Anticipating Easter With a Gospel Mindset
Wednesday, Mar. 6 was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent, which—after forty days—will culminate with the celebration of Easter. As a young person, I could not have told you what Lent was except to say it was “some Catholic thing.” I was partly right. Lent is observed by the Roman Catholic church, which has historically taught that fasting, self-denial, and other acts of devotion during this season are ways of gaining favor with God.
Understandably, early Protestant reformers who went to the stake on the conviction that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, would have nothing to do with the practice. Still, for centuries, many of the mainline Protestant denominations following the liturgical church calendar observe the season. More recently, a growing number of non-liturgical evangelical churches have introduced Lent into the rhythm of their congregational life. A 2017 Christianity Today article entitled “What’s the Deal with Lent?” and a 2014 article published by The Gospel Coalition entitled “Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent” offer more insight into this discussion.
Whether or not you choose to observe Lent, my earnest hope is that we would each take time to contemplate the death and resurrection of Christ in these days leading up to Easter. At Christmastime, the world gives some help anticipating and celebrating the advent of our Savior. Yet, there is little cultural emphasis on preparing to remember that dark day when Christ “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” and that glorious day marking his victory over the grave and our “living hope…[and] inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us]” (1 Pet. 2:24; 1:3-4).
I spent thirty-three years of my adult life in a church that acknowledged this season by placing seven large candles on stands in the front of the sanctuary. On the first Sunday, one of the candles was snuffed out, and each of the following Sundays another candle went dark until Good Friday when the last candle lost its light. When we arrived on Easter Sunday all the candles were once again burning bright with light. This tradition was a simple but helpful way to silence the distractions of the world and focus my mind and heart (at least for those ninety minutes) on the events that mean everything to all who are in Christ.
During this season, such traditions also help center our children’s hearts on Christ. Seven candles can be as meaningful on the dinner table at home as they are at church. Noël Piper created a candle tradition called Lentin Lights that she and John established as their children were growing up in their home.
Personally, I can hardly wait to watch my grandchildren cuddle with their grandma while she reads to them from her new book, published by Truth78, that just released in time for Easter, The World Created, Fallen, Redeemed, and Restored. I would also recommend resources such as:
As a husband, father, and grandfather, one of the best ways to help my wife, children, and grandchildren be mindful of Christ during this season is to center my own heart and mind on Christ in some fresh and intentional way. Last year, I memorized Isaiah 53 and began what I hope will be an annual tradition of reciting it at least daily during Lent. Another resource I use during Lent is, “50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die,” a devotional by John Piper. I also find that listening to messages like “The Gallows and the Gift of Life,” “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell,” and “The Scream of the Damned” helps me contemplate our Savior’s death.
Whatever steps we take, may the Lord bless us and keep us and our families near the cross as we consider the horror of our sin and hope of the gospel through our victorious and resurrected Christ.