Ash Wednesday 2021

Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021 A+D
2 Peter 1:2-11


In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We are partakers of Christ’s divine nature. For the bread which we break, is it not the Body of Christ? Though it is a heavenly food and contains the fullness of God Himself, for Christ cannot be divided, is it not put into our human mouths? Does He not say that it is for the forgiveness of sins and that it makes us one with Him? Indeed. We are partakers of Christ’s divine nature who have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Let us therefore use this season of Lent to mortify the flesh and ever give greater praise to God.

The divine power of Jesus has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. There is nothing that pertains to life or godliness that comes from us. It all comes from Him, who created us, redeemed us, and is sanctifying us.

Christ, Our Lord, has the authority and the will to be gracious to us, forgiving our sins and declaring us to be righteous though we were sinners. He bestows life and godliness upon the dead and ungodly. We receive this as a gift by the word of the King. He has paid for everything by His benevolent generosity and gives it away for free, in perfect love.

This is the doctrine that we call justification. Justification is God’s verdict of righteousness upon sinners. He declares us to be righteous and our sins forgiven because Christ has paid for them all. He has done by His self-offering on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. He has overcome sin and death on our behalf. It is His divine power and will that saves us. We are not saved by not our decision or understanding or desire. We were dead in our trespasses, enemies of God. We neither could nor would we cooperate with God. But God loved us and sent His Son to redeem us.

This redemption and justification is complete. God changed His own mind about us for His own sake. He does not hold our sins against us. Instead, He reckons us to be holy, innocent, and righteous for Christ’s sake. We receive the benefit of this reckoning, the glory of His divine power, when we believe it.

But Jesus also died for our sanctification. He died that we would have a godliness that reflects His goodness and He calls us to His own glory and excellence. Sanctification is a gift that also comes by His divine power. Christians who have been declared righteous and are counted as righteous, grow and act as the righteous against their old man and sin. They do not do this out of fear of punishment, but out of love and gratitude to God. They are not play acting. They sincerely want to be like Jesus. They love His Law and they imitate His obedience to it. They in no way do this on their own. It is a Divine work. We read in 2 Corinthians: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Co 9:8, NKJ).

God increases our sanctification through the means of grace, that is, through His Word and Sacraments. The means of justification are also the means of sanctification. By them, the Holy Spirit, changes the hearts and minds of believers. God’s grace does not simply make a change in His mind. We are also changed by grace. Unlike justification, this is not only a Divine work; it is also a Christian work and He gives us a part in it.

At the prompting, and with the aid, of the Holy Spirit we engage, everyone of us, in spiritual warfare. We struggle against the devil, the world, and our own flesh. We do actual good works. They aren’t perfect works, because we are not yet perfect, but they are good, and they please God. We could not cooperate with God in justification because we were dead, but we are no longer dead. In Christ, we live. And, in Christ, we cooperate in our sanctification. We set our wills toward it. We make choices about it. We strive for it.

And thus St. Peter urges us to add virtue to faith and to be ever more diligent in good works, proving our call and election, and avoiding that which places our faith in danger. He does not urge us toward this because we need to prove ourselves to God or to earn His favor. Rather good works and the avoidance of sin give fullness of joy in this life and make us good examples and witnesses to the world of God’s goodness given to imperfect sinners.

For this very reason, we seek to add virtue to faith. We want to enjoy all the fruits of the Spirit. God forbid that we ever forget that we are cleansed from our old sins. Easter is coming and we are dying. We are dust. To dust we shall return. There is no avoiding it. But we are redeemed and we are being sanctified. This world is passing away and our sins along with it. God be praised!

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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