History of Lent

Do you celebrate Lent?

The first record of early Christians started observing Lent probably in about 325AD following the Council of Nicea. (The Council of Nicea also developed the Nicean creed. This creed has become foundational in many reformed theology churches even today. Search for it yourself to read it.) However, Christians were likely practicing lent as early as the second century.

The genesis of lent comes from the desire to engage in some type of fasting in an effort to honor and remember Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights in the desert without food (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13). Lent is a 40-day period before Easter where Christians choose to fast as a way of spiritual reflection and repentance. Early observance of lent was often dictated by the local church advising congregants what to fast from and when. Over time, the idea of “giving something up” became, and still is the central idea behind this observance.

5 main ideas about fasting we can learn from the Bible

  1. 40 days is a common length of time in the Bible. Moses fasted for 40 days when he was with the Lord composing the 10 commandments (Exodus 34:28), and Jesus fasted for 40 days when he was in the desert being tempted by the devil (see above for references). This 40 day time period prior to Easter is meant as a time for Spiritual reflection and repentance.
  2. In the Old Testament, fasting is often done when crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy or guidance (Ezra 8:23, Psalm 69:10).
  3. In the New Testament, Jesus warns us not to fast in a boasting fashion for others to see (Matt 6:16-18), but to do it “in secret” for our own spiritual benefit.
  4. There are appropriate times to fast and inappropriate times to fast (Matt 9:14-17).
  5. Fasting is often done as a part of worship (Acts 13:2, Acts 14:23)

To summarize, fasting in the Bible was a common practice. The purpose of it was to commune with God in a deeper way for mercy or guidance. Lastly, it was an act of spiritual worship solely between man and God.

Practical Applications with Fasting

Did you know that the word “breakfast” comes from break fast? We break our overnight fast with breakfast! The word fast simply means abstaining from food. Fasting in The Bible is done for spiritual purposes. The question for us today is, how can we practice fasting in a way that honors God?

There isn’t a right way

First, it is important to know that we don’t need to follow a certain set of rules in order to fast. There is not a “right” way to fast. This is important so that we don’t let our culture’s views of fasting influence how we decide to do it. If you decide you want to participate in Lent, consider what you might want to fast from that would be helpful for your specific situation. The idea of fasting for 40 days, may help you to become spiritually ready for Easter, but I don’t recommend fasting from all food for 40 days.

Find the right motivation

Second, we have seen examples of fasting in the Bible leading to a deeper dependance and trust in God. It is important that we keep this our motivation for fasting. Be careful that you aren’t secretly hoping for weight loss with your fasting. Having the wrong motivations can prevent you from gaining the spiritual benefits we have seen in the Bible. When our physical bodies become weak for a time, we may be able to hear more clearly from the Lord.

Clear away idols

Third, practically, I have seen food or certain types of foods or drinks (ie sugar, wine, etc.) become idols in my own life and in the lives of many people I work with. When we have idols, they start to take over our desires. Did you know that? Idols can diminish our self-control and begin to control us. Periodically, we may want to take inventory and assess, are there any foods or drinks that have become idols in our lives? If so, it may be helpful to abstain from eating or drinking those foods for a time.

I hope you found this article a helpful resource in your journey to finding freedom and joy in eating with a purpose! I would love to support you. Please reach out and let me know how I can help. Blessings, Jenn



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