Sunday, February 25, 2007

Insights on Fasting: Part III

Greetings in the name of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whose name be glory and honor and praise and wisdom and power and might forever and ever! There is so much more to be said about fasting, but I will conclude my thoughts with this note. Then, tomorrow I will send out a note about the various ways that we can approach consecrating ourselves to the Lord in these 40 days. For now, I have three more thoughts:

First, while fasting can be of enormous benefit to the soul and the body of Christ as a whole, it does carry with it distinct temptations and dangers, both spiritual and physical. The chief spiritual dangers, I think, are pride and idolatry. As for pride, when we fast we will be tempted to flaunt what we’re doing before others and to seek as our reward the praise we receive from them. Or even if we keep the fasting to ourselves, we will be tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Pride is the mortal enemy of faith, so brothers and sisters, don’t let your guard down with this one! Keep your armor on and fight against the devil and the world and the flesh! And most of all, instead of seeking the praise of others or the impressing of self, memorize and meditate on a passage like Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” and remind yourself that God is your great and high end in fasting. No other reward will due!

As for idolatry, we can be so concerned with the particulars of fasting and the host of issues that arise when we do it, that we take our eyes off of the beauty of God which we seek. We can make the exchange that Paul talks about in Romans 1 and worship the created thing rather than the creator. Brother and sisters, NEVER FORGET that the goal in fasting is to have more of God! “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfector of your faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God” (Heb. 12:3).

Fasting also carries with it physical dangers. It’s not a big deal at all to go without food for a day or two, but if you feel led to fast for 3 or 10 or 20 or 40 days, PLEASE consult a believing physician. If you’re not careful, you can do real damage to your body, and again, the goal here is not self-flagellation but the glory of God. So, pray hard about what he’s calling you to do and obey him all the way, but PLEASE be careful.

Second, you need to be aware that in almost every fast there is a phenomenon I call “backlash.” One thing that fasting does is it exposes your flesh, it exposes so many unsanctified areas of your life and character, and to put it plainly, the flesh does not want to be exposed and so it bites back. The design of God in this, I think, is that he exposes our flesh in order to cut it away. His design, I think, is to make us holy as he is holy. But beware and know that your flesh will fight against this, probably more fiercely than you think. Many people assume that they will feel more spiritual when they fast, and then they’re shocked when they experience intense, internal resistance or when they fight more with their spouse or when they’re more irritable or what have you. When these kinds of things begin happening, remind yourself that you are like gold in the furnace of the master: he is exposing the dross so that he can remove it from you.

Finally, it is ever so important to agree that we are not in a spirituality contest. There are a variety of ways each of us can participate in this fast, and none is greater than another. Obedience is what we’re after here. Seek the Lord and do what He’s calling you to do, and do not give in to the temptation of comparing yourself to others, whether you perceive that you are doing more or less than them. That is not the point. Seeking deeper communion with God our Father is the point. Crying out to God with great earnestness is the point. Doing whatever it takes to abide in him and he in us is the point.

We are now less than 48 hours away from the start of our Season of Consecration, so please join me in praying that God will have his way with us in the coming weeks.

For the glory of Christ,
Pastor Charlie

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