Fasting for the sake of fasting often proves fatal in our grasp of God's desired fast for us.
If we read the next four verses of Isaiah 58, this is where I and many of God's people miss the mark:
"Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high." - Isaiah 58:2-4
If the American Christian were to read this, what would they think? Aren't these the things that God desires from His people? To "Seek Him daily, to know His ways, to be righteous, to not forsake God, to ask God of righteous judgments, and to delight in drawing near to Him."
And while this may be true...what is the intent of the heart? See, that is what is being wrought forth for us. Why are you doing these things, Christian? I understand that this is a hard pill to swallow, but it alleviates our pride and allows the Holy Spirit to show us where we have strayed in seeking God.
So let Him search you.
See if there is in you, any of these false motivations:
I think of the illustration Jesus gave to us that gets to the heart of the issue at hand:
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”- Luke 18:9-14
Many Christians pursue ritual and right standing rather than pursuing God.
My heart is bereaved when I think of all of the times I've committed myself to doing for God rather than walking with Him. In worshiping Him so as to achieve this neutral place to where I can partake in what I want. Or, worse, pride myself in my righteous indignation.
Did not Jesus address this a second time in Rev. 2?
2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.- Rev. 2:2-4
From the outside, these people had it ALL together. But it was for recognition, for pride, for being God of their lives, by worshiping their service to Him rather than worshiping Him.
13 And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,- Isaiah 29:13
My dear family in Jesus Christ, do not fall into this standing with God. I think He would rather have our hearts as we trip over ourselves rather than attempt to be known by our deeds.
Authenticity of the Christian life is pursuing God with your heart, not your deeds.
This Prison is one you were set free from when Jesus called you to Himself, don't let it shackle your heart once more.
Application: 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.- Revelation 2:5a
Let Jesus comfort and remind you of service to Him being an avenue of loving Him, not earning a right standing with Him. Only He can do that for you through the Holy Spirit.
We've all attempted to fast. To abstain from "evil" foods, go on a diet, not watch these shows, or "really" Christian, give up technology altogether. I get it, we see fasting as giving up something in the modern Church era, and isn't that the whole point? To give up something not of necessity so we can be at a right standing with God?
Christians, I was stunned to realize that I had it all wrong. Fasting is so much more than just starving yourself or attempting to look like a good Christian. I pray that as we look into Isaiah 58, God would do a work on your hearts as He did with my own so very recently...
Entering GOD's Fast
In Isaiah 58:1, God calls His people to "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins."
Wait, I thought we were honed in centrally to fasting, not bemoaning our sins? I love what a close brother in Christ brought out in one of our recent conversations, he said, "Can we truly have access without being made poor in Spirit?" He had it right.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart--
These, O God, You will not despise."- Psalm 51:17
When you recognize who God is and how powerful and just He is in light of who you are, there is a great depth of magnitude that separates you from Him. But there's something about the realization of this, your lack, inadequacy to meet these standards, and brokenness over all of the evils you've committed. It's humbling and it's beautifully necessary, because these are the instances when the peace of God's presence through the Holy Spirit intertwine with His promise to comfort those who are mourning. Most of the time, it's because those, like many of us, finally see our need.
I think this really ties into the commandment in James 4:7-10:
"7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
Notice my beloved family, we have not yet even entered into the fast itself as much as we have entered into a sobriety at the realization of God's holiness and beauty.
"15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”'- 1Pet. 1:15-16
Don't forget that through Jesus, your identity in Him has made you Holy and beautiful as well. This manifests itself through living set apart lives for Him because He gave it all for us. Now, as slaves of righteousness, we are called, and desire to do the same.
I don't want you to forget the reality of the moment by moment war that is ever present in our hearts either. Passivity on this and not addressing these issues are critical mistakes Christians make because they let their hearts deter from the calling of God to Himself. DON'T MISS THIS!
Application: "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”- Matthew 26:41
We are commanded to ask God to fill us with His Spirit (Eph. 5:18), not to just abstain from evil acts. God has been showing me that to purge out the old leaven it's absolutely vital to constantly be asking His Spirit to fill you, and as He promised in Luke (11:13), God is willing to give you that Good Gift, which is to Know Him, walk with Him, and bask in His glory. That's the only reason we are set apart, Jesus, through the seal of Promise, the power of God in us, The Holy Spirit.
