To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the time to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter week. Unfortunately it has become more a time of ritual sacrifice, where people give up something, fast, reflect and repent. But what and why are we fasting? What are we reflecting on? And do we truly repent, because repentance means to transform our minds by how and what we think. This in turn produces lasing change not just temporary behavior modification.
Consider instead of giving up something like chocolate or meat for God, why not give Him something He truly desires from us, our time. Yes, God wants an interactive relationship with us. Nothing touches the heart of God more than when we make time to spend with Him and linger in His presence. To spend time in His Word so we can better know His Son. John 14:15 tells us that when we truly love Jesus, we will follow Him and His ways. And 1 Samuel 15:22 reminds us that obedience is better than sacrifice.
The ashes placed on people’s foreheads usually stand for penitence, only reminding the person of their sins and failings. Although we all sin, this year why not focus on the onetime payment Jesus made to cleanse us from out sins. Those who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, His love, mercy, grace and forgiveness should focus on the amazing gift we have received from Him through His substitutionary sacrifice. You see ashes are a sign that something has been through the fire of judgment that satisfied the wrath of God and is now pure. Jesus was that sacrifice, He became sin and endured the wrath and separation from His Father, so that we wouldn’t have to. Our sin and curse was burned up and now we stand in righteousness because God sees us through the sacrifice of His Beloved Son.
This year form now until Palm Sunday, I enourage you to focus Jesus through the Scriptures. Ask Holy Spirit to help Him reveal Jesus to you. Then spend time daily with Him, even if it’s only 5 minutes a day. Make this time what it was truly meant to be a time to reflect on the willingness of Jesus to take our place and save us from a life controlled by sin. I assure you it will be some of the best 46 days you will ever have had. So no matter whether you celebrate Lent the traditional way or try something new this year, makes sure it’s all about Him.