The Church and the Doctrine of Ash Wednesday
By the grace of God and by the leadership of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to whom all must submit in heaven and on earth; I bring you greetings dearly beloved. It is a very charge from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that men ought always to pray and not to faint. Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Thessalonians in chapter 5:17 admonished us to pray without ceasing; it is in this regards that I call on christian people everywhere to join me as we look at the relevance of Ash Wednesday as a doctrine in the christian church.
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting, it mark the beginning of the lenten season for the church. The question one would ask is, does it mean that the church has not been praying all year round? The church is built on the foundation of the Prophets and the Apostles with Jesus Christ as the chief Cornerstone; prayers has been the foundation upon which the church was established, Jesus Christ Himself started His ministry with 40 days and 40 nights fasting and prayers, the Apostles at the upper room while waiting upon the gift of the Holy Spirit were all waiting in prayers and fasting.
On this very day of Ash Wednesday, christian people are usually seen with ashes with a sign of the cross on their forehead. The ash has two significance of which I will point out below;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.(Genesis 3:19|KJV-
On the first hand, the fall of man brought sin and death and God in His mercy for man not to be condemned in perpetuity withdraw the tree of life and sanctioned death as punishment for sin. The ash is a reminder that we are made from the dust and it is to this dust that we shall return. It signifies how helpless we are as mortal to help ourselves and also reminds us that eternity begins in the life after since no man can live in this world on perpetuity.
The Ash as a sign of the cross on the forehead is also significance to the hope we have in the cross, that although through one man sin came into this world, so also through another man which is Christ Jesus, sin is taken out of the way. The ash as a sign of the cross also reminds us of God’s love towards us in restoration of that tree of life which is Christ, to the effect that anyone who now eat from that tree will no more die but have life in everlasting.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.(Job 42:5-6|KJV-
On the other hand; ash is a display of remorse and repentance; thought the old covenant the people demonstrate their repentance to God in ashes and sackcloth and God through that medium accepted them and forgave them.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.(Matthew 11:21|KJV-
Christ too made reference to repentance through the ashes and sackcloth as was a practice of the old to show us how we ought to live remorseful in this present time.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause, he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death,, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.(Hebrews 9:13-15|KJV-
Here is the conclusion of it all; there is now one mediator between God and man: the man Christ Jesus. God as it stands now has laid all our sins and punishment on Christ Jesus so He is no longer interested if you bath in ashes or put on sackcloths; the sacrifices that He requires from us now is a broken and a contrite heart, He is looking for a heart that is receptive to the work of the cross and focused on Christ.
Ashes may still be applied as a reminder but the most important thing that God is look out for is genuine repentance that proceeds from the heart, let’s not be like the publicans that washes the outside of the cup and leaves the inside dirty. Consecration is our call as Christians from the very beginning of time, there is no special time or season to be consecrated or to be holy as Christians, since Jesus Christ assume the position of the mediator of the new covenant; we are called to follow Him by faith and not by sight, to trust and obey Him and through prayers, fasting, supplications and Thanksgiving make our request known to Him.
Finally beloved, let us reexamination our ways and turn to Him once again, let us remember from where we have fallen and His loving purposes towards us and repent, let us demonstrate our love towards Him in total repentance of our sins and total obedience to His word so that when He shall appear in His Glory, the grave and power of sin will not hold us down.
Most merciful and Holy God, it is You that has called us out of darkness into the marvelous light of your dear Son Jesus Christ! You raised us with Him on the cross and brought us together in the newness of life, He ascended into Your right hand in glory to prepare for us a place of eternal rest! Almighty and eternal Father, may we who share this faith and truth live in hope of eternal Glory, grant us the grace to run this race with patience and perseverance in all goodness, forgive us all our sins as we forgive those that sin against us, endure us with peace, love, truth and obedience to Your Holy word that in living we we live to praise and glorify Your Holy name and in dying we shall find a resting place in your eternal Kingdom through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You in the power of the Holy Spirit in the company of Your Holy Angels; to You be glorified for Ever and ever. Amen.