, and preoccupation - and we begin purging and clearing out those hidden places. What a beautiful Easter morning that would be! What a glorious offering! That, my friends, is NOT your grandma’s Lent! That, brothers and sisters, is the makings of a revival!

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Erica Boutwell

Erica Boutwell

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