Each year around Christmas and Easter, I start to really question ‘how things are done’. I’m not even sure what I mean when I say that but what I think I mean is, why does the Catholic Church do this, and why don’t we? I didn’t receive salvation in 2014 at a Catholic Church but was attending one regularly when I did. Weird, I know.
Although there is a lot with the denomination I do not agree with, I do miss some of the traditional aspects of things. This is where I think to myself, ‘why don’t we do this?’. I don’t think this way because I want to prove one way right or wrong, it’s just the way my brain works. The apologist in me, I suppose. I want to give a confident answer when asked about it.
Yesterday was Monday, Fat Tuesday is today (or as us Michiganders like to call Paczki day!) and Ash Wednesday is following. Can I receive ashes on my forehead? Why would someone put ashes on their forehead and where in the Bible is that written?
Lent means spring and it happens 40 days prior to Easter. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent where someone would commit to fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control during that time.
The symbol of ashes are to remind us that you are dust and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19). If we read in the context of Genesis 3, it is where sin came into existence. Women was persuaded by evil that God’s choice was not the best choice. Sin entered the world when she bit into the forbidden fruit. Eve believed that her way, was higher than God’s way. She learned the hard way, for us all, our way is not higher than God’s way.
What does God ask us to do in the midst of our sin? He’s asks us to repent. The Gospels are filled with verses talking about repentance. Matthew 3:2 – ‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’. Mark 1:15 – ‘The time promised by God has come at last! he announced. The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!’ Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Revelations and a handful of other books in the Bible
What is repentance? Repentance is sincere regret or remorse. It’s our sin. An it’s not just, what we sometimes like to categorize as little sin or big sin, it’s all of it. Little sin, we some times thinks of as the whoopsies, slip ups or the, at least I didn’ts. Big sin is the big stuff like adultery, murder, rape and others we dare not name because it’s just too much. Repentance is asking for forgiveness from all of it. We look at it from a human eye and say that it should be dealt with, big sin or little sin, according to justice. As if the crime must fit the punishment. An eye for an eye. But Jesus lived a sinless life and died on the cross so that our big sin and our little sin is dealt according to grace and forgiveness.
Let’s go back to Genesis 3. This is where God promised us an offspring. A baby. Jesus.
As a parent, think of this amazing grace that God has given us. He created us to love and find joy in. We messed up and went against his command for us not to eat the fruit and we did it anyway which brought evil into this world. We find shame and guilt. We cover it up by sin, big and little. We should be reprimanded, according to justice, but God gives us grace and mercy because that is just how good He is to us. He sends Jesus.
Matthew 4 tells us Jesus fasted. He became hungry and fell temptation.
If I go 4 hours without eating, I feel like I’d do some questionable things for a snack.
Jesus fasted for 40 days. 40 days! During that time, the devil threw verbal punches at him constantly. The devil promised Jesus things that would have made the flesh say yes to in a heart beat. Jesus stayed sinless. Jesus stayed consistent.
As a Western Christian Protestant, I do not believe that any acts of work will get us into Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. John 14:6 tells us, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me’.
My personal opinion – I am a very undeserving person of the grace God gives me DAILY. DAILY! There is nothing I can do to earn His forgiveness and mercy from the sins I carry but if I can honor Him in anyway I am all game!