Ash Wednesday 2020
Lent is a penitential season. The 40 days of Lent give us a time to humble ourselves before God with sincere and contrite hearts, asking Him to show us the sin in our lives, for we all have sinned and thus fall short of the glory of God. When we recognise our sin, out of His compassion, grace and love for us God deals with us, be it ever so gently, showing us our sin and pointing us to the one who has overcome all sin and taken that sin upon Himself, His Son Jesus.
For this reason, Jesus is good news! The word evangelism means “good news”. But Jesus only becomes good news when we are willing to receive Him as our Lord Saviour, recognising Him as the Son of God. So, at the heart of Lent is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and this Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for us because it addresses our deepest needs and longings as human beings. No other faith, philosophy or worldview can meet this need. This amazing Gospel tells us many things, but there are three things that are basic to the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus.
Last year in the run up to Valentine’s Day a well-known high street jeweller had a strap line “Show her that you know her”! Surely, for Valentine’s Day it should have been “Show her that you love her”! But perhaps to be known is to be loved. That is very much part of the good news; we are known by God and His deepest desire is that we get to know Him, as He knows us. He wants us to know that He notices us, after all, He sees all that goes on. Scripture is full of accounts where people try and hide away from God only to discover that He has been with them along!
The Gospel of Jesus tells us that we are seen, known and loved. Do you remember who first witnessed the resurrection of Jesus? Mary. She was a woman previously shunned and ignored by the people she lived with, now she sees Jesus face to face, when He calls her by name ‘Mary’! From that moment she is seen and known, and this is the foundation on which she is the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel of Jesus is good news because it tells us that we are seen, known and loved with an extraordinary love. That’s the first thing, the Gospel tells us we are loved!
Secondly the Gospel tells us that we are forgiven.
Knowing that we are loved by Jesus is only part of the story, for love alone is not enough. As I mentioned above the Gospel deals with one of the biggest problems we have as human beings; sin! Paul in Romans 3 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Such a statement applies to everyone, but for many, sin seems difficult to talk about. That is why we encourage people here to engage with Jesus Ministry as this helps us to see that God is so quick to forgive when we repent of our sin. For many though the idea of there being a God we have wronged seems archaic, but we’re still extremely good had harming others, and ourselves, all of which leaves us feeling broken, guilt ridden and powerless to change. Despite all our advances we still live from a selfish centre. This shows us that sin is a form of idolatry where we assign our love toward something else rather than toward God who made us and loves us.
While the Gospel makes clear our sinfulness, it makes even more abundantly clear Jesus’ extravagant, relentless and selfless love for us. The events of Good Friday announce to us that whilst we are more sinful than we like to admit, we are loved more than we could ever dare to hope for or imagine. The good news is that Jesus has come for sinners exactly like you and me. As I have often said, forgiveness is an amazing and tremendous gift to us from a loving God who wants a personal relationship with us. Every time we confess and repent, we experience what the prodigal son experienced when even before he was home his father ran to meet him. Come close to God and He will come close to you!
This is the good news we are called to share – through forgiveness we are welcomed home!!
So the good news of the gospel tells us that we are loved and forgiven. Thirdly the good news tells that we do not have to fear death.
What a time we are living in… death is all around us, every night on the news we hear how many people have died who tested positive for covid-19 in the last 28 days. This doesn’t include any who have died for other reasons! We’re being forced to come face to face with death on a daily basis. This current generation hasn’t had to do this before so fear has grown, many are afraid to go outside. We feel powerless; we cannot control the situation. Perhaps that was why we all bought so much toilet paper and pasta!
Scripture refers to death as the final enemy (1 Cor. 15:24-26) and we also know from scripture that the enemy, Satan, has a powerful strategy to make us live in fear (Hebrews 2:15). Remember how Jesus stood up against death? Through His tears He called out to Lazarus, inviting him to leave the tomb, and he did! We may think that death is natural, but it isn’t; God is eternal and Jesus says I am the Alpha and Omega. Think how old the characters written about in scripture were when they died, far older than any of us. You see, to God, death is a rupture in the fabric of our human existence (pg. 24 Living His Story by Hannah Steele). In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was demonstrating the power He has to overcome the final enemy, death. This miracle prefigured His own resurrection, an event we celebrate in six weeks’ time.
The good news we live and tell is built on the foundation of the resurrection of Jesus. If we have a personal relationship with God through Jesus we can say with confidence “I have seen the Lord”, for He is alive. Because He is alive, death, the deepest fear for so many, has been met with resurrection and new life. The resurrection of Jesus, which actually happened, is therefore, the most important event in the history of humanity.
So just as the Gospel of Jesus declares that we are loved because we are known personally by God, and that we are forgiven because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice once and for all for our sin, so the promise of new life, eternal life, in the name of Jesus must not be hidden or kept out of sight. Over the next six weeks live as Gospel people:
People who know that they are loved
People, who whenever they confess and repent, know they are forgiven,
People who know that death is defeated, for we believe in, and worship an eternal loving God.