One of the strange benefits of serving a church that does not follow the man-made “church” calendar is that you, blessedly, forget about what the seasonal days might be, but I guess that is why I have a desk calendar which helpfully makes me aware of such things. Today in this short blog post I want to, humbly, give you a yearly reminder that if you are a Presbyterian and planning a Ash Wednesday service or are getting things together for a 40 Day-long Lenten calendar you are in fact doing Presbyterianism and, more importantly, Biblical piety wrong. I may even go out on a limb here and say that God is not impressed with your man-concocted “holy” actions that take away from His blessedly provided means of grace and the elements of worship given by Christ Himself in the Holy Scriptures. So since folks in our day are interested more in “listicles” of the Buzzfeed variety I’ll give you 10 reasons why you should stop, cease, and desist from adopting pagan rituals and instead teach your folks honest to goodness year-long, regular, Christian devotional practices that God not only will honor, but that will actually help brothers and sisters in Christ live a year long life of repentance and faith, resting and trusting in the righteousness of Christ Alone.
1) Time-Limited “seasonal” heightenings of devotional practice died out with the old covenant. Why do you want to impose Judaic worship rituals on yourself? Have you not been freed from the law? Why seek to be put back under it? (Col. 2:8-23)
2) The Means of Grace given by Christ are better than what man can create with his imagination. (Exodus 32). Why seek to be wiser than God? (1 Cor. 1:25)
3) Christ Himself quite clearly tells us not to do our works of piety before men, to be seen by them. (Matt 6:1-4, 16-18). It is hard to imagine something that says, “look at my righteousness” more than putting ashes on your forehead and walking around the office/school/mall, etc…
4) Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season stink (no pun intended) of works of Supererogation (Eph. 2:8-10) which hide the free grace of Christ and create levels of obedience.
5) “The church has always done it” or “other people do it” and/or “we don’t do it like them” are not a sufficient reasons for violating the clear command of the Bible when it comes to the church creating festivals and feast days. Such idolatrous reminders of past days should be put away by the Refoming Christian, not re-adopted for a different use. The church can no more “Christianize” Ba’al worship than it can purify Romanist practices. (Deut. 7:25; 12:30).
6) Lent and Ash Wednesday trivialize Christian sacrifice. God is neither impressed nor honored that you gave up a first-world personal pleasure item for 40 days. (Psalm 40:4-10, Hosea 6:6, Matt 9:13, Heb. 10:1-10)
7) The First Day of the Week, now called the Christian Sabbath, is the only day set aside by God Himself and called Holy. Humans have no right or duty to declare other days to be “holy” by their whimsy. (Ex. 16:23, 20:8-11, Lev. 11:44, Heb 4:9).
8) Creating days of obligation (however much you want to pretend liberty) not only diminish the Lord’s Day, but implicitly teach that there are parts of the year that are more holy than others. That one can miss Sabbath worship in June, because hey this is just “Ordinary Time”. (1 Tim 6:12, Heb 12:1, Rev. 3:1-6).
9) The inevitable end-point of these man-created seasons is “I’ll save up my repentance for Lent”. In other words the seeking of the intercession of Christ in day-to-day life for forgiveness of sins is set aside for the special time of Lent when I’ll “really” focus on my need for assurance of pardon. (Acts 11:18, Gal 2:20, 2 Cor 7:9-10).
10) Last, but not least, the Confessional Standards of the Presbyterian Church explicitly condemn these practices. (WCF 21, WSC Q.49-52, Q. 57-62, WLC Q. 99, Q. 107-110, Q. 115-121