February 21, 2016     Matthew 4     Lent


   What do you think about lent in general?   As far as the word goes we think of loaning something or to lend something.   But what do we think of the word Lent as it relates Christians and to the Easter season?   I suspect that we think of it as a time to give up something or to sacrifice.  Generally speaking we do not like to sacrifice nor do we like to deprive ourselves.   It is probably something that we avoid.  We know it is there and we leave it there.   Sometimes the things we want to avoid we should embrace.  I guess I have avoided it in a sense because I have never preached on lent before and I found that there were some things that I did not know about it.    I learned some new things about it and I found that it was interesting also. 

     So I started out by finding our when lent started for this year 2016.  It started on February 10th which is Ash Wednesday.  What in the world is Ash Wednesday?   Backers Dictionary of Theology says the first day of lent the traditional 40 day fast days before Easter.  The title derives from the discipline in the ancient Roman Church of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents with a view to their being restored to communion at Easter.  That does remind me of sack cloth and ashes that we read about from time to time in the OT.  Bakers continues the Serum Missal contained a service for the blessing of the ashes which were intended to be a mark of humiliation, contrition, and mourning.   So Lent in those days started with a service of blessing the ashes and was preparation of God’s people for Easter.   It was a time of humility and drawing near to Jesus. 

    Now it is supposed to last 40 days so I checked the calendar and 40 days from February 10th ends on March 20th which is Palm Sunday.  I always thought it ended more at Easter time frame.  Does anybody know what is up with that?    It is 6 or 7 days short.   So I went to my 5 volume set of Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible and looked up the word Lent.   The word lent is not in the bible dictionary.  Why?   Lent is not in the bible but the word lent is in the bible.  According to my Strong’s concordance which has every word in the bible in it lent is used 7 times in the OT King James version.  It is used twice in I Samuel 1:28 where Hannah gives Samuel to the Lord.  The King James uses the word lent and the NIV writes so now I give him to the Lord.  It is very powerful to give children to the Lord.  I was given to the Lord around the time of my birth.  That is perhaps the most important thing my mother did for me out side of giving me life.  Hannah gave Samuel to the Lord and Samuel was a very important prophet, priest and judge in Israel’s history. 

    Then I went out on the internet and to Backers Dictionary of Theology and looked up Lent.  Baker wrote The 40 days of fasting immediately preceding or before Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter Eve.   The 40 days do not include the 6 Sundays which are feast days.  It seems likely that in the early centuries the fast was one of 40 hours as part of the preparation of candidates for Easter baptism.   Not until much later (7th century) did the 40 day period become universally recognized to honor our Lord’s fast in the wilderness.  It is a time of abstinence, almsgiving, and acts of devotion.   Lent is intended to serve as a preparation for the Easter Festival.   It is derived from an old English word - Lenckten - meaning the “spring”.   So Easter Sunday is the time to celebrate.   It is before Easter Sunday that we prepare.    Easter is not a time to prepare that is when we celebrate.   Lent ends on Saturday.   We just mentioned the illustration of Good Friday by Philip Yancey and Easter Sunday but we live on Saturday.   We live on Saturday the day between.  The 6 Sundays are not counted in the 40 days so Lent concludes on Saturday before Easter Sunday. 

         Lent is the time for Christians to prepare for Easter.  We get a sense of why the word Lent is used.   Lent means to give.  The word lent means to loan.   Lent season is a time to repent.  It is the time to see ourselves as the poor tax collector who would not lift up his eyes to heaven but beat on his breast and poured out his soul praying God have mercy on me.  It is not the time to be like the Pharisee who was smug.  Jesus said the Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: about himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  Jesus said the tax collector was justified.  Lent is a season that we think about what James wrote in chapter 4.   Submit yourselves, then, to God.    Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.    Come near to God and he will come near to you.   Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   Grieve, mourn and wail.   Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.   Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.   We do not spend all of our time doing that but there3 are times to do that. 

   Lent is the time for us to put away the things of the world.  In first John 2we read do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.    For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.    The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  All that stuff in the world is going to go away. 

    Lent should remind us of our new life in Christ.  The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.   It should remind us of Jesus.   We put off the things of the world and we put on Jesus.  We give up the things of the world to draw near to Jesus.  We say no to our flesh.  We say yes to worship.    It can remind us to look back on the times that we walked in the ways of the world and how that turned into ashes.   We can remember how empty the world had left us and how vain the world is.  It is a time of soul searching and repenting.  It is the time to renew our passion for God and renew our faith.  It is time to remember our first love of Jesus and to renew that commitment to Jesus.  It is time to put off sin.  None of us have anything to do with when we are born and little to do with when we die.   But it is these moments in between Good Friday representing our new life and Easter that we ask does our lives have meaning?  If you give each day to God your life has meaning. 

