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What is Ash Wednesday?

Since True Life Church is a church full of people from many different denominational backgrounds, questions often arise as to why we do or do not make a big deal out of various traditions that other churches observe.

And since Ash Wednesday was last week, I (Chris) thought the below article might help explain the origins and purpose of it.

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What Is Ash Wednesday? taken from GotQuestions.Org

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Its official name is “Day of Ashes,” so  called because of the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in the sign of  a cross. Since it is exactly 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter  Sunday, it will always fall on a Wednesday—there cannot be an “Ash Thursday”  or “Ash Monday.” The Bible never mentions Ash Wednesday—for that matter, it  never mentions Lent.

Lent is intended to be a time of self-denial,  moderation, fasting, and the forsaking of sinful activities and habits. Ash  Wednesday commences this period of spiritual discipline. Ash Wednesday and Lent  are observed by most Catholics and some Protestant denominations. The Eastern  Orthodox Church does not observe Ash Wednesday; instead, they start Lent on  “Clean Monday.”

While the Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday, it does  record accounts of people in the Old Testament using dust and ashes as symbols  of repentance and/or mourning (2  Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job  2:8; Daniel 9:3). The modern tradition of rubbing  a cross on a person’s forehead supposedly identifies that person with Jesus  Christ.

Should a Christian observe Ash Wednesday? Since the Bible  nowhere explicitly commands or condemns such a practice, Christians are at  liberty to prayerfully decide whether or not to observe Ash Wednesday.

If a Christian decides to observe Ash Wednesday and/or Lent, it is important to  have a biblical perspective. Jesus warned us against making a show of our  fasting: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they  disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, 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 men that you are fasting, but  only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew  6:16-18). We must not allow spiritual discipline to become spiritual  pride.

It is a good thing to repent of sinful activities, but that’s  something Christians should do every day, not just during Lent. It’s a good  thing to clearly identify oneself as a Christian, but, again, this should be an  everyday identification. And it is good to remember that no ritual can make  one’s heart right with God.

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