This is a guest post from a friend of mine, Dr. Kevin Hester. Dr. Hester teaches Bible and Theology at a Christian college.
In preparation for the celebration of Easter, many Christian will hold a unique service. On a day known as Ash Wednesday they begin a forty day period of abstinence and contrition. In the Ash Wednesday service, the pastor marks the forehead of each individual with the sign of the cross. The ashes are taken from the burned palms used in last year’s Palm Sunday celebration. While he is marking their forehead the pastor says to each individual, “Turn away from your sin and turn to Christ.”
Baptists have not traditionally held such services. That does not mean however that we cannot learn from the message that is found in the day and in the season of Lent. Baptists have always emphasized the importance of contrition and holiness. In our understanding of salvation a man or woman must turn from his or her sin and turn to Christ in confession.
Lent is a period of confession. The message of Ash Wednesday and the period of Lent reminds us that we are called every day to remember our sins and to confess them before our Savior. You will recall that in the Old Testament ashes would be placed on someone’s head in times of grief. The meaning of the ashes in the Ash Wednesday service is the same. The Christian is called to remember her sin, be sorrowful for them and to repent.
Lent is a period of remembrance. Some Christians use this time of abstinence to remind them of the sacrifice that Christ made in becoming human. He gave up so much to come to save humanity, not the least of which was his life. As a Christian during Lent does without certain things he is reminded of all that Christ did without for our benefit.
Lent is a period of preparation. Lent looks forward to the blessings of Christ’s death manifested in the Resurrection. As Christ was raised on the third day, so also the Christian is raised again in the new life. One prepares for the celebration of His resurrection by remembering her sin, repenting of her sin and focusing her thoughts on the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
As we prepare for the blessings of Easter Sunday in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection let us prepare by confessing our sins and meditating in thanksgiving on all that Christ gave up for us. Easter is a wonderful time of celebration but it would never have been possible had Christ never been incarnated and had he never died. As we focus upon his sacrifice during these days leading up to the Easter celebration we must remember that the reason he came was to die for our sins. Let us confess these sins before him and commit ourselves to lives of holiness. Then, and only then, will the true meaning of Easter become real. Christ’s resurrection assures us that his sacrifice for our sins has been accepted by the Father and we can stand forgiven of our sins as we come to Him in confession. Think about your sins in the days leading up to Easter. Turn away from your sins and turn to Christ, and when you do you will find the crucified Lord raised in all His glory for your redemption.