Ash Wednesday - February 22, 2023
Repent and Believe in the Good News
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return” [Genesis 3:19]. These words were first spoken to the ancestor of our human race - Adam - the one from whom the whole human race comes. Therefore, when this was spoken to him, it was spoken to all of us - our human nature comes from him.
Our nature was made from the dust of the earth - “You are dust.” God breathed life into our physical form. But sin brought death - so now, “to dust you will return.”
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”[Romans 5:12]. Death is not unjust. But death is terrible for each of us.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder that death shouts a message to us. Repent. Turn from sin. Don’t take it lightly. Examine yourself - your thoughts, words, and deeds. Consider how terrible death is. Consider the pain it brings. Consider the cries and shrieks and remorse it induces.
Consider what it is for this body to return to dust in the grave. What a horrible thing death is. Death decays the body. In a moment, this once vibrant body - loved and cared for by mom and dad - loved and cared for by spouse and children - hugged and held - a body that was alive and smiled and had joy - in a moment it becomes a lifeless lump.
Death is terrible. Consider it - and consider that “death came through sin.” And now let me consider my sin for what it really is - sins in thought, word, and deed. Nothing to be laughed at. Not something to abide with comfortably. My sins are as ugly as death. My sins are the bringer and causer of death.
Death is God’s just judgment for sin - “to dust you will return.” That alone should tell us the measure of our sin. And with death comes hell, that second death of the soul. I ought to abhor my sin just as I abhor death.
Every death I see is a reminder to me that I too am mortal. Every death shouts to me that message, “Repent.” A sad message? A heavy message? Or a hope-filled message? A good message. Because the full message is, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news” [Mark 1:15]. Turn - change your mind - “repent” - turn and believe in the good news of the New Man, Jesus, who conquered sin and death for you.
In the face of our fear of sin and death, we present a hundred of our own ideas and ways of thinking for why death is going to be okay or avoidable. Turn, repent from that, and believe the Gospel. You came from Adam, but there is a New Man, Jesus Christ. Trust in Him.
Death is God’s just judgment, yet there is no person whom God wouldn’t rather save from that judgment. God isn’t desiring that any would perish [1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11], so the good news is that He has given One Man to stand in for the rest.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness - Christ’s death on the cross (Philippians 2:8) - leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” [Romans 5:18-19]
Now, one New Man has died for the rest - “We have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died” [2 Corinthians 5:14].
“For if many died through one man's (Adam’s) trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” [Romans 5:15].
In the face of sin and death, repent and trust this good news - that One has died for all. One righteous man has died for all the unrighteous.
Mankind stutters in the face of death with a hundred ways of trying to avoid it - a hundred thousand excuses for why we don’t deserve it - and thousands of religions and belief systems and world views and value systems to try to establish our own righteousness and goodness in the face of it.
Repent and trust in the only righteous one, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who died in your place. Trust Him alone. He alone is good. He alone has conquered death.
And what He has done He has done for all - before we could ever want it or ask for it. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. This is sure, certain, and hope-filled good news to which to turn in every circumstance.
Therefore, on Ash Wednesday, we draw the dust of ashes into the shape of the cross. On the cross, death is defeated by that new man, Jesus. “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law - that ever accusing Law - But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]
“I am the resurrection and the life,” says the Lord, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” [John 11:25-26]
Turn daily from both sin and excuse and to this Savior, Jesus, who has forgiven you, embraced you already, and raises you from death to life. Amen.