The Case For Lent: Our Sin Finds Its Home Not On Us But In The Cross

In my conversations over the last several weeks I have had several visits with people who have shared with me what they are giving up for Lent. Some are giving up the internet, some are giving up certain foods and others are giving up certain practices.

I have also noticed a back lash against the Lent Season.  I noticed a comment on Facebook where a friend said that he was giving up Lent for Lent Season.

It seems to me that there is confusion over Lent. Is Lent merely a time for us to externally give things up? Is Lent a time for us to manufacture a rain cloud over ourselves for the next 40 days while taking anti-depressant pills?

In Joel 2:12-19 the Prophet Joel declares the Words of God to Jerusalem. He calls them to Return to God; to return in repentance, in sorrow for their sin.

The reality is that for each and every one of us, we are prone to wander and prone to leave the God we love. We daily choose sin, we turn away from God and his Holy perfect will. It was no different for Jerusalem some 3000 years ago. Jerusalem would wander, would run, would chase down their own desire and choose self over God; thus they would sin. God though called them to return. He is calling them to return home!

You see, God pursued and chose Israel. He gave them the promise of the Gospel. He claimed them. However, they would always run. God is calling them to return home to where they belong. However, he calls them to return to him with fasting and with weeping and with mourning. These are external signs of sorrow. He is calling them to return and to rip their garments. But why the sorrow? He is wanting them to return to him with sorrow for their rebellion, and sorrow for their wandering.

This Lent Season God is calling for us to return. The calling still echoes for us today. He is calling us to return with repentance.

What do we typically do with this calling of a repentant turning? As human beings we build a defense against God and can easily go through the emotions and do the outward actions! Woe is me! I will give up this and I will give up that in order to externally show how sorrowful I am. We guard ourselves from the pain of internal sorrow and redirect our repentance to outward actions. If it isn’t this, we say to ourselves on the opposite extreme, “Ash Wednesday is just too negative and I don’t think we need to be that hard on ourselves.”

God calls the people of Jerusalem to not only return with external remorse but a remorse that is internal. He is calling us to contemplate our sin, to let the law of God humble our pride. God’s law is to lead us to contrition, a broken heart. True repentance is being appalled at sin, our own sin. True repentance happens as the Law of God penetrates through our defenses and slays our sinful nature at the core, rendering us powerless and guilty.

So, this Lent Season we are to consider our sinfulness. But are we to be left in a morbid downer mood? God calls Israel to consider their sin, to not merely wrestle outwardly with their sin, an external repentance if you will. But God wants to cut through all the stuff of mankind and wants to hit each and every one of us at the core of our being so that we come to terms with our condition of sin. But, the question remains, are we left in this sorrow?

Keep in mind that God calls Israel to “return to Him” with sorrow. He is calling them to come unto him, to come home with their sin. It is the same for us! “So Pastor Matt, I need to ponder my sin so that I can be sorrowful and then go to God with my repentance and sorrow in exchange for God’s forgiveness?” No. This way of thinking is seeing everything backwards. This line of reasoning makes Forgiveness into a man-made exchange. God doesn’t exchange His forgiveness for our repentance. Rather God forgives because of who He is. It is in God’s nature to forgive, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. This call to return to God is a gracious invitation! We daily are called by His Word, we are wooed by God’s word to come unto Him for he is gracious and forgiving. We are called to consider our sin precisely because God is a God who forgives sin! God’s word calls out to us to come, to approach God with sorrow, with sin, with torn hearts! The reason being, God will not despise nor reject a person with a broken spirit. God will not cast off a person with a crushed, torn down, wrecked and crippled heart full of sin. The reason being? God loves us when we do not deserve it. He is gracious. His heart is warm with mercy for sinners. He is compassionate. Even though often provoked he does not let his wrath flame up and destroy us. He is slow to anger. This is all possible because of Jesus the Christ. He who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf. Jesus came for sinners. The Gospel is for sinners. Return, believe, trust, know, rest in the Gospel that says to you, “My dear wandering child full of conflict and sin, your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. You can endure the awesome day of the Lord for Jesus turned away God’s wrath and judgment for you.”

As we contemplate our sinfulness this Lent season we do so knowing that our sin finds its home not on us, but on Christ’s Cross. Contemplating the extent of our sin problem, only makes the Good News sweeter still. Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return, but remember more the Cross. You have been marked and purchased by the Redeemer and belong to Him.


My family and I are transitioning from the Southern Baptist (SB) denomination to Lutheran LCMS. I have to say I really don't get Lent. Aren't Lutherans confronted with their sin often in the liturgy by the confession and absolution. It seems Lent is almost saying "you haven't focused enough on your sin." My greatest fear in this transition to Lutheranism is I'm going to trade one form of legalism for another. I don't mean this in a confrontational way... but it is my greatest fear. I don't want to trade the stripes I have now as a SB for another list of do's and don'ts... or this has to be observed or you're not serious. It's as if Lutheranism has this really "Happy theology" that accentuates the "Good News" and "It is finished" then out of nowhere your left feeling as if there are a new set of requirements. Is it "finished" or not PM.
I love your website by the way!
Hey Mitchell!

Good to hear from you my friend. To answer your question... "Law & Gospel!"

Within Lutheranism you should daily hear the Law to convict you of sin. This is a good thing! It only becomes a problem when the pastor fails to give the Gospel. It becomes a problem because Law without the absolving Gospel will lead to either Pride or Despair.

I can't guarantee that every Lutheran Pastor will rightly divide Law and Gospel! Thus I encourage you to search and listen carefully. If the Law is used to convict the hearer of sin but the pastor then applies Law as a solution to the sin problem... RUN my friend! :-) Only the Gospel Absolves!

The following is a great segment in order for you to diagnosis sermons as you are looking for a church home:

Oh, as far as Lent? Lent is one part of the Church calendar! The Church Calendar is very uncommon to Evangelicalism. However, when you take Lent in the whole context of the church calendar it is really powerful! We confess our sins daily and hear the Gospel daily, though Lent is a special time for us to consider our condition as we anticipate Good Friday and Easter.

One last thought. Check out the following sermon titled, "Confessions Of A Former Evangelical." A very powerful sermon!