   One person writes Lent is therefore radically about new birth.  It is an invitation to faith and to enter into a deeper appreciation of salvation.    Lent is to pass through the ashes of trial and temptation and tribulation and enter into pardon, forgiveness, blessing and alms.   To go from sack cloth and ashes to grave clothes covered with frankincense and myrrh. Does our faith have value?   Are our hands like Jesus’ nailed pierced hands reaching out to invite and encourage those who are in need?   Do our feet like Jesus’ nail pierced feet take us to serve the least, the last, the lost? 

    A. W. Tozer wrote the following, “A real Christian is an odd number anyway.  He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen, talks in a familiar way every day to someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst.     He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passes knowledge.”   The person who lives like that will have joy.   They will persevere and press on.  

    And Lent should remind us of Jesus.  We take time to think about all that Jesus gave up to save us.   There are wonderful passages on Jesus in the bible.  I would recommend that you spend some time in prayer and thanksgiving in Isaiah 53 and Philippians 2.       Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus made himself nothing became a servant and humbled himself to die on a cross.  It is an amazing thought that God became flesh and then Jesus was cursed by God because of my sin.  Bakers Dictionary said around the 7th century the 40 day period became universally recognized to honor our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. 

     The gospel of Mark makes it quite forceful.   The King James says the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.  The Living Bible says urged and the Revised Standard bible says the Spirit immediately drove him.  There is more than one way to look at that.  .Jesus is out in the desert all alone.   It is hot and dry. We think of deserts as warm but in the day time it can get to 120 or 130 degrees and then at night drop to 70 or 80 degrees.   It can be tough on the body to have those 50 degree drops of temperature.  Those 70 to 80 degree nights are cold.  Jesus is out with the wild animals.  Jesus is out there for 40 days.   That is difficult.   The natural body at that point would be very open for temptation and desiring food.    I suspect the body is hungry to the point that a person would do almost anything to get food.   There must have been the feeling of being desperate for food.   As soon as Jesus started ministering it was all out war.  He was in the battle.  Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights and then he was hungry and then the Satan comes to tempt, to test, and to beat him up.     

    Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way like we are yet without sin.   Temptation is not sin.    Satan appeals to Jesus in 3 ways in this passage.   Satan hit Jesus as hard as he could and Jesus stood true.  When Satan left him in verse 11 the angels came and ministered to him.  It is a good possibility that if you have experienced angels ministering to you that you have been in the battle.    The test was deep and very real.   The test was personal and it was right where Jesus was at.  He was hungry so Satan hit Jesus with food.    God made provision for Jesus for angels came to minister to Him.   In our greatest trials God is there meeting needs and helping.   He will never leave or forsake us.   He wraps his arms around us in tenderness and love.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those that trust him and delivers them.  

      It is interesting that Jesus the word of God uses the word of God to defeat Satan.  It is very encouraging that there is power in the word of God.   Jesus soundly defeats Satan using the word of God.  The word of God is powerful.   Jesus spoke truth to Satan.   Satan spoke to Jesus to tempt him.   Satan will speak to you.  Satan can speak words to people in a church.   Satan can stir things up.  Satan says Jesus turn these stones into bread.    Jesus told the enemy that man shall not live by bread alone.  In John 4 Jesus said I have meat to eat that you do not know about.  His meat was obedience to God and to minister to others.   Jesus did not fool around with Satan.    Jesus spoke the truth to Satan.   It is amazing that God allowed his son to go hungry and to struggle with Satan.  The desert can make or break a person.   Temptation can make or break a person.  I would say the person that struggles is the one who can really appreciate Easter.  It is the one who has struggled with sin that appreciates the victory.  It’s an awesome thing that God has done for us and it is the wise person who meditates and gives thanks for salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation.    

      God can never make me wine if I object to the fingers he uses to crush me. If God would only crush me with his own fingers and say, “Now, my son, I am going to make you broken bread and poured-out wine in a particular way, and everyone will know what I am doing.” But when he uses someone who is not a Christian, or someone I particularly dislike, or some set of circumstances that I said I would never submit to, and begins to make these the crushers, I object.

I must never choose the scene of my own martyrdom; nor must I choose the things God will use to make me broken bread and poured-out wine. His own Son did not choose. God chose for his Son that he should have a devil in his company for three years. We say, “I want angels; I want people better than myself; I want everything to be significantly from God; otherwise I cannot live the life or do the thing properly; I always want to be gilt-edged.”

    Let God do as he likes. If you are ever going to be wine to drink, you must be crushed. Grapes cannot be drunk; grapes are only wine when they have been crushed. I wonder what kind of coarse finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine that came out would have been remarkably bitter.   Let God go on with his crushing, because it will work his purpose in the end.   — Oswald Chambers, So Send I You (Discovery House, 1993)   Isaiah 53   Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.  He poured out his life unto death.  He bore the sin of many.