The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday – 40 days of Lent

“Repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15
Fasting from our flesh and world to feast on the Word and Person of God – Jesus Christ.

Today, Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance. True repentance results in a change of mind and heart, and ultimately a change in action. When one “repents” he “turns away” from previous sinful behaviors and seeks salvation & restoration from God. “Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance to God.” (Wikipedia) Today (really any day one can get serious about seeking God!!) Christians all over the world are called to mourn for their sinful state, turn away from their sins and to the living God. (Matt 5:4) It is a day to get serious and examine our hearts before God. King David wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24) In the New Testament we see an example of true repentance when Peter weeps after coming to his realization of his own rejection of Jesus. (Luke 22:62) Do we not reject Christ daily when neglect Him? Do we not reject God when we live consumed with ourselves and our selfish ways?

I believe this act of repentance is in direct contrast with our pleasure seeking, self indulgent culture. It’s not fun and it’s not an easy thing to do. True repentance is a gift from God. I pray that God would have mercy on us and open our eyes to our true states. That He would show us our need for repentance and lead us to Himself. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2)
Ash Wednesday ushers us into the season of Lent and ultimately prepares us for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent is a time of sacrifice, prayer, giving, and fasting. All of this is to draw us close to Him as we prepare to celebrate the most miraculous event that has taken place in history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We celebrate with joy the way God has provided salvation for all people who will receive it. (John 1:12) Regardless if Lent is a normal practice of your Christian faith, each of us could benefit from decreasing ourselves so that God may increase in us. (John 3:30)
As we enter this season of Lent 2011, I pray that God would pour down His righteousness and awaken His people. May we not merely go through the motions! Let’s own our faith, read His Word, and follow Him.

“You will seek and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
“’Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil…” Ephesians 4:14-16
“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matt. 26:41
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissentions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self0control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:16-24
“Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessings and praise. You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their hose, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the lost of heaven worships you. You are the LORD…” Nehemiah 9
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:10,17 (beautiful psalm of repentance)
Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness before His public ministry

Suggestive Reading:
Bible (the whole thing, can start with the book of John or Romans)
Radical, Taking back your faith from the American Dream, by David Platt
Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper