It is impossible to overstate our need for a Savior.
So many of the direct instructions God gives his people in his word—from the communion table to the frequent calls not to fear—come down to a call to remember. Remember and do not forget. Remember who God is. Remember what Christ has done. Remember how sin and separation from our Maker has been addressed. Remember how salvation has been accomplished.
When we see our desperate need for salvation through the lens of a cross and an empty tomb, we are reminded that nothing we cling to for security outside of Christ himself can offer us any real or lasting hope.
One way the Lord stirred the mind and imaginations of his people in the Old Testament to remember him was through the calendar. From the weekly Sabbath to the annual feasts and festivals like Pentecost and Passover, God put his peoples’ salvation history onto a calendar, making it part of the rhythm of their lives.
One of the ways Christians today continue this practice is by using a liturgical calendar. The liturgical calendar dedicates certain seasons of the year to certain parts of the old, old story of how God chose to call and keep His people. Lent is one of those seasons.
Observing Lent is not as a biblical requirement. Christians are free to observe it and they are free not to. Lent was developed a few hundred years into the history of the early Church for the purposes of facilitating repentance and remembrance in preparation for Holy Week, the week marked to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus.
People observe Lent in a few ways. Some focus their Scripture reading and prayer during this season on the sacrifice of Christ. Some attend special worship services like Ash Wednesday, during which they are reminded that they come from the dust and to the dust they shall return, and Good Friday, during which they remember Christ’s suffering and bury their hearts in the dark story only Easter morning can redeem. Some people fast or abstain from things they enjoy to experience even a small measure of self-denial in order to better relate to the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice.
If you are looking for something to read during this season of Lent, I recommend following along with She Reads Truth’s and He Reads Truth’s Lenten study of Isaiah. Isaiah tells about how invading armies took the people of Israel into captivity. Whatever hope God’s people had put in their homeland was gone. All they had left to appeal to was the God of their fathers. All they could hope for was that God would intervene and save them.
The story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection reminds us that this salvation is all any of us can hope for—if we are to be saved, God must be the one to do it. Lent is a season to focus our prayer, fasting, worship, and Scripture reading on how God has done this in the finished work of Christ.