We begin the season of Lent with a special day, Ash Wednesday. Lent is a season of repentance, with Ash Wednesday’s worship service focusing on that theme.

Godly repentance requires us to find a balance — a middle road. On the one extreme is a fear of repentance. Sometimes we imagine that if we hide our sins and don’t confess them then they don’t really exist. Perhaps we just don’t want to talk or think about our sins. I supposed this attitude could lead a person to think about skipping the Ash Wednesday worship service in hopes of not having to think about the reality of a sin that has too much control of a life. Of course, hiding sins may work on us, but God is not so easily fooled. We need to admit the reality of our failures.

On the other extreme is the idea that repentance is easy. After all, God says, “Return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster” (Joel 2:13). The promise of free forgiveness — a certain promise that is often repeated throughout the Bible — leads some to mistakenly make repentance into something quick and easy. True repentance, that believes the free forgiveness that is ours because of Jesus, seeks to change . . . and that is not easy. “Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31). God’s forgiveness never leads us to think about continuing a sin. By God’s grace we are eager to change.

We need to find the middle ground between not repenting and repenting without thinking about change. Let the law of God work in your heart. The pain that comes from seeing sin will be relieved by the blood of Jesus who takes away every sin. Don’t hide sin or the poison will continue to work in your life. As you again recall what Jesus has done for you, let the gospel create a new heart in you. On Ash Wednesday the message of forgiveness is proclaimed in the liturgy, hymns, readings, sermon, and the Lord’s Supper. As that forgiveness sinks into your heart, don’t be afraid of change — turning from sin to find new, God-pleasing paths. Engage in the beneficial struggle against sin and be guided by the Spirit to form new habits and to act as the child of God that you really are! “This is the Lord’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Humbly take God’s Word to heart — believing in Jesus and turning from the sins the Bible condemns.

These fruits of repentance are God-pleasing. Let the season of Lent have the purpose for which it is intended. This is a time for spiritual growth that happens when God’s people turn from the ways of the world and are recommitted to following their Savior in a life of faith and a life of service.


Pastor Wempner

Pastor Zarling

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