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Should There Even Be an Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Ash Wednesday Sermon

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Introduction

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baptists, works of righteousness to be seen by others?
Matthew 6:1–6 NIV
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
well, Marijo just shared with us the beginning of Lent.
Interestingly, this is also the passage where Jesus teaches the model prayer, or what we know as The Lord’s Prayer. Then he goes back to the topic of performing righteous acts for the sake of being seen by other
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. The First Sunday describes Jesus' temptation by Satan; and the Sixth Sunday (Passion/Palm Sunday), Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent passion and death. Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.
Matthew 6:1
actually heard a good exposition on this by an 8th grader; I’m not preaching his sermon (I don’t have it), but I remember really enjoying it and taking it to heart.
Matthew 6:16–20 NIV
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 4:1–11 NIV
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
actually heard a good exposition on this by an 8th grader

A few words about the Devil / Satan.

Underwood Deviled Ham Saturday morning commercial. It was an ineffective advertising for a Baptist family. My parents refused to buy it - not for health reasons (vienna sausages, spam), but because they did not want to endorse the devil.
But when we read about the Devil or Satan, what do we think of? Not the Underwood Deviled Ham cartoon, but perhaps a creature, more awful than the ones pictured in drawings. But I don’t think that’s a helpful way to picture the Devil or Satan, as some boogie man that perches on one side of our shoulder.
Instead, we should realize that Satan is far more mysterious and deceptive than that. The name Satan means “adversary,” or the one who opposes God. How does he do that? By terrorizing us like in a horror movie? It’s far more deceptive than that. He distorts. He deceives. In the story Marijo told us, he quotes and misinterprets the Bible.
I talked last Sunday about how atheists often know the Bible better than Christians, which is a serious problem. In today’s lesson we see that Satan can quote Scripture because he knows it. But he distorts it.
3 sources of temptations that necessitate repentance:
3 sources of temptations:

Looking to other sources when we have a need.

Matthew 4:4 NIV
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Matthew 4
Our needs make us weak. Ever think of fasting? We often snicker at the idea, because we Methodists love to eat. We remember what it’s like when our blood sugar drops and we can barely concentrate and get grumpy. Maybe we shouldn’t see those symptoms as signs that we had better go to the drive through or eat that sandwich we packed. Maybe we should see those as signs that we should stop and pray. Dwell in Scripture.
The context of the passage:
Our needs make us weak. Ever think of fasting? We often snicker at the idea, because we Methodists love to eat. We remember what it’s like when our blood sugar drops and we can barely concentrate and get grumpy. Maybe we shouldn’t see those symptoms as signs that we had better go to the drive through or eat that sandwich we packed. Maybe we should see those as signs that we should stop and pray. Dwell in Scripture.

Testing God.

God, if you are real you will…God, if you can hear me, then do this...
Psalm 91:11–12 NIV
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Psalm
How interesting that the enemy of God can quote Scripture so correctly. Scripture is not just important for self edification, but it is necessary to defend the Gospel against distortion.
Deuteronomy 6:16 NIV
Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.
Deuteronomy
Israel complained and rebelled until God had enough.
Job, in his suffering, crossed the line and made God angry:
Job 38:4–5 NIV
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?

Addiction to Power

Matthew 4:9 NIV
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
This seems ridiculous: A created being making an offer to the one who existed before creation. Can you promise what you don’t have? But Satan realizes the addictive nature of power. Jesus took on flesh, so he shared this temptation.
I dislike religious lobbying - not because I think that religion and politics should be completely separate. I don’t want the government telling me where and when I should express my faith.
But, I have seen lobbying groups, whether they be Southern Baptists or United Methodists become addicted to power. They no longer challenge our politicians, but they reflect them. They no longer challenge our political parties, but they have become mouthpieces for them.
We don’t have to have power to crave it. It’s like money: we don’t have to be rich to be controlled by a desire of it.

Conclusion

Repentance:
Repentance:
Look elsewhere for our needs.
Testing God - not following God without God demonstrating himself according to our designs.
Addiction to Power: Almost as easy as money.
Do we need Ash Wednesday. We can repent without it, but I like it because ashes are a tangible reminder of our mortality: for some, our mortality means that we enjoy life to the fullest, party till we die. But our mortality should remind us not to waste our life on ourselves or on empty pleasures. Don’t worry about eating enough food: worry about feeding others.
Instead of testing God - waiting on a sign from God, before we believe or act; let’s realize that God is testing us, waiting for us to act, waiting to see what our faith is made up of.
Let’s examine our own relationship with power: whose in control? Who is making our plans?
Do we need Ash Wednesday. We can repent without it, but I like it because ashes are a tangible reminder of our mortality: for some, our mortality means that we enjoy life to the fullest, party till we die. But our mortality should remind us not to waste our life on ourselves or on empty pleasures.
Let’s acknowledge these temptations, repent and believe the Gospel.
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