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Why We Celebrate Lent

If you’re part of the growing population who wonders why some folks recently had dark stuff smeared on their foreheads, let me explain.

If you’re part of the growing population who wonders why some folks recently had dark stuff smeared on their foreheads, let me explain. The occasion was Ash Wednesday. The “stuff” is ashes. And the reason is to remind ourselves that from dust we came and to dust we will return.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin and death entered the world. God proclaimed to Adam, after eating the forbidden fruit, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). Since then, and until the Lord returns, we all are faced with a limited time on this earth, and the decisions we make will have an impact on all of eternity. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent and is a reminder of our mortality. The focus is on our need for reconciliation with God.

As we confront our mortality, our perspective on life impacts our expectations regarding death. Atheists believe that when you die you simply cease to exist. The philosopher, Epicurus, asked, “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?”

Eastern mysticism, which includes Buddhism & and Hinduism, teaches variations of reincarnation, returning as either a lower or higher life form. Nirvana, a release from the cycles of life, can only be attained with the elimination of all greed, hatred, and ignorance. Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven, and is the highest state that someone can attain (Stanford University, “Introduction to Buddhism”).

Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism teach that there is a heaven and hell. I use the word “orthodox,” to refer to those who believe the clear teaching of their Scriptures. The way to these destinations differs quite significantly between the religions.

Life can be sometimes painful and wearing. An Atheists’ perspective can be comforting, with the belief that all this will come to an end. Eastern mysticism and reincarnation sound exhausting. Living this life once is hard enough and Nirvana appears difficult to achieve. Even more difficult to face is the idea of heaven and hell, which Jesus taught. Jesus exhorted his listeners,

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Mat. 7:13-14).

From a Christian’s perspective, life is predominantly a tragic drama. Hell is a terrible place, and most people end up there for all eternity, while heaven is a wonderful place, yet only a few find it. The tragedy is that for most people, life is difficult and demanding, and eternity is even worse.

For me, the evidence for the existence of God and that the Bible is true is overwhelming (e.g. Is Atheism Dead,” by Eric Metaxas, is an excellent read on the subject), so I am compelled to warn people of the dangers to come if one does not repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

In recent months I have been captivated by the Smithsonian’s TV series, “Air Disasters.” I am up to season 12 of 20 seasons. In almost every episode the flight starts as normal with people preparing for a relaxing and enjoyable flight. Yet in almost every episode the outcome is a sudden tragedy and the loss of some, if not all, life. Such is our situation on Earth.

Jesus describes such the circumstances upon His return:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:37-39).

It is with this understanding that I beseech everyone to participate, if not in the season of Lent, the idea behind it: A time to reflect on our mortality, the need for repentance, and preparation to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus died for our sins, and He rose victorious over sin and death, once and for all who believe.

We were all created from dust, and to dust we all will return. Until then, now is the time when you can make a difference for all eternity. To all my brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you to share your faith in Christ. If you have not received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to read, “The Four Spiritual Laws.” It is only through Christ that we can have our sins paid for and forgiven, and it is only in His resurrection that we too have the hope of everlasting life.

In service to Christ,

Mark Eastway

Pastor, Burket Bible Church

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