Day One: The Promise of Forgiveness

Today is Ash Wednesday.  It marks the first day in the church season of Lent.

Why do we call it Ash Wednesday?

I thought this description from the United Methodist Church website was great so I’ll share with you:

“In the Bible, sprinkling oneself with ashes was traditionally a sign of one’s sorrow for having committed sins. In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday also marked the beginning of preparation for the understanding of the death and resurrection of Christ. The particular symbolism of ashes for this day comes from a practice in the Roman Catholic churches in which the ashes from the palms used in the preceding year’s Palm Sunday celebration are blessed. With these ashes, the priest on the first day of Lent marks a cross on the forehead of each worshiper.”                       (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/ash-wednesday)

As you see, Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance.  And that is why I thought the best promise of God that we can focus on for Ash Wednesday is the promise of God’s forgiveness.  Don’t we all need to be reminded of God’s forgiveness of our sins?  Here are some verses of Scripture to remind you of this promise:

“Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Matthew 26:27-28

“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   1 John 1:9

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he has lavished on us.”   Ephesians 1:7

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

How refreshing is it to read these words and know that God has promised us forgiveness?  And it’s not because we have done anything to deserve this forgiveness.  Let’s face it…we are sinners and don’t deserve anything from the Lord.  But He forgives us because He loves us so much.

I want to point out a key phrase in the 1 John Scripture above that I believe is important for you to pay attention to.  John says, “if we confess”.  Yes, God promises forgiveness, but the most important thing we need to do to receive that forgiveness is to confess our sins.  We have to acknowledge that we are sinners.  We have to lay it all at the feet of the Lord and seek His forgiveness.  He forgives freely, but we must first confess our sins to Him.

I also love these verses that go along with confessing our sins:

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”   Proverbs 28:13

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”   Acts 3:19

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”   Psalm 32:5

On this Ash Wednesday, I pray you will seek God’s forgiveness for your sins.  I pray you will turn to Him and, as we like to say in the South, “spill your guts”.  Don’t hold anything back. Yes, He already knows your sins, but He wants you to talk with Him and confess these sins to Him.

God’s promise of forgiveness is amazing.  We are all sinners in need of his mercy and forgiveness.  May you turn to Him today and seek repentance.

Prayer:   Father God, we come before you as sinners in need of your grace and forgiveness.  We repent of all the wrong we have committed against you and ask for your mercy.  Forgives us for (insert your sins you are seeking forgiveness for).  We are grateful that because of Jesus, our sins are wiped clean. Hear our prayers today, Lord.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Journal Options (every day I’ll give you a couple of questions to journal on if you like)
  1. Write out your own prayer to God asking forgiveness for the sins you have committed.
  2. What can you do to keep from committing that same sin again?
  3. If you went to an Ash Wednesday service at your church today, how did you feel when the ashes were placed on your forehead?

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