Gary Zimak

It’s hard to believe, but Lent is upon us. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we were enjoying the warmth of the summer sun or looking forward to Christmas?

Now, it’s suddenly time to head into the desert and walk with Jesus as he prepares to carry his cross, die and rise from the dead. The first recorded words of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel remind us that, ready or not, it’s time to make a decision: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).

Even if you have already chosen what you will be giving up (or doing) for Lent, I recommend that you take a close look at the above words. There are four important messages contained in this sentence.

Let’s take a look at each of them:

The time is fulfilled. Ready or not, Lent is here. I don’t know about you, but I like the fact that Lent has a concrete starting point. Otherwise, I would be tempted to put off doing all those things I should be doing to grow spiritually. The fact that Ash Wednesday begins on a specific calendar date gives me a sense of urgency about getting my spiritual life in order.

The kingdom of God is at hand. With all of the craziness going on around us, it’s easy to lose sight of the nearness of God. Our life doesn’t have to be chaotic for us to become distracted. If we’re not careful, daily chores and responsibilities can consume our attention and cause us to lose sight of God’s presence. Jesus is reminding us that we don’t have to travel to a secluded island or an elaborate cathedral to encounter him. He is with us in the messiness of daily life.

Repent. This is an interesting word. Typically, we associate repentance with sin. While that can certainly be true, the Greek word used by Mark in his original manuscript (metanoéō) has a broader meaning. It literally means to “change one’s mind” or “think differently afterwards.” Faced with the knowledge that Lent is beginning and that God’s kingdom is near, Jesus challenges us to a radical conversion. Not only are we instructed to change our deeds (through acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving), but the way we think as well.

Believe in the Gospel. It’s way too easy to dismiss this command as a “no brainer,” but that would be a huge mistake. Once again, the original Greek manuscript gives us some powerful insight. The word rendered in English as  “believe” actually means “have faith in, trust in or have confidence in” in Greek. Can you imagine if you went into Lent with the goal of having greater trust in Jesus? It would be absolutely life-changing.

If you’re not a worrier, ask the Holy Spirit for the best way to respond to Jesus during the Lenten season. The time is now. The kingdom is near. Are you willing to allow your thoughts to be guided by the Holy Spirit so that you can think differently? Are you able to express confidence and trust in him?

I have a decision to make and so do you. The Lord clearly lays out what is needed for his followers. Lent gives us a chance to make it happen. What is your decision?

Have a blessed Lent. I’ll be praying for you. Please pray for me too.

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Gary Zimak is a best-selling author, speaker and radio host based in South Jersey. Connect with him online at FollowingTheTruth.com.