God said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. -Genesis 3:19
Dust. How often have you used the word to describe yourself? You probably think of the word as a verb more often than not. It is what you do to clean your home. God, however, describes you in Genesis 3 as “dust. He says quite directly and more accurately than you realize, “For you are dust. He should know. It is the same material He used to form your body. The difference He makes by blowing into the dust the “breath of life is the difference between a body lying in a casket and a body just a moment earlier, housing personality, spirit, and soul, animating your “dust.
Dust is certainly not very flattering in describing you, you think? When you put on makeup, buy new clothes, or brush your hair, are you merely decorating dust? Do you ever think this as you stand in front of a mirror? Paul the Apostle adds to God’s description of you as dust, referring to the activities you pursue to decorate your dust as “filthy rags and “rubbish, something he considers “loss in comparison to knowing Jesus Christ and being found in Him. Just before, Paul had offered a whole list of such “decorating that he had done.
You may not have known it, but yesterday was Ash Wednesday in the Church Year – the beginning of Lent leading to Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday, Easter. Observers of this day have a mark of ash placed on their forehead to signify they are but dust and ashes. Possibly such can be considered a bit ritualistic, but if such truth really finds your heart, influencing your behavior toward greater righteousness, it is a step of faith signifying obedience to your Lord’s commands. An attitude of repentance acknowledges you are a helpless sinner always in need of the righteousness of Jesus.
This can be an everyday activity even without placing ashes on your forehead. According to your Bible, this was a practice of many Old Testament saints, repenting “in dust and ashes. At a minimum, repentance begins with an absolutely true look at yourself, informed by how Scripture describes you before a holy God.
Jesus promised, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Poverty of spirit within is a mark accompanying an authentic self-assessment. King David rightly confessed, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. This is what genuine repentance looks like.
Psalm 51 speaks truly; it is the Scriptural basis of Lent. However, it need not, it must not be seasonal only as Lent is. We need reminders. A habit of Scripture reading and thoughtful meditation stirs your memory through the whole year, but following the Church Year can be a help.
The traditional funeral service has in it these words: “…ashes to ashes, dust to dust in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life. You came from dust and you return to dust. You came from matter and you return to matter. Materialists think this is all you are yet fail to define personality, spirit, and soul consistent with materialism. They cannot do so. In between your coming from dust and returning to it, you are a living soul integrated with a physical body marked with unique features, unique DNA, unique from any other human being who has ever lived. This is beyond amazing! The question for many, however, are the words, “sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life.
The path to assurance of what lies beyond a return to dust is the acknowledgement of who you really are, as captured in the theme of Ash Wednesday and Lent. You are a sinner in need of redemption, of becoming like Jesus and being found in Him. Repeat Psalm 51 as your personal confession: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Then confess what your constant prayer is: “Create in me a pure heart, O God!
If you wish to decorate your dust, put the clothes of Jesus’ character on your soul. As the Scriptures say, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Become like Him and truly decorate your dust!
“I am evil, born in sin; Thou desirest truth within. Thou alone my Savior art. Teach Thy wisdom to my heart. Make me pure, Thy grace bestow. Make me whiter than the snow.
(Third verse of The Psalter, Psalm 51, “God, Be Merciful to Me, 1912)
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