Today, we begin another Lenten season and a good question to contemplate is “What exactly is Ash Wednesday and Lent all about?”
Today and over the next six weeks, you will likely hear people talking about what they are “giving up” for Lent or other things that they are doing to help make Lent special or help them focus during the Lenten season. In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with any of these Lenten traditions or ideas, but we need to be careful. There is a temptation to think that if I “give up” something for Lent or in some other way make a sacrifice or special effort that I am “helping” Jesus with his work.
In Hebrews 1:3, we are reminded “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
There are two important truths in that verse from the letter to the Hebrews.
“he had provided purification for sins”
Those words remind us first of all of the dirtiness and ugliness of our sins. Isaiah 64:6 reminds us “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." We all know it. We don’t like to talk about it or admit it, but we know well the uncleanness and filthiness of our sins. We know the hateful thoughts of our hearts. We are painfully aware of the unloving words which have come out of our mouths. We are ashamed of the unloving things our hands and bodies have done.
Lent is an opportunity for us to repent of those and all of our sins. Even more, Lent is an opportunity to take time to ponder, more deeply understand and appreciate what Jesus did for us with his suffering and death. As you have the opportunity this Lenten season to review all the punishment and anguish which Jesus endured, remember that you should have been the one going through that punishment. Not only did Jesus endure our punishment in our place, by enduring that punishment he paid for every last one of our sins and we are fully, freely and completely forgiven. When the Bible talks about our sins being forgiven, it wants to convey to us the idea of a debt having been fully paid. Think of when you’ve paid off a student loan, a car loan, a credit card bill, a mortgage or some other debt. How wonderful it feels to be free of that debt! Even greater than some earthly debt is the debt of our sins and it was a debt we would never be able to pay off and Jesus paid it and purified us from all the dirt and stain of those sins.
“he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”
Not only did Jesus make us pure from and give us forgiveness for all our sins, he also guaranteed us a place in heaven. Think for a moment of things in this life which you have been told are “guaranteed” – a car, an appliance, a reservation etc. How many times have you counted on that guarantee and it failed? The last part of the words from Hebrews 1:3 reminds us that Jesus came down from earth to heaven to make us pure from our sins and then having completed his work he returned back to heaven to reserve and guarantee a place in heaven for all who believe in him. We will celebrate this hope and comfort more fully in seven weeks when we celebrate Easter, but it is also a part of what Jesus accomplished for us. He removed all the obstacles which stood between us and heaven and gave us an iron-clad reservation for our perfect, eternal home in heaven.
When you review those two phrases above, you quickly understand that nothing in Lent is about anything we do, but instead it is all about what Jesus did for us.
God bless your Ash Wednesday and Lenten season as you contemplate what Jesus did to pay for your sins and win your salvation in heaven!
President and CEO - The Lutheran Home Association
Pastor Joel Gaertner
Vice President of Ministry - The Lutheran Home Association and National Director - Jesus Cares Ministries
Posted by TLHA