What’s Up With Ashes?
“All go to the same place; all come from dust and to dust all return.” ~Ecclesiastes 3:20
“The glory of God is man fully alive.” ~Saint Irenaeus
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” ~The Westminster Catechism
Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of the season of Lent.
What is Lent? Lent is the period of 40 days leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday (today) and ends Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter Sunday). It is a season for many things, but the 3 most important reasons are to
1) reflect upon our sins and our need for a Savior (Romans 6:23),
2) renew our commitment to Christ, dying to self daily, often done through prayer, self-examination, and fasting (Luke 9:23), and
3) remember that Christ conquered sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).*
Who is to celebrate Lent? Lent and Ash Wednesday traditionally is thought of as a Roman Catholic Church celebration. I’d argue that the Season of Lent is something any denomination of the Protestant church can and should celebrate, or at least, understand. While the Scriptures do not mandate or even mention Ash Wednesday or Lent, they do speak of the practice of repentance, mourning in ashes, and fasting. Read the account of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12) or the account of Daniel mourning in sackcloth and ashes over the sin of Israel and praying for God to hear him (Daniel 9:1-19) for examples.
Read what Theologian John Piper** writes,
“Traditionally Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him.
Lent is a season of waiting. In that sense it is like Advent. But while Advent waits eagerly for the appearance of the Savior, Lent waits, with heavy responsibility, for his death. The light of the Advent candles grows brighter as we approach the Savior’s arrival. In Lent, all grows darker as we draw nearer to the unthinkable—the death of God.”
“‘Lent’ means spring. But it’s more like winter—the last blast of cold before the warm green is here to stay. It reminds us of the flint-faced Christ moving to Jerusalem. O how we need the discipline of Lent!”
How can we celebrate Lent? Everyone has a different way of celebrating Lent. Some people give up or “fast” from a specific item during the season of Lent. Some people place ashes on their forehead as a reminder of our sinful state and our need for a Savior. Some devote themselves to an action such as prayer or meditation in an effort to grow closer to the Lord. Regardless of how you celebrate Lent, remember
1) the cost Jesus paid on the cross,
2) the conquest Christ made over sin and death, and
3) our complete powerless to save ourselves.
How am I celebrating Lent? In addition to picking something to fast from, I have decided to devote more time to deepening my prayer life, meditating and memorizing Scriptures, and seeking greater intimacy with God and my spouse.
I have also decided to read “Waking the Dead: the Glory of a Heart Fully Alive” by John Eldridge during the Season of Lent. The 2nd quote mentioned at the top of the post is found on the first page of the book. As winter gives way to spring, I plan to wake the dead! Lent reminds us of dying to self and living a God-glorifying, Christ-honoring life. I want to work at re-opening my heart to God and fully embracing life. Will you join me?
Some helpful links
Drop a Line – How are you celebrating the season of Lent? How are you consciously growing into deeper intimacy with the Lord? Feel free to ask me questions about my plans to deepen intimacy with the Lord and with Adam.