“Soul Fasting” (Part One)

TRUE FASTING–

Is there a difference between REGULAR FASTING and TRUE FASTING for the Believer?  When pastors call for a church to fast during the year, do we understand the differences, or are there differences?  Is the idea of FASTING an Old Testament practice and not for todays Church?

Isaiah 58:3-12 NIV translation:

“Why have we fasted, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”

A Bending Reed
A Bending Reed

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear, then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke  of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” 

GOD’S CHOSEN FAST:

I’ve been re-reading a terrific book written by one of my favorite authors, Mr. Don Nori: SECRETS OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE.  He asks a question that really caught my attention (pg. 175),  “Are you content to fast food, or is your desire to become God’s chosen fast?”

He goes on to say “Most of us know what the Scriptures call the true fast,” but few of us know the power and significance of this most unusual form of fasting.”

Now I don’t know “most Christians,” but I know I was unfamiliar with this form of fasting.   So, the Word Detective investigation into God’s Word began.

Over my Christian life, I’ve heard many times by different pastors who call for an annual “CHURCH FAST”; not a mandatory ritual, but a strongly suggested activity for a week or two in January.

Being a DIABETIC for over 56 years, ‘doing without food’ and adjusting my insulin wasn’t an option, so I just passed.  Now my actions might be an excuse or just a misunderstanding of the term FASTING, in either case I simply ignored the pastor’s request (I do pray!).

FASTING FOR WRONG MOTIVES:

In Isaiah 58:1-2, we can see the seriousness of the people’s self-absorbed religious practices.

[1] CRY ALOUD, spare not.  Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins!

{2] Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God.  They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways].  (Amplified Bible)

The people delight in the nearness of God; they thought of themselves as righteous–right with God.

THE PEOPLES PRESSURE (3-5):

In Verse 3, the people now voice their complaint in difficulty, though they were doing what the Law required.

Why have we fasted, they say, and you have not noticed?  Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  (NIV translation)

The people present how they view their RELIGION.  They were observing the activities as laid down by the religious leaders (priests), even engaging in FASTING (Lev. 16:29; Zech. 7:5-6).  They thought their FASTING in and of itself was humbling before their Lord.

Their FASTING though, was thoughtless or done as an attempt to obtain a selfish conclusion.  It was employed only for RELIGIOUS SHOW or to engage God to act on their behalf (See Mt. 6:16-18).

THE ACT OF SELF-DENIAL IN OUR FASTING:

Self-denial is a process to draw us closer to God, allowing us to hear Him better.  The prescribed annual fast, the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) was to afflict one’s soul for the purpose of mediation on the seriousness of one’s sins and the greatness of God in making ATONEMENT for them.  (See Footnote [i]).l

They saw FASTING as denying themselves of God so they might gain something worldly from God in return.  Neither FASTING nor REPENTANCE should be to get something from god in return.  REPENTANCE nor FASTING should be to get God to do anything.  They are expressions, the conviction that my ways are wrong and God’s ways are right whether He does anything for me or not.

Their FAST was simply an affliction of body, not an affliction of soul.

REAL MOTIVES BEHIND OUR BEHAVIOR IN FASTING:

VERSE 4 continues to lay open real motives behind the people’s behavior:

Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.  You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.  (NAS)

The reason for their FASTING was to make their iron-fisted, controversial acts more successful.

Fasting was to be the cause for God to effect or enact their covetous desires.  When it became obvious that their FASTING wasn’t having the desired effect in their lives, they FASTED to know why not.

So God told them that the purpose of their RELIGION was to acquire more and not to improve their closeness, their relationship with Him, as it was originally intended.

VERSE 5 relays that their motives, their purpose for fasting focussed on the external rather than on the realization that they need to be changed:

Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul?  [Is TRUE FASTING merely mechanical?]  Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and acceptable day to the Lord?  (Amplified Bible)

Because they had been focusing on their selfish ends (even their fasting) rather than a change of heart, attitude, and action…their prayers went unanswered.

The SACRIFICES of God are a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  If they call their bodily sacrifice alone a FAST, they were badly mistaken.

Bowing one’s head like a reed was a sign of humility; putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes were symbols of FASTING and signs of submission. But unless they go hand-in-hand as an inward submission to God and turning away from sin, they mean nothing!

THE ABSENCE OF THE BLESSING:

During the days of ISAIAH, God’s people were not experiencing the Lord’s Blessing–His favor on their lives.

They went through the MOTIONS OF WORSHIP and couldn’t understand why God wasn’t noticing their religious efforts.  But while they were FASTING, they were also exploiting their workers and fighting among themselves (vv 3-4).

8222922317_2cce0295b3Isaiah condemned their HYPOCRISY and told them they needed to change.  If they would free the oppressed, share with the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked, God would BLESS THEM with…

 

HEALING,

ANSWERED PRAYER,

GUIDANCE,

STRENGTH,

JOY!

RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY is no substitute for an OBEDIENT HEART.

THE PROPER PATTERN, 6-7:

FASTING is to let go of the normal and natural daily nourishment of this world in order to reach out and grab the empowering of God that is needed and to live righteously in this world.

In VERSES 6 & 7, we learn the desired outcome of FASTING:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?

-GO TO PART TWO TO CONTINUE-

Photo Credits by Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“True Worshipers” Are Paying the Price

If we are true “genuine” worshipers, according to John 4:23, we must bow down our lives so God’s will can be expressed through us.  Are you willing to pay the price of a true worshipper?

Luke 9:22 in saying,  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be [deliberately] disapproved and repudiated and rejected on the part of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be put to death and on the third day be raised [again].”

Luke 9:23 continues in saying,  “…If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself]”

STOP right there!  Jesus has presented us a decision to make; coming to Him in worship.  Remember Hebrews 13:15 says, we are to constantly and at all times be offering up a sacrifice of worship and praise. Luke gives us points of preparation in paying the price of “true worshipers”. 

#1.  “Deny oneself; forget your outside interests”, quit giving attention to others around you in church services.

Jesus continues preparing us to worship in verse 23:  “…take up his [our] cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, dying also.”

#2.  Follow Jesus’ example in living, by dying, if needed to “self”.

Romans 12:2  “take up our cross daily and deny self”.  “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the (entire) renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]…”

#3.  Get a new attitude about being a “True Worshiper” in Christ Jesus.  How? By the “daily” renewal of your mind.

Leaving ALL your STUFF outside before worshipping!

Luke 5:11,  “And after they had run their boats on shore, they left everything and joined Him as His disciples…”

If you are a believer in Jesus and a “True Worshiper“; not a pretending worshiper, you are a follower of Christ; a disciple. You are going to have ‘leave everything that is in your boat on shore and join Him in worship’.  The leaving it all behind continues in Luke 5:27-28.  The tax collector named Levi, leaves his lifestyle behind, to follow Jesus as His disciple.

The Cost of discipleship in Luke 14:26:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate hid [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]…”   Amplified Version.

“If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as their own lives, they cannot be my disciples.”  God’s WORD translation.

God is telling all of us that if we want to truly be His disciples and be true worshipers of Him, you are going to have to pay the price of separation; not in a corporeal, but in a spiritual way.

Going after it!

Luke 14:27 goes on to say to us that  “Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.”

If you are reading this blog, desiring to be a “True Worshiper” of Jesus and you are willing to pay the price of discipleship this next Sunday, you’re going to have too have, an attitude change; not give up, cave in and quit.  If you still don’t feel acceptable to God after your formal worship time, don’t give up.   Jesus says you are to “persevere” which means you’re to be “resolute, persist in doing, be stubborn” in “Going after it”; to be a true worshiper in Christ Jesus.  Verse 28 tells you to “calculate the costs” to see if your willingness is sufficient to finish what you started.

Spiritual Maturity

I was part of a men’s bible study a few years back in my neighborhood.  One morning, a study participant asked this question to discuss.  “What does it mean to be spiritually mature?”  There were several different answers given but I like the answer that was given that brought the discussion back to the Word of God.

Matthew 19:20-21,  “The young man said,  I have observed all these things [read verses 18-19] from my youth; what do I still lack?   Jesus answered him,  If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be my disciple [side with My party and follow me],”

I like how Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies and the Amplified Version of the Bible defines “being perfect”:  “have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character”.  Jesus is saying that your good works, your church title, your college degree in ‘church stuff’ won’t make you perfect for following Christ and in worshipping Him. 

What is CHARACTER?

Character is:  Doing what is right, not because of what society says is right; what’s right is what God’s Word says is right!  It’s not what I feel is right about worship and praise and serving God based on others definitions.  Also, when you do right because of what’s right, God’s word says you will prosper;  “have riches in heaven”.  “You will never rise above your limitations of your character”.  If your character doesn’t want to give up anything, then there isn’t a sacrifice in worship; no price is paid.

Releasing your Benjamins

In Genesis 43-45, we see the principle of releasing your Benjamins in discipleship and spiritual maturity.  It becomes “sacks full v.s. wagons full“.  In todays vernacular it would be “trailers full“.  The rich man in Matthew 19, wouldn’t give up his “Benjamin” (verses 23-26).

Who are the “everyone’s” in Matthew 19?

Matthew 19:29  “And  everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My sake, shall receive many times as much…”  NAS version.

The “everyone’s” are you and me.  If you are “persevering”,  if you are self-sacrificing in character and your desire to worship and serve the risen Saviouris in your spirit, you have planted a seed.  Christians today live in “hope deferred”.  You will have to plant your best seed to reap the fruit harvest of worship.  Now is the time, not next time you enter the sanctuary of your church.

Hebrews 13:15  “Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His Name.”