February 14th, 2018


             Ash Wednesday is a day we focus on some things that most folks don’t want to even think about, especially on Valentine’s Day!  First of all, repentance. Repentance isn’t a very popular word in this day and age.  We love to hear how God is going to bless us, but we certainly don’t want to hear that we need to repent.  After all, that means we first have to admit that we actually sin.  And sin is another one of those words that doesn’t quite fit into today’s politically correct culture.  And taking responsibility for our own sin, doesn’t sit very well either.  I mean there are so many things we can blame - our genetics, our upbringing, society, hurt others have caused us, physical conditions, mental conditions, the list goes on and on…  But those don’t fly with God.  It didn’t work with Eve, who blamed the serpent, and it didn’t work with Adam, who blamed Eve.  Each of us is responsible for our own sin.  And each of us must repent of our own sin.  Deep down we all know we have sinned.  We all know we are guilty before a holy God.  We can try to supress it all we want, but unless we are a complete sociopath, the guilt will eventually eat at us from within.  Admitting it to ourselves is hard.  Admitting it to God is even harder.  But that is only the beginning of repentance.  Repentance also means we have to feel remorse for those sins.  Just saying we are sorry doesn’t mean we are truly sorry.    If inwardly we are still clinging to them for whatever reason - be it anger at someone who hurt you and desiring revenge (and whether you act on those feelings or not, they are still wrong), or maybe a secret sin, sins you think no one sees, but God does - you have not been remorseful, for if you were, you would want to be cleansed of those sins.  Admittance, remorse, and the desire to be free from sin - all of these are part of repentance.  Jesus shed his innocent blood so we could be cleansed from our sin, forgiven by God, and live a life free not only from the penalty for sin, but from the hold it has on us in this life, and all of the pain that it causes us and others.  So remember, the Bible says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

          And now we come to the second thing we are to reflect upon on Ash Wednesday.  As we receive the burnt ashes of palm leaves on our forehead, we are reminded that we as mortal human beings we were created from dust, and our bodies will return to the dust one day.  Our days spent on this earth are numbered.  Death, like repentance and sin, is one of those words that we tend to avoid.  But just as we have all sinned, we will all die.  The Bible tells us in Romans 5:12 that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned”.  Too often we live as though death isn’t an option.  We plan for our earthly future, but not our eternity.  We work to build up earthly wealth, but not heavenly riches.  Jesus told the crowd the following story in Luke 12 (vs 16-20), “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” Let’s not be foolish.  Let’s remember that our years here on earth can’t even be compared to the amount of time we will spend either in heaven - or in hell.  Eternity is forever.  It never ends.  But our life here will - maybe sooner than we think, or sooner than we would like.  Or maybe we will live to be a hundred years old.  Either way, it will end.  Are you ready for what comes after?  If you have truly repented of your sins, asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, trusting in Him alone for your salvation, you know the joy that comes from living a life for God and His glory.  You know that after Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent, and Good Friday - comes Easter!  And Easter brings the resurrection, first of Christ, and then of all who belong to Christ.  And there is nothing on earth that can compare to having the assurance of death not being the end, but only a beautiful beginning.

          So as you receive the ashes upon your forehead today, let them be not only a symbol of your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and a reminder of our mortality; but also a reminder of our immortality, our future in heaven, and the joy that awaits us there.  For as it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, we should not “grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”.  Our hope is in Jesus, who conquered death for us - and we too shall rise from the ashes.  Amen.