"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
I have always been curious about the practice of "Ash Wednesday," or "Lent." It is a time when believers, mostly denominational adherents, observe a period of 40 days fasting and prayer. This is in commemoration of the 40 days which Jesus fasted before his temptation by Satan.
The ceremony is marked by the "sacrificing" of something in a person's life, for the 40 day period, ending on Easter. This sacrifice can be something like quitting smoking, loosing weight, or even "cleaning up language," (i.e. cursing).
Some may also chose another kind of activity like not watching TV, or texting, etc. The person's forehead is marked by a church minister with ashes in the shape of the cross to show they are a participant, hence the name "Ash Wednesday."
I see nothing really wrong with this ritual. In fact, (Matthew 6: 16-18) speaks of fasting, although it also mentions that one "wash himelf" so as not to be obvious that you are fasting. This would be in direct contrast to the marking of ash on the person's forehead...
One of the main ideas of this observance is aimed at self-improvement; to make one's self a better person in some way. While this is admirable, it would seem to me that this should be the goal of every believer, every day! Again, not to take exception with those who practice "Lent," but the focus on walking closer to Christ must be our central purpose. It's not just a "40 day" practice.
In the words of scripture above, the Apostle Luke places emphasis on self-denial, complete dedication, and willing obedience. In other words, we are to adopt a mindset of "dying to ourselves, in order to live for Christ." Consider the words of (Mark 8: 34-35) which says:
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."
Jesus stresses this idea in many scriptures. It may be said that this idea is one of our Lord's most frequently mentioned commands to his followers...
In closing, I would commend any effort to bring ourselves closer to God's will. But instead of doing so for a period of time, expand on the objective and strive to serve Him to the best of our abilities each and every day!
Excellent post and right on regarding our striving to serve Him EVERYDAY! We can only hope that the observance of Lent, practiced by Christians of many denominations, will encourage a few to continue their walk,
in the Spirit, after the 40 days have past. If 3 million people observe Lent (just an abstract figure,) and 3 of the 3 million continue their walk for the remainder of their lives, God is glorified!