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Summary: To show that we can be lifted out of the ashes of our sins and sorrows by God as we follow the admonition in James 4.

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- -Today is Ash Wednesday and begins what is commonly called the Lenten season

-Origin of Lent

-Not found mentioned anywhere in the Bible

-Began around 230 AD

-Group of Christians started fasting 40 hours leading up to Easter

-Preparing their harts for Easter

-The idea caught on and later on was increased to 7 days and was called “Holy Week”

-By 325 AD the church (Catholic) officially made it 40 days

-Preceded by Mardi Gras

-Importance of ashes

-In ancient Israel, ashes were a powerful reminder of their sinfulness, mortality, grief, sorrow and suffering

-They would mark times of personal loss and national tragedy

-They were an outward sign of inner devastation

-They symbolize that what once burned bright and hot with fire had now been extinguished

-So in this season, beginning today, we take an inward look at out lives in relation to God. As we do, we cannot help but see that we are all sinners. Sinners saved, hopefully for each of us, by grace

-But, when we see our sin, we find ourselves as fallen man

-There is a great passage of scripture that gives us some great guidance on how to have God lift us up when we have fallen

-When we see our sin so clearly

-James 4:7-10

-Note: The book of James was written as encouragement to Christians

-Especially in the midst of persecution

-So what we have read, applies to believers

-Believers, who may have fallen and need the Lord to lift them up

-We, as Wesleyans, often like to hang our hat on our doctrine of entire sanctification

-We believe, and it is true, that when the Holy Spirit cleanses us, we are thus empowered to live lives of perfection free from willful, intentional sins

-Yet, this does not mean that our sin natures are eradicated

-They still remain and may lead us astray from time to time

-Into sins unintentionally and unwillingly

-So, from time to time, we need to be introspective and occasionally we will find ourselves in a fallen state

-Sometimes knowingly

-Sometimes unknowingly

-In this passage there are six things that we can do that will enable the Lord to lift us from our fallen state

I. Submission (vs. 7)

-ILL: Yield Sign

-It is giving God the right of way

-Especially if His will contradicts ours

A. God’s will takes precedence

B. Our will is given up

II. Resistance (vs. 7)

-This is saying an absolute “NO!” to temptation

-Sometimes this can be very difficult

-ILL: Bug Zapper

A. Fighting from within

-Sin Nature

B. Fighting from without

1. Satan and his evil forces

2. The world in general

-But here’s the good news

-Resistance is far from futile

-Scripture never calls us to something impossible

III. Pursuit (vs. 8)

-Draw near to God

A. With diligence

-ILL: Jacob Wrestling With God

-Genesis 32:26

1. To see Him

2. To hear His voice

3. To have His guidance

B. With determination

1. Fasting

-Typically this is considered as food

-Or even TV, cigarettes, etc. . .

-But, maybe consider these this year

-Grumbling

-15 minutes of bedtime

-Looking at the worst in others

-Speaking unkindly

-Worries or anxieties

-Buying excess items

-Judging by appearances

2. Praying

-Should go hand in hand with fasting

-Should be practiced whether fasting or not

3. Scripture

4. Spiritual Services

IV. Cleaning (vs. 8)

A. Cleansing of our hands

-Keeps us from getting spiritual illnesses

-This refers to the things we do

-Sinful habits we have picked up

-These stain our Christian hands (or lives)

-Note: Our job, not the Holy Spirit’s

1. It cannot be done piecemeal

B. Purifying of our minds

-This refers to the things we think

-Again, our job!

-Although the Holy Spirit is the purifying agent

-ILL: Purifying Water

According to the Red Cross, to purify drinking water use any of the following methods:

1) Boil for five to ten minutes;

2) Add ten drops of household bleach solution per gallon of water, mix well and let stand

for thirty minutes. A slight smell or taste of chlorine indicates water is good to drink.

3) Add household tincture of iodine in the same manner as bleach above.

4) Use commercial purification tablets, following package directions.

V. Sorrow (vs. 9)

A. A broken spirit

-Literally, “shattered, or destroyed”

-Not just chipped or cracked

B. A contrite heart

-Literally “crushed”

-Irreparable

-Note: This is what leads us to repentance

-II Corinthians 7:10

VI. Humility (vs. 10)

-This should be easy after we have done all of the previous

-We see ourselves as God sees us

A. What we are

B. What we can be

-By His grace

CONCLUSION

-Tonight, I invite you to allow God to lift you up

-Let’s begin this holy season of Lent with a wonderful time of recommitment and surrender to the Lord

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