The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. Acts 17:30 ESV
The 40-day period before Easter, known as Lent, emerged shortly following the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The word “Lent” has Germanic roots referring to the “lengthening” of days or springtime. In the Gospels, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness to fast and pray. This event was one of the factors that inspired the final length of Lent. During Lent Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ. The 40-day period is marked through fasting and repentance. Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022, until Easter, April 17, 2022.
Lent is a period of consecration and repentance. It is a period to avoid self-indulgence to focus on repentance of one’s sins. The Greek word translated “repentance” in the New Testament means “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude regarding sin and righteousness.” Repentance is looking at something that you did in the past, recognizing that it was sinful—that it broke God’s good and beneficial laws—and concluding you need to change for the better.
Repentance is the result of an inward conviction of our sinfulness and an earnest desire to draw closer to God in Spirit and in truth. It is the soul’s response to God’s invitation to live a Holy Spirit-filled life. Repentance does not make one perfect, but it is part of the perfecting process that is required for holiness. Confession of sin and reparation of wrongs are fruits of repentance.
In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church's integrity problem is in the misconception "that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior." He goes on to say, "It is revival without reformation, without repentance." Quoted by C. Swindoll, John the Baptizer, Bible Study Guide, p. 16.
In today’s text, Paul is proclaiming the gospel to the people of Athens at a meeting of the Areopagus. He reminded them of the power and holiness of God and exhorted them to repent because God was not going to overlook their trespasses due to ignorance. I’ve discovered people only feign ignorance when they don’t want to repent. Indeed, we tend to have spiritual amnesia when we want to indulge in our sinfulness. Yet because of God’s grace and mercy, we are afforded the opportunity to be restored into a right relationship with God through repentance.
As we begin this period of Lent, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts for any hidden and unconfessed sin so we can repent earnestly. Unconfessed sin is like cancer cells that spread the longer they remain undetected. We can only have a relationship of loving union with God through spiritual cleansing. That cleansing begins with repentance.
Christianity is more than just a religion. It is a spiritual path to a spiritual encounter with God that transforms our sinful nature into a Spirit-filled personality. The goal of the believer is not to be religious, but to become Christ-centered and holiness-focused. God is transforming us into His image so the world can see Him in us and return to Him in repentance.
Whereas Lent is defined by fasting from food, may I encourage you to fast in the following ways as well:
· Fast from hurting words and saying kind words.
· Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
· Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
· Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
· Fast from worries and have trust in God.
· Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
· Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
· Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
· Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
· Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
· Fast from words and be silent so you can listen to God with your heart.
Questions for Personal Reflection
What hidden and unconfessed sin do you need to repent from?
Why is repentance such an important spiritual practice?
Prayer- Most Holy and All-Wise God, I repent of any and all unconfessed sins. May your Holy Spirit search my heart and bring to my remembrance any sin I have committed that needs to be confessed. Please do a deep spiritual cleansing of my soul so that I may draw closer to you in Spirit and in truth.