• Dan Royster

In the Cross of Christ, I Glory


An Introduction to Lent – Ash Wednesday


Why do we recognize Lent? It is an important religious observance in the Christian Church; Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the significance of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Additionally, it is an opportune time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Scripture, we are admonished that:

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[1]

A sincerely wholehearted acknowledgement of this truth, in other words penitence, is the very essence of why we recognize the season of Lent in the Church. Otherwise, the recognition of Lent is just an historical recollection of the somber events that occurred involving this mystical prophet named Jesus who also happened to be a really nice guy.

This is not to say that one’s somber acknowledgement of the Scripture above—penitence—cannot occur during any other religious season of the year. But the focus on the solemn and somber events of Lent and Holy Week can often bring about that heightened awareness and serve as a reminder of one’s lost state and incline them to penitence. The application of ashes upon our foreheads in the shape of the cross is symbolic of both our mortality and that we, as Christians, look to the Cross of Christ as our hope, in spite of our mortality, for Eternal Life. The events that occur during the Season of Lent, and especially Holy Week, provide the humbling details that lay both the groundwork and culmination of God’s Gospel plan of Salvation for us.

The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday where we are reminded of 4 things:


1) Our mortality on this earth:

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.[2]

The most loving, kind, and dedicated Christian, the most physically fit athlete, and the most putrid of criminals all have one thing in common, they will all die. Our appointment with death is one appointment for which we will not be late. Death is a part of life. Yet, there are so many things we engage in to prolong life. Rather, the drive should be for things eternal—the Eternal Life that God grants us through His Son Jesus Christ:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.[3]

2) Good works done from the wrong motivation does not earn God’s favor:

Ye shall not fast as ye do this day,To make your voice to be heard on high.[4]

If God is omniscient, knowing all, we cannot deceive Him with our piety. Yes, we may deceive our brothers and sisters in Christ but, God knows every thought in our heart and every intent in our will.


3) Focus on what is truly important in this life; it is an unmistakable reflection of where your heart is:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.[5]

What so often this world values, God does not value. His desire for us is to focus on the things that endure beyond death, specifically Eternal Life which endures forever with Him. All else is vanity and striving after the wind. God knows our very heart, its desires, and our strivings and facades before men. Man can be easily fooled, God cannot.


4) As a representative of Christ, make sure you are focused on building a strong relationship with God:

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.[6]

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we, like them, have alienated ourselves from God. Thus, it becomes our responsibility, our choice, to return to Him. This entails surrendering our selfish desires and entrusting to Him our lives and our service. May we also speak with Him regularly in prayer.


Prayer

Almighty and ever living God, “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.[7]” You hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness. May we also walk humbly in devotion to Thee, Thy Word, and prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Hymnal 1982 - #662

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;

the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.


Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;

earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away.

Change and decay in all around I see.

O thou who changest not, abide with me.


I need thy presence every passing hour.

What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power?

Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.


I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,

ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.

Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if thou abide with me.


Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven's morning breaks and earth's vain shadows flee;

in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


  1. [1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 1 Jn 1:8–9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 3:19). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [3] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jn 3:16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [4] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Is 58:4). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [5] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 6:20–21). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [6] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Co 5:20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. [7] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ps 90:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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