Sunday, October 07, 2018

Beauty for Ashes

(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, October 7, 2018.)

Many of us are familiar with the phrase “beauty from ashes.” It evokes a sense of comeback, of a phoenix rising from destruction, of finding something good in the midst of so much evil. Throughout history ashes have represented loss and mourning. So the idea of finding beauty rising out of the ashes strikes a chord of hopefulness within all of us.

Many people believe this phrase comes from the Bible. But they’re mistaken. However, there’s actually a very similar phrase found in the book of Isaiah. Looking forward to the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote that the Redeemer would “appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” (Is 61:3 KJV)

Did you catch it? The prophet did not say that God’s promise was to bring beauty FROM ashes, but rather He would give beauty FOR ashes! There’s a big difference between the two!

We like the idea of God making something beautiful from something ugly. And He can certainly do that. But His promise in Scriptures is to actually replace our ashes with something else!

I believe this points to the salvation that God provided through Jesus Christ. When God saves us, He doesn’t simply improve us, He creates something new! Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17 KJV)

When you repent of your sins and confess Jesus as Lord, having believed that God raised Him from the dead, God doesn’t just “improve” you. He re-creates you! Salvation doesn’t make you a better version of your old self. It creates a whole new you!

This is why Jesus spoke of the “new birth” as being necessary to be part of the Kingdom of God. When He spoke with Nicodemus, a learned religious leader, Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NASB).

It’s not the amount of religious education you have, or even how often you go to church. The question is, have you experienced the new birth that Peter described when he said, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet 1:23 NASB)

While we may not understand all the nuances of this “born again” language, there is something within our hearts that cries out for a new beginning. We long for “old things” to pass way and for all things to become new! There’s something within us that cries out in our broken condition for a new beginning. Not for beauty to come out of our ashes, but to be given beauty in place of our ashes.

I’ve got good news for you! This is the hope of the Christian faith! And it’s something we cannot earn – it’s the free gift of God! There is hope for a new beginning!

That hope is the very message that many churches from many denominations across Central Louisiana have come together to present at the Rapides Parish Coliseum on Oct 14-17. The event is called #Hope4U2018 and the goal is present this message of hope to every citizen of Cenla!

You don’t have to live in the ashes of your failure and brokenness any longer. There is #Hope4U! And it’s found in Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 63. In fact, He quoted from it when He taught His first ever sermon in Luke 4, and after reading the prophet’s words He simply said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21 NASB)

How could He say that? Because Jesus IS the Hope for you and me! Please join me Oct 14-17 at the Rapides Parish Coliseum for #Hope4U2018 and let God replace your ashes with His beauty! Because there is hope!

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