Preface: What is Lent?
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the very heart of Christianity. The good news of the gospel is that God has acted in history to conquer evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For those who have been united with this Jesus – who have submitted to Him as savior and Lord – have been united with Him in the likeness of His death and will one day be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Lent, therefore, is about living out of our union with, and identity in, Christ. Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.
On the Christian calendar, Lent (from Latin, meaning “fortieth”) is the forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday. Sundays themselves are not counted in these forty days, as they are generally set aside as days of renewal and celebration (“mini-Easters” of sorts).
The number forty carries great biblical significance based on: the forty days of rain Noah and his family endured in the flood, the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, the forty days Jesus spent on the earth after his resurrection, and so much more. Forty days has been used by God to represent a period of trial, testing, and preparation.
Likewise, Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate the death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday) of Jesus. It is this very preparation and repentance – aimed at grasping the intense significance of the crucifixion – that gives us a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection, the joy of Easter.
As the title of this devotional suggests, Lent is a journey to the cross: meditating on our sin and weakness, looking to Jesus as our perfect example and substitute, and being heightened in our worship of his victory over Satan, sin, and death. On the cross, Jesus took our place to appease God’s righteous anger toward our sin and rebellion. He was separated from God so that we could experience union with God. He was crushed by God so that we could be adopted by God. He was raised with God so that we too might be raised with God. The drama of how this unfolded is the story of Lent.
The journey of Lent is to immerse ourselves in this grand story so that it might increase our appreciation of Easter and love for Jesus. May we mourn the darkness in our hearts and rejoice in the light of God who came into the world to save us!
Introduction: How to Use This Book
This book is a devotional guide for the season of Lent. Each day consists of Scripture readings, meditations, reflection questions, and prayers—all aimed toward directing your heart to God and deepening your understanding of the events that led to Easter.
Each week of the devotional is focused on a different theme: repentance, humility, suffering, lament, sacrifice, and death. Although not exclusive to Lent, these themes capture the content and tone of the season. They point us to Jesus, and to put it simply: Lent is about Jesus. Our aim is to reflect meaningfully on his journey to the cross, so that we might take up our cross and follow him.
The themes are built out as you go through the week, and every day will follow a distinct pattern ...
Call to Worship
Worship starts with God. He calls us into his presence, and we respond by coming before him in faith. Each day in this guide begins with a Call to Worship, which is generally a Scripture reading or Psalm that directs our focus to God as the initiator of our salvation and our Covenant Lord. Our Lenten journey must begin and end with God.
As we consider the greatness of a holy God and experience his presence in our lives, we are mindful of our sin and idolatry. God does not turn us away, but invites us to confess our sins and be cleansed. This is a normal rhythm of worship, but during Lent we have a heightened sense of desperation in this regard. Use these moments each day, not merely reciting lines on a page, but as a way to walk humbly before God and deepen your desire to live in the light with him.
This section of the guide is made up of three things: 1) GOSPEL READINGS follow the narrative of Jesus’ own journey to the cross from the gospel according to Mark. 2) DEVOTIONAL thoughts touch on some aspect of that week’s theme. Engage these sections with a spirit of submissiveness to God’s Word and openness to his grace. 3) REFLECTION questions relate to the devotional. Use these to press the truths of the gospel deeper into your heart and wider into your life. How is God speaking to you, and how do you want to respond?
Using the words from various liturgical resources, these prayers close each day as an added way to commune with God and express your desire to be transformed by his Spirit.
A word about Sundays: Sundays in Lent are intended as a foretaste of Easter Sunday— they are “mini-Easters.” This guide includes professions (statements) of faith in Christ and hymns about his resurrection on each Sunday in order to allow you to rest, reflect, and rejoice. When Sunday comes each week, feast on these great truths with much joy and celebration in your heart.
A word about fasting: Traditionally, Lent is a time when we fast, or give things up. When we deny ourselves familiar comforts, we learn something powerful about our weaknesses, our needs, and our deepest longing for God. Fasting is a tangible, physical activity that points to our spiritual longing to be rooted in Jesus alone and find our true comfort and joy in him. Consider how you might meaningfully engage in the discipline of fasting this Lenten season as a supplement to this guide.
Lastly, a pastoral encouragement: Our God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Give yourself to Him this Lenten season through meditation, preparation, and repentance. Your reward will be the same as that of Jesus: the overwhelming joy of Easter resurrection. May you be renewed in your love and affection for him!
All biblical quotations taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Journey to the Cross: Readings & Devotions for Lent © 2013 by Providence Church. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from Providence Church.
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Cover design by Andrew Shepherd. Book design by Kendal Haug.
Special thanks to Melanie Hebert, Todd Stewman, and Laura Szymanski for their invaluable contributions in editing and writing.