Ash Wednesday 2014 to millions (or more) Christians today mark the beginning of Lent
Wikipedia says – Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, alms giving, atonement and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the tradition and events of the New Testament beginning on Friday of Sorrows, further climaxing on Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
OK, So we have 6 weeks of prayer, penance, repentance of sins, alms giving, atonement and self-denial.
I have two problems with this concept. The first is the obvious one – just six weeks? What about the other 46 weeks? But I think it’s a given that we should be a witness of God’s love all year long so I’ll leave that there – for now. Likewise, prayer, repentance of sins, alms giving and self-denial (also referred to as self-control) are all good things for a true believer to do year round. But, its the reason that these things are done that align them with the misguided concept of penance and atonement. I am not saying that millions of people are wrong for following their hearts during these next 6 weeks. I am saying that the goals or ideals of such an exercise is not Biblical and misleading. Unfortunately, the evidence of this misguided adventure is heralded at the end of it all – Jesus Christs’ trial, death and resurrection!!
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:But this man (Jesus Christ), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Heb 10:11-22 KJV
after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God vs 12
Jesus carried out the ultimate “self-denial” by suffering and dieing on the cross that WE deserved to be put upon. Furthermore, having done this He put an end to the sacrifices of the Temple and the old way –Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Heb 9:12 KJV. The veil of separation in the Temple was ripped in two down the middle from top to bottom when He died on that cross signifying the end of the old and the beginning of the new. As if that wasn’t enough – Jesus’ own last words from the cross should quiet the debate – It is finished. John 19:30 KJV
Still, Paul addresses this – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:8-10 KJV or otherwise put this way in the Living Bible – Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves;it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others
Finally, We can not EARN our salvation. If we could do that Jesus would not have had to come and die for our sins. Having done that though, lets not insult the gift of God by trying to earn it. That would be like trying to pay me for a the present I gave you for your birthday even though you have no money or source of income. As I mentioned before, prayer,repentance of sins and alms giving are all good things that every Christian should do daily out of a thankful heart towards God but atonement, penance and self-denial as a way of earning salvation is futile because its already been done and can not be added to. Celebrate the fact that Jesus Loved YOU enough to hang on a cross so that you don’t have to and be grateful. Truly, deeply and sincerely grateful.
To obey is better than sacrifice 1 Sam 15:22 KJV
Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifice as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Sam 15:22 HCSB