It’s February and a few days more, Lent or Holy Week will start. It will be a time to commemorate Christ death, burial and triumphant resurrection. As much as Christmas is important, so is Lent for Christians. But how do we celebrate this event? We ask Robert J. Nash, author of Last Words: Seven Sayings from the Heart of Christ on the Cross, on how we can make Lent an occasion that will last through the year and the coming years.
Hello pastor! My first question is how important is Lent for a believer?
That is a great question. While Easter was important when I’m growing up, Lent wasn’t. For many of the people I knew, all Lent meant was cutting out sugar for forty days. Now, as a pastor, husband, and father, I realize a new value of Lent. Lent offers us the opportunity to prepare our hearts as we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for our souls. It helps us slow down and be honest about what we have done and not done, what we have said and not said, what we have thought and not thought. We can take a good look in the mirror and see our sin for what it is. That look reminds us of our need for a savior and builds appreciation and reverence for what he did.
Are the approach and experience to Lent differ from Advent leading up to Christmas?
Yes, I think it is good to approach, and experience Lent differently from Advent and Christmas because the two seasons are not the same. Historically, Lent differs from Christmas because of what it commemorates. Lent prepares our hearts for Holy Week and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. It offers us a quiet, sober look at ourselves and our sin leading to Jesus’s death on our behalf. On the other hand, Advent gives us a season of celebration to prepare our hearts for God’s amazing incarnation and the long-awaited fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.
How does Lent affect our church activities like evangelism and discipleship? Do you think we should slow down with those things to focus more on reflecting on what Christ did on those special days?
For many people, one of the only times they experience ‘church’ is during this season of Lent. Lent is a time to remind everyone of the incredible gift of Jesus, reminding people that he forgives our sins through his sacrifice. He died to make us right with our Creator and welcome us into a family of faith. Lent is an excellent opportunity for evangelism and outreach. For example, I am currently doing an evangelistic Bible study on who Jesus is and what he said and did in Mark. We will be going right through Lent.
Lent is also a fabulous time to help people grow in their walk with the Lord. Slowing down and reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s actions and the words in those final days help us grow to be more like Christ.
I see. How do you prepare the church you pastor for such a yearly event?
Our church has led Lenten services on Wednesday nights throughout Lenten Season. We invite the community and offer a light meal and reflect on Jesus. This year we will do a Youtube devotional. Each year, during Holy Week, we set up stations of the cross. Every station has printed devotions and supportive artwork depicting what Jesus experienced. At the last station, we invite people to write their sins on a piece of paper and nail it to a cross. On Good Friday, we invite people to an evening service. We have communion, scripture readings, a short devotional, and music. It is a somber time that contrasts the celebration we have on Sunday of Jesus’s resurrection.
Now for individual Christians, what resources can you recommend as they prepare to observe Holy Week?
If you have children, as I do, watch the children’s version of the Jesus movie. You can also read parts of the Bible that talk about the last week of Jesus’s life at dinner. For personal devotion, I would recommend reading a book on the gospel. There are several wonderful options. Here are a few of my favorites: C. J. Mahaney’s book “Cross Centered Life”, John Stott’s “Cross of Christ”, and “The Gospel Primer” by Milton Vincent.
You wrote a book very fitting for Lent entitled Last Words. Please tell us about it.
I can explain the book this way:
What if you only had a few more things you could tell those you love before you pass away? What would you say? I bet you would choose your words wisely. I think Jesus did. If we look at his words closely as he was on the cross, they capture the essence of who he is and what he stood for. That is what I explore in the book. It is not long, nine chapters. Each chapter concludes with some reflection questions to help a person explore how the Bible relates to their life. I think you will enjoy it.
Yes I enjoyed the reading it. Can you tell us the process in writing this book? You say that this book came from years of preaching on Good Friday.
I don’t think I have enough time to talk through this question. I love to write and create. Words are art. I also love God. Words can’t express how wonderful he is. Don’t you agree? So, to bring them together was a joy and a challenge. Part of the book came out of messages I shared with the church, but another part, most of it, I developed in the early morning hours before work. It flowed out of my quiet devotional time that I have each morning. It was quite a process. Anyone of your readers who writes knows how much work it is. It did not come easy for me. I write and rewrite and rewrite and read some more. Some friends of mine helped give me honest feedback, and New Growth Press hired a couple of editors to clean the rest up.
And the finish product is an excellent book for for Lent! What part of the book made the most impact in your life and ministry?
I think the topic of the thief on the cross has had the most significant impact on my life. I get choked up thinking about it. I was that guy. I was the thief on the cross. I had a spiritual death sentence. Yet, Christ took my place and saved me from my sin. As the thief comprehended what was going on, he realized his guilt and concluded, “This man has done nothing wrong.” He had a mustard seed of faith.
Consequently, he acknowledged his faith and promised that he would be with him that day in paradise. That is my hope and confidence too. Through faith in Jesus’s death on my behalf, I am forgiven and promised company with him forever.
That one of the moving parts I encounter from the book. What’s your advice for pastors that are first-timers on preaching for Good Friday.
One pastor challenged me to read a book about the gospel every year. I think that is good advice for preparation for Good Friday. It helps us pastors remember what our faith is about. Then, take Friday and consider creative ways to remind your people what happened to Jesus on that last week of his life. Perhaps you explore an evangelical seder meal, or you try a foot washing service. Involve people in your congregation. You have the opportunity to do a service that will contrast the celebration you can have on Sunday. Seize the opportunity and worship God.
Please invite our readers to get a copy of your book. Can you tell us ways to connect with you on your social media and give us accounts where we can check you out?
Let me encourage you to check out my book – “Last Words: Seven Sayings From the Heart of Christ on the Cross“. I would love to hear from you and your thoughts, and I always appreciate honest reviews through sites like Amazon and Goodreads. There are some easy ways to find me:
The web: http://www.robertjnash.com
Thank you pastor for this opportunity to chat with you. Guys, don’t forget to grab a copy of his book, Last Words either on digital or physical format.
(Did you like what you read? Did this article helped you? Then you can share some love by buying me a coffee).