Some of my fellow bloggers here on Bible.org have done a fabulous job explaining Ash Wednesday and Lent. You can also find suggestions on what you need to consider as you begin Lent. If you haven’t read any of these blogs, I encourage you to do so now.
Today marks the first day of the Lenten season—the beginning of the 40-day period (excluding Sundays) that ends with Easter Sunday. On this Ash Wednesday—across the country and around the world—Christians from various denominations will commemorate this “Day of Ashes” by fasting and praying. Others will participate in ceremonies that will involve ashes marked on their foreheads in the shape of the cross.
For those of us who will participate in Ash Wednesday and Lent, we do so in anticipation of renewal and newness in our intimacy with God. We shift our focus towards spiritual reflection in hopes for cleansing, restoration and change. We contemplate clearing out those things that get in the way of us trusting God.
Let’s face it, for us to move towards uncovering the things in our lives that “choke our souls, weigh us down and even trip us,” we have to look at our sin, confess it and expect change.
So how do we do this?
Turn to God. Our only hope for our helplessness is in the mercy and love of God. It depends on Christ alone. Meditate on His character, His promises (2 Cor. 1:20) and on His faithfulness.
Recognize sin, confess it and accept forgiveness. Those in genuine fellowship with God recognize and know their proneness to sin. They don’t justify it or defend it or even try to escape the guilt that comes along with sin. They lay it all out in the open. They don’t hold back. They let it go.
Martin Luther puts it, “The Christian way essentially consists in acknowledging ourselves to be sinners and in praying for grace.” We need to confess our sins (1 John 1:8–9) and hold on to God’s grace (1 Cor. 6:11; Col. 3:1–11). After all, a broken and contrite heart is the mark of all God’s children. Remember David? He wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).
Entrust God for change. This one seems tough especially for those of us who like things to remain the same. Remember, the mark of a forgiven person is that they entrust God to change them.They desire a firm, unwavering spirit and they learn to trust God deeply (Ps. 51:10–13). Scripture shows us God moves towards intimacy with those who trust Him. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8–10).
During this time of reflection, remember God is impressed with our faith, not our accomplishments. Where faith is lacking, He is not pleased with our knowledge or with what we have achieved (Hebrews 11:6).
Perhaps today marks the first time this year you will approach God hoping for cleansing, restoration and change. You desire the intimacy God wants with you. Remember, Christ has done all the hard work on the cross to make it possible for you. The intimacy you desire almost always occurs in times when we must trust Him the most.
Lent has arrived. Go to Him now, confess your sins, accept and rejoice in His forgiveness and commit to change.