Sermon for Ash Wednesday

Sermon for Ash Wednesday

(Transcribed by machine 04/08/2024)

In the name of Jesus, amen.
Dear Saints of God,
the two most important things for us to know
are also the two most difficult things for us to know.
And they are these.
First,
you are a sinner who deserves the wrath of God.
And second,
you have a Savior
Savior, who has endured that wrath for you.”
Now we’re going to explore the difficulty of those two truths, but I want you to know
that what we call that, knowing those two things, it’s what it means to be enlightened,
Christian enlightenment, but we use the word repentance to describe that.
Now it’s important for us to explain this because a lot of times that word repentance
Repentance is used in a very different sense in the church.
In fact, I remember when I was starting to learn theology, and they told me that repentance
means to turn around and go a different direction.
Repentance means to change your mind, and I suppose that’s actually what the Greek
word means, to change your mind, but really what they meant was it’s to change your behavior.
You’re doing this thing, and you stop, and you do another thing.
But that changing of your behavior is not what the Bible means by repentance.
In fact, the Bible has a very specific word for that or a phrase.
It’s the fruit of repentance.
It’s what comes after repentance.
But before that change of life, before that change of deeds, before doing something different
comes a change of mind, a change of heart about yourself and about God.
You must first know this about yourself, that you are a sinner.
Now it might not sound like a real difficult proposition because after all we know that
we’ve made mistakes, right?
We know that there’s things that we regret.
We know that we’ve done things wrong before, but that’s not yet the, that is not yet contrition.
There’s a difference, I think, between a troubled conscience and a terrified conscience.
A troubled conscience knows that it’s done something wrong.
We all know that we’ve done, everybody knows that they’ve done something wrong.
In fact, if you find someone who doesn’t think they’ve ever done anything wrong, which
I have a couple of times, here’s how to sort it out.
you just got to ask him this, well do you have any regrets? All of us have regrets.
All of us know that we we have not lived life to the fullest, that we haven’t
loved like we should have loved, that we cared for people like we should have
cared for people, that we haven’t done everything right. I remember watching
one street preacher and he was talking to people on the street who thought that
they were pretty good, he’d ask him do you think you’re a good person and they’d
They’d say, oh, yeah, I’m pretty good.
And he’d say, well, have you ever told a lie?
I said, well, yeah, I have.
What do you call a person who tells lies?
A liar.
And then he’d say, well, have you ever stolen anything?
And they’d say, yeah.
What do you call someone who steals something?
They’d say, a stealer, no, a thief, right?
In fact, one guy said, well, no,
I’ve never stolen anything.
And he said, well, I’m not sure I can trust you.
You just told me you’re a liar.
So, you’re a liar and a thief, that’s just two of the commandments, and you still are
claiming to be a good person?
Have you ever lusted in your heart?
Jesus calls that adultery.
Have you ever been bitter with someone?
Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain?
That’s blasphemy, blaspheming, lying, adulterous thieves.
Okay, so we know this basic thing, that we know we haven’t been perfect, but here’s the
thing that is hard to know.
It’s easy to know that you’re not perfect.
It’s hard to know that that imperfection goes all the way down and all the way up.
What I mean by that is this, that you are not a good person that’s made mistakes.
You are a sinner. You’ve inherited from Adam and Eve, and from your own parents,
a sinful nature, created by God good, but completely corrupt through and through,
so that the inclinations of your heart are every day toward evil, and that if
you could get away with it, you would be breaking God’s commandments one after
another in service of yourself, and so would I.” This sinfulness goes all the way down.
And here’s the even more difficult thing, it goes all the way up to heaven like a burning
garbage heap. And it comes into the nostrils of God and fills him over our sin, it fills
him with disgust. That’s what the choir was singing in Psalm 51 and this is
this is hard to know. I told you it’s one of the two most difficult things to know
but it is what David prays in Psalm 51 against you and you only have I sinned
O Lord and done what is wrong in your sight. Here it’s a troubled
conscience says I’ve done wrong but a terrified conscience knows this that for
For my wrongdoings, for my sin, God is in fact angry, and rightly so.
Now, that is hard to admit, that I’ve deserved God’s temporal and eternal punishment.
In fact, so difficult is that to know that it can only be worked in our hearts and our
minds, by the law of God and the Holy Spirit.
That’s why, by the way, we preach this every Sunday from this pulpit and why we’re leaning
into it tonight because it’s so hard.
We think, well, look, I’m basically a good person.
I try to do what’s right.
I don’t do everything wrong.
Maybe I say that I’m a poor, miserable sinner, but I can’t even remember that last time I
did something that deserved hell itself.
So, we need to repent that we don’t even know how bad we are.
We are like the lepers in the Old Testament that part of the disease was the fact that
they couldn’t even feel the sickness that was rotting away their own flesh, and so we
don’t even feel the depth of our own sinfulness unless it’s brought to us by the Holy Spirit.
But we pray that by the law the Spirit has done that work, has convinced you, has convinced
me of this, that I, a poor, miserable sinner, deserve God’s wrath now and forever.
Because the Lord has another most important, most difficult truth for us to know, and it
It is that Christ died for sinners.
That Christ died for sin, for your sin and mine.
That Christ died for you.
That he was not content to visit you with his wrath or to let you languish in eternal
death.
No, that he sent his only begotten Son into your flesh and blood and into your sin and
into your grave to be a Savior for you.
Now, I’ll tell you an interesting phenomenon about repentance, these two difficult things
to know, and that is that if we’re inclined to believe one, we’re not inclined to believe
the other.
The people who are not inclined to confess their own sins, well, I’m sure Jesus is a
nice guy and he probably likes me.
But the people who are inclined to believe, and in fact who do believe that they’re sinners
because of the Holy Spirit are not inclined to believe the love of God in Christ and you
see the danger.
When you become convinced by God’s Word and by the Holy Spirit that you really are that
bad, then you start to become convinced that there’s no hope for you.
That maybe Jesus came for sinners like the other people, but not for the ones that are
as bad as I am.
When the depth of our own sin strikes us, then it’s difficult for us to believe the height of the love of God.
And so here we have to say it absolutely plainly, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners.
Paul says it like this, of who I am the foremost.
You cannot out-sin the love of God. You cannot out-stain his saving power.
Remember, you cannot dig a hole so deep that He cannot reach down there to rescue you from
it.
And it does not matter what you’ve done.
I know some of these sins creep around in the conscience, and the devil gives them voice.
If that preacher knew what you did, he would have never laid his hands on your head and
told you that your sins are forgiven.
But the devil is wrong, because your sins are forgiven, every single one of them.
There’s not a single thing, a single law that you’ve managed to break that Christ has not
forgiven.
He didn’t come for small sinners, baby sinners, sinners that, you know, colored outside of
the lines in their coloring book.
Jesus can take care of those people, but not people who have sinned like me.
That’s not…
Jesus is a real Savior of real sinners, just like you and me.
And so we rejoice that God the Holy Spirit, through His Word,
teaches us these two things, the two most difficult and two
most important things for us to know,
that we are sinners who are saved by the blood of Jesus.
and in that repentance we rejoice. The Lord has brought us to the joy of the
life of Christ, of God’s mercy and grace that knows no bounds or limits, that
will carry us through all the difficulties of this life, which look I
know there’s a lot, it will carry us through all the difficulties of this
life until we see him face-to-face in heaven.
So may God grant his spirit so that we would be preserved in this saving
knowledge, in the enlightenment of the wisdom of God, that we would be repentant
knowing our sin and even more knowing the boundless love of our Savior. May God
granted for Christ’s sake. Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand. Amen. The
peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and
minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.