ASH WEDNESDAY, Feb 26… Luke 15:11- 24
Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day period leading to Easter known as Lent, which simply means “Spring.” Ash Wednesday has developed throughout the history of the Church as a day of repentance. It is a day to put aside our busyness and get back to the basics of our faith: a time for returning to the Lord and basking in the grace of our wonderful God.
Some of us can identify more than others with the pitiful condition of the Prodigal Son in our Scripture. The shameful consequence of a Jewish man feeding pigs was the result of a willful rebellion and separation from his father. Such an act also brought disgrace upon his father much like our sins have “fallen short of the glory of God.”
The greatest miracle in this story is not the Prodigal’s repentance but the father’s love; not the boy’s return, but the father’s willingness to receive him back.
Let us get one thing straight on this Ash Wednesday, our repentance does not earn for us the grace of God. He is a God we whose very nature is gracious and who produces in us the very repentance that brings us back home.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fastbound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray: I woke- the dungeon flamed with light! My chains fell off, my heart went free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. (Charles Wesley)
Thursday, February 27….Luke 15:25-32
The Lenten season provided the Ancient Church 40 days in which converts to Christianity were prepared for baptism and incorporated into the Body of Christ. It was also a time when those who had been separated from the community because of serious sin were reconciled upon repentance and restored to fellowship.
There have always been some in the Church who like the older brother in our parable have grown so used to the grace of God that they think it is unfair to restore those who have run away from home. The older brother challenged the Father’s grace. He not only accused his father of wasting grace on his rebellious brother, but never demonstrating it to him after all his years of faithful service. What the older brother failed to see was that his very relationship with the father was a gift of grace. “My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
The greatest gift anyone could receive is a relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. Who needs the reward for faithful service? Who needs a gold watch after retirement if we have Him?
I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold. I’d rather be His than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand; than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today. (Rhea Miller)
Friday, February 28…Psalm 51
The ashes used during the traditional Ash Wednesday service are a powerful symbol of repentance. In the Old Testament, ashes were a visible sign of humiliation and abasement. There is nothing that humbles one more than to see her/his sin in juxtaposition to God’s holiness.
The Psalmist, King David, pleads for the mercy of God after his sins of adultery and being an accomplice to murder. His greatest sadness was that these sins were committed against God; against you, and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. David does not ask for forgiveness, but for God’s mercy. He is so humbled that he believes only God’s mercy can save him. He wants more than to be forgiven. He wants a new heart so that he would never again offend his God.
This is exactly what God has provided for us in Jesus Christ. He has given us a new heart, a new spirit (Ezek. 36:24-27) so that we might obey him. How it should grieve us when we do not perfectly love and serve him after all he has done for us.
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you in though word and action, by what I have done and what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart nor my neighbor as myself. I am truly sorry and repent; for the sake of your son Jesus Christ have mercy upon me and forgive me that I might delight to do thy will and walk in all your ways to the glory of your wonderful name. Amen.
Saturday, February 29… Genesis 3:1-8
The Lenten season not only reminds us of the need for repentance, but also of our human frailty. What better picture of this than in our text for the day? It also reminds us that we have an enemy of our souls who is hell-bent on our destruction.
Satan used a specific strategy in order to deceive Eve. He began with using the good with which to tempt her toward evil. He focused upon the single tree which God had prohibited from use and twisted the words of God to imply that all trees were off limits and that God was miserly with his gifts. Satan then denied the truth completely by telling the New Age lie that Eve become like God if she ate from the tree.
Satan was so deceptive that he made Eve see the things that were not there and then blinded her to things that were. Can we be deceived like this? You better believe it! Paul wrote, I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)
What do you need to do in order to simplify and purify your life with God? In what ways do you unnecessarily complicate your relationship with Christ? Have you been tempted to believe that God has become demanding and has ceased to be gracious to you?
Avoid every tendency that takes you away from simplicity of relationship to God in Jesus Christ, and then prayer will be as the breath of the lungs in a healthy body. (Oswald Chambers)
Sunday, March 1…Matthew 4:1, 2
The first thing we notice about this account are these words, Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In other words, God orchestrated this desert experience. Why would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness? The fact that both Matthew and Luke place this account at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry should give us a clue. Before he could minister strength and healing to others, Jesus had to learn that the source of his own strength and provision was his Father. Before he could influence others he had to be certain of the greatest influence in his life.
Admittedly the very acknowledgment that Jesus had anything to learn is one of the great mysteries of the incarnation. However, perfection and growth in understanding are not mutually exclusive as the writer of the Hebrews indicates, Jesus learned obedience through the things that he suffered. (5:8) In his human nature, Jesus continued to grow and deepen in his relationship with the Father. It was Luke (2:52) who said And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
In what area of your life are you suffering? Could these be the “wilderness” areas in which you are to learn the trust and obedience necessary for effective ministry? Do you sense that you are growing in your relationship with God or do you feel you have stagnated? Perhaps you will be reignited through these daily devotionals.
Then in fellowship sweet, we will sit at his feet or we’ll walk by his side in the way. What he says we will do, where he sends we will go—never fear, only trust and obey. (John Sammis)
[Be sure to look for next week’s devotionals]