The Easter season is here with us. Many people have already started getting ready for it. As I speak, my youth are gearing up for an Easter Hymnal event dubbed “Bloody Hymnal.” This hymnal sing is a time for reflection and worship in song as we consider the power of the work of the cross of Christ. Across the globe, events upon events are underway, and I believe from very pure motives. But good motivation minus truth is equal to empty religion and death. Is it wrong to do things like these? I do not think so. But when the motive is not in line with the truth of Scripture, then there is something wrong. The biggest question that should hang on the minds of the participants is, “What is the substance of their action?” If I fail to answer this question, then I am headed for a big surprise.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the month-long season called Lent. It is only as old as the early Middle Ages of the Church. What is interesting is that not all Christians observe it. In the Old Testament days, they used ashes in times of mourning and lamentation. At other times, in times of fasting, Jews would put ash in their heads to signify their sorrow and dead state. Ash Wednesday is a time to remember the frailty of our humanity and how separated we are from God apart from his grace. It also reminds us that we were made from dust (ash) and we will return to dust (ash). It reminds us to mourn over our sins. It is our sin that makes us return to dust. It is our sin that separates us from God. But, in light of Ash Wednesday we’re to look towards the cross and see that despite our sin there is a God that sent his Son Jesus to take on our sin and give us hope in spite of the fact that we’re going to become ash one day.
Many people will ‘feel’ like they have been closer to the Lord because of their participation and observance of Ash Wednesday. Now, much as we would want to say this is a memorial/ reminder, we need to ask the broader question- what is the state of our heart minus the observance of a day? We may go all out and put on ash on our foreheads and say that heaven honors such devotion. Are our hearts in the right place? Is it the ash or the heart? God is looking at your heart that is to be looking at him on Ash Wednesday for mercy despite your the ash making sin you’ve committed.
After the Ash Wednesday, many get into a month-long period of fasting called “Lent.’ This one is supposed to emulate or reiterate the forty days fasting Jesus had when he was preparing for his public ministry. Many evangelical Christians have also tried to use lent to help Christians get their attention off the normal activities of life and take some special time to refocus themselves on what Jesus did on the cross for them. They also want to focus on the resurrection of Jesus and it’s significance. Many people will stop eating things like meat for the 40 days or stop looking at social media for example. All of this is to push down the flesh in order to make more of the spiritual. Lent can be a great way to refocus yourself this Easter season.
However, we do want to stress to make sure that your heart is in the right order. Simply observing lent without the proper focus and heart makes it just a ritual. Such rituals can become religious and make us think we’re close to God when in reality we’re far from him. Consider Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (17) These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Observing Easter, Ash Wednesday, Lent, & even Christmas are not profitable in themselves if our souls are not with Christ in God. Look ahead and ponder this; will the Lord receive me for the observance of these days? Or will the Lord receive me due to the sacrifice of his Son? The answer is clearly the later. These days all are shadows. Christ has fulfilled everything we needed to perform. We can fast and pray. We should. But what is the state of our hearts? As we get into the season, let it not be an emotional or religious rigor. Instead take time to really worship Jesus and what he has done through his death and resurrection. Let it be that even after the season is over, we will have in our hearts, the substance of all things. Christ and not rituals/ activities. Solus Christus.