The Pen

The Unofficial Shepherds’ Conference Guide To Lent

And he [Jesus] said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! Mark 7:9

In my conversation with him, I used the word “papist.”  He nodded and tossed out the altogether appropriate synonym of “Romish.”

Despite the obvious associations of Lent with the apostate religion that blasphemously oozes from the noxious throne on the shores of the Tiber, the observation of Lent has become, as with so many ecumenical cravings of former “protestants,” a tacitly accepted tradition increasingly embraced within the “can’t downgrade fast enough” world of evangelicalism.  If it’s “Romish,” evangelicals are encouraged to embrace it.  With Lent, the encouraging embrace isn’t subtle, but outright.

Polemics Report featured a story, To Lent or ReLent, that highlighted the ongoing fascination of ecumenism and cultural embrace by The (We Don’t Proclaim The) Gospel Coalition.  If it’s trendy with sufficient hipster appeal and cultural adoration (they call it “engaging the culture” with the noble, but absent, ambition of “contextualizing” the Gospel to it), you can be sure TGC will be putting it in a pretty box slathered with Christianese and endorsed by its lofty array of evangelical intelligentsia that crave worldly approval.

(I mean, really, Christians should find truth from a pagan self-help guru or find spiritual value in the decadence of the Oscars?  Methinks that if Jesus isn’t weeping again, He’s certainly sharpening His sword of judgment, an instrument of divine justice that has yet been unwielded only because of His sovereign display of patience while His Word goes ignored and His faith left uncontended.)

The SBC (which, depending on the particular seeker-sensitive or ecumenical novelty of the moment, means either Surely Becoming Catholic or Surely Becoming Charismatic) also is found endorsing Lent, an observation nowhere taught in Scripture.  The Ethics And Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) released an article, Fasting and Feasting During Lent, that doesn’t (of course) reinforce the sufficiency of Scripture or give an explanation for the lack of exhortation from the Holy Writ for believers to engage in Lent.  Instead, the ERLC article gives an “It’s up to you” response to whether Lent is for believers because, well, like everything else in the SBC, the faith once delivered is only good if it’s good for you.  Fold, spindle, mutilate, and adjust it to your liking.  Jesus is love, after all … He won’t mind. (Previous italicized text typed using the implied “sarcasm” font … FYI)

The influential Southern Baptist pastor Matt Chandler (who has exhibited his own disregard for the sufficiency of Scripture by embracing the continuation of apostolic “gifts.”) featured a Lent Guide on The Village Church’s website.  You can read a proper response to that HERE.

LifeWay Research released the results of their “Giving Up For Lent” survey earlier this month.  The research arm of the SBC affiliate reported on February 15 that while 75% of Americans don’t observe Lent, among those who do, the overwhelming majority are (insert your favorite adjective for “nonplussed” here) Roman Catholic (61%).   Protestants come in with a tally of 20% and “those holding evangelical beliefs” report in at 28%.

The LifeWay Research article goes on, though, to rank what most observers of Lent are most likely to give up or most likely to do during the Lentin season.  On the “what I give up for Lent” question, the predominant answer was to “fast from a favorite food or beverage,” which ranked at 57%.  Coming in a tie with the jettisoning of favorite food/drink  was a “what I do during Lent” answer of “attend church services.”  Worshipping God is equal to giving up one’s Big Mac or Slurpee, presumably.

Having the privilege of being at the Shepherd’s Conference this week, I was quite aware of the overwhelming presence of ash-free foreheads wandering the campus of Grace Church and Masters Seminary on Wednesday.  Of the more than 5,000 pastors gathered from every state the U.S. and from more than 60 countries, I was amazed to encounter an amazing total of …. wait for it … ZERO who bore ash-smeared foreheads.  ZERO.  None.  As in, nobody.  Zilch.  Hmmm.  It was clear to me that these pastors are, indeed, more interested in “preaching Christ,” than portraying personal piety by ash-crossed foreheads in observance of a papal-promoted, but Scripture-void, behavior.

I did hear one suggestion for Lent.  Dr. Nathan Busenitz, in his breakout seminar on Sola Scriptura, made an introductory remark regarding the annual papist initiative.  His was a simple, but advisable, suggestion for Roman Catholics who wanted to give up something in their observation of Lent.  His recommendation?  “Give up Roman Catholicism.”

It was, however, another Grace To You stalwart who gave the best advice on Lent. He actually did me the favor of documenting his suggestion and texting it to me late last night.  It is, of course, not an “official” guide to Lent from the Shepherds’ Conference.  It’s not authorized by John MacArthur or Grace Community Church or … but I’m betting they agree completely with the pithy guide to practicing Lent that Phil Johnson provided.

When it comes to the “Romish” observation of Lent, I’ve joined Phil Johnson in his mode of participating in Lent.  And, based on the 5,000 + pastors at Shepcon, it’s this same form of observation that most “abiding in my Word” (John 8:31) disciples are showing.

We don’t need Romish traditions.  We shun papist piety.  Many of us are still actually “protesting.”  And for good reason.  An apostle actually teaches us from whence the authentic fountain of Christian piety gushes forth … the infallible, inerrant, authoritative, and SUFFICIENT Word of God.  Skip the ash.  Leap beyond Lent.  Look to “the more sure Word.”

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  2 Peter 1:19  (For full effect, though, please read all of 2 Peter 1:3-21)

Then, of course, when it comes to the Christian life and obedience, Jesus gave us the most direct instruction on what we must deny in order to be His disciples.  It’s a denial that isn’t earmarked on a calendar.  It’s a by-product of Spirit-induced regeneration that drives us.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Matthew 16:24

Protest on, folks. Five hundred years haven’t been nearly enough.


H/T – Phil Johnson

[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]