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Ash Wednesday - March 2, 2022

Looking in the Mirror

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” [Joel 2:12-13]

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.” [Matthew 6:1]

“Little children, let us not love in (mere) word or talk but in deed and in truth.” [1 John 3:18]

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” [James 1:22]

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” [Luke 11:28]

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” [Luke 8:21]

“Don’t worry. You’re a good person.” But how much of your goodness – what your neighbor sees – is only something on the outside and not a true reflection of what is on the inside or behind the scenes? How much of your good life is a mask? Maybe on purpose, maybe it just works out that way.

But, if people saw the truth – what your past holds – who you’ve hurt – what your present entails – the thoughts of your mind – the words under your breath – desires of your flesh – secret sins – that constant direction of the mind that is so preoccupied with oneself or self-image… What if my whole self, from the inside out, was laid bare on the wall for all to see?

Who am I really? What am I? Not in a glass mirror, seeing the surface only, but my true nature? What if I could see that in a mirror? What am I, not in mere word or talk, but in deed and in truth?

Lent is the season of the true mirror – the season, especially, in which the mirror of God’s Law confronts me with the reality of who I am. God’s Law – His Word and Will and expectation for my life – is a thorough and honest mirror. It places me in the setting of His holy nature and perfect love and shows me how ugly I am with sin.

What is the proof that man is a sinner? That man dies. You see it. Do the holy angels die and decay? No. But we do. And you see it in your own bodies even now. We are falling apart because of sin. Back to dust.

Ash Wednesday is a mirror day. You are branded. Look in the mirror tonight. You might look fine, but now the truth about you is drawn right on your face. “Dust you are and to dust you will return” [Genesis 3:19].

“Dust you are – to dust you will return” – these are the words spoken to the first man, Adam, from whom we all come. God spoke these words to Adam when Adam fell from God into sin. When Adam kept another’s word instead of God’s words. “You will surely die”, God said [Genesis 2:17].

“Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins will die” [Ezekiel 18:4]. “All have sinned and fall short” [Romans 3:23]. “None is righteous, no, not one… All have turned aside… no one does good, not even one” [Romans 3:11-12]

“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].

All men do have to die. Therefore, Lent is the season when, most especially, we count down to the year’s biggest celebration of that one Man who died for all. Jesus Christ.

All do have to die, yet God is not willing – not desiring – that any would perish [2 Peter 3:9] – “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” [Ezekiel 33:11].

Therefore, God, the Son of God, became a man so that He – the one man who didn’t have to die, since He had no sin – could die for all the rest. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” [1 Corinthians 15:22]

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness 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]

In the mirror, in that black dust and ash on your forehead, you see that you are wrecked by your sin. Yet that ash is in the shape of the cross. The ash cross tells you that Jesus, the Son of God, on His Cross, became your sin. On the cross, Jesus became your sin for you and there your sin died:

“For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” [2 Corinthians 5:21].

On the cross, God, the Son of God, became what you are – became what Adam is – so that you have now become what He is: God’s own child, well pleasing in His sight.

The mirror of God’s Law continues to show me that I am ugly with sin. The cross of Christ tells me more that Jesus has become my ugly sin for me. He has died so that I will live.

He has risen, so that you will now live in His beauty, goodness, glory, and righteousness. A sinner no more – ugly no more – dust no more – on that day when His resurrection raises you. And even now, as your bodies continue to die and decline, the beautiful and risen Jesus continues to rise up and live in you more and more.

So, let your goodness and righteousness be genuine and true. Let it be His. May the Son of God grant that His life and obedience would be made visible in you more and more. Amen.

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