What does the Bible say about Lent? Nothing – absolutely nothing. Lent is purely an invention of man. It’s never mentioned in the Bible. So why not practice Lent? Surely there is nothing wrong with it and perhaps it can even be beneficial – so why not?
While there is no specific mention of Lent in the Bible, there is a fundamental Bible principle which can help us evaluate it. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9) Paul also warned against religious practices which, “Are after the doctrines and commandments of men.” (Colossians 2:20-23) Lent being a religious practice of man, not God, is therefore vain. In this same passage Paul further condemned things which: “Have a shew indeed of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body.” (Colossians 2:23) Lent certainly fits into this category: it has a certain show of wisdom else why would men practice it; it is “will worship,” that is, self-chosen rather than God authorized; furthermore it does suggest a certain humility in the ascetic practice of giving up something for God – perhaps even the neglecting of the body. The problem is it is not a part of God’s plan.
Christians should give their attention to things God has authorized rather than inventing their own religious practices.
The Bible makes it clear that there are two important sides to living right – the negative side and the positive side. Isaiah one of the great Old Testament prophets put it this way to his generation: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17) In order to live a life that is pleasing to God there are some things we must not do and there are some things we must do. There is a negative and a positive side to right living.
But again the Bible makes it clear that there are two other important sides to right living – the inside and the outside. James one of the writers in the New Testament put it this way: “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8) We must work on our outward life but also on our inner life. And actually the two complement each other.
Paul arrived at Corinth and as was his custom he preached that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:1-11) “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8) This is in accordance with Jesus’ instruction to the apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) These Corinthians heard the gospel preached, believed and were baptized. Therefore according to Jesus’ promise they were saved.
In this Bible story of the conversion of the Corinthians there is a conspicuous absence of the “Sinner’s Prayer.” We are told that the many of the Corinthians believed and were baptized but nothing is said about the “Sinner’s Prayer.” In fact the Sinner’s Prayer is not found in any of the stories of conversion in the Bible. In Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost the people were told to “Repent, and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38) The people of Samaria “believed” and “were baptized.” (Acts 8:12) Cornelius and his house were commanded “to be baptized.” (Acts 10:48) Lydia after hearing Paul teach, “was baptized and her household.” Acts 16:14-15) The Jailer at Philippi, after Paul and Silas had spoken unto him the word of the Lord, was baptized in the middle of the night. (Acts 16:31-34) And finally Saul of Tarsus was told, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) In none of these Bible accounts of conversion is the Sinner’s Prayer even mentioned.
From where than did the Sinner’s Prayer come? It’s the invention of modern religious teachers. It’s not in the Bible and therefore should be rejected…
The Prophet Isaiah wrote of the moral and religious corruption of his day in these words: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) What the prophet had to say of his generation could well be a description of our own politically correct culture.
For example, in our pluralistic society it is not politically correct to condemn another’s religion. Jesus taught very clearly that He is: “The way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) The Apostle Peter said of Christ: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) And yet if we boldly proclaim this truth today, we are condemned as being intolerant and narrow minded.
And then again in the moral realm the scriptures are very clear in its condemnation of homosexual practices. (See Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10) And yet if anyone speaks out against this sin, they are condemned and labeled homophobic.
Yes, we live in a time like Isaiah’s time in which the world, “Calls evil good, and good evil.”