Remember, Christ Gives you strength to do all things (Phil. 4:13), repent and pursue Righteousness my Family.
Do you remember what it is to drink a nice, cool, fresh drink of water and how it just satisfies your thirst for that sparse moment? Its SO REFRESHING. You just have to physically say, "Ahhh...". It's even sometimes breathtaking at the prospect of how thirsty we get though we have those moments where our lips purse the ice in the cool glass as that water drips down our throat. That sensation occurs often it would seem, in the heart. For a moment, we got it, just that taste...but then I'm asking the waiter for a refill or revisiting the ice machine, again. OR further, asking that sin to fill the time or give me a feeling of lacking sufficiency.
Look at the reality of how thirsty we are my loved ones and let God minister to your heart so you may not drink of the sparse things...but the Lasting things of His desirous heart for you. Spend Time thinking upon how satisfying He is in this area.
Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,”declares the Lord. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,”declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,”declares the Sovereign Lord. Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, ‘It’s no use!I love foreign gods,and I must go after them.’ - Jeremiah 2:12-13,19,22,25
This is the desperation in our flesh and the resulted emptiness we leave ourselves to.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:13-14
Through His love for YOU, He has given this constant welling up of eternal life in you.
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. - Revelation 21:6
Now read this slowly, take it in...
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. - Revelation 22:1-5
Is not your soul saying "ahh...THAT IS SO REFRESHING!" This is forever yours by the majesty of His love.
1 Corinthians 10:3-4: all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[a]15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[b] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Wow, here we are, the month of May. God is good, no?
I've been doing lots of talking with people as of late as God takes me through this course of life. Some subjects are touchy and difficult to perceive in my mind's eye or too often I look to deeply at things with a skepticism that can over ride the love I should have for an individual. It is scary the things God has been revealing to me about my own heart through the thoughts that enter my mind, especially in root of motive and in the ease with which I subject myself and others too when I approach them with such attitudes.
This danger is one rooted in what all sin is rooted in, Pride.
I titled this Knowledge because I am internally anguished at the prospect of that which can come from our own brains. What we don't see or often recollect is that what our mind portrays, in reality, unlocks the heart's desire in the corruptibility of our sin nature.
Not to just exhort or forewarn, but to truly look at the attitude with which we attain knowledge and use it is absolutely VITAL. At least for me anyways, my thoughts are so self inclined and easily ensnare me with lies and false dichotomies that do not exist in the reality of who Christ has made me to be or what He intended in giving us the capacity to perceive in our study of things; knowledge.
Due to this, I want to look at what God, through the Holy Spirit, wrote to us in His Love Letter of Life and Godliness to enhance our capacity to learn, yet to further delve into the prospects of knowledge that so easily ensnare us and address this in root, heart issue.
What was it intended for?
Like any gift from God, if it is not rooted in the Love Jesus desired to portray and emulate to humanity, then it is purely of nothing.
"2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."- 1 Cor. 13:2
One of the many things that entrap us when we think, is that we do what is natural; think from our perspectives and perception. Many a time this is in the engagement of arguing with your Parents or God all the way to the simplistic contribution of opinion in an argument. While natural it is absolutely necessary to learn to bring glory to and assess the characteristics of God's heart as we consider anything. Granted, I struggle momentarily in this area, but the meticulous desire of love is emulated as Paul addresses the way in which we war against an unloving approach to knowledgeable ideology:
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."- 2 Cor. 10:3-5
The way we engage our thoughts and the things that enter the mind will be treated with the severity of love within the warrior. Many of us don't know what we are fighting for when we take these "extremes" or even consider the fact that we are engaged in daily warfare.
If you are not engaged with what knowledge was intended for, how can you truly fight as a warrior with a cause? You swing aimlessly often allowing others to receive the brunt of your prideful indignation and input by interruption or in just not caring enough to listen to them. It's always the small things that get us right?
But in what ways does knowledge damage further than just within ourselves?
In 1 Cor. 8, Paul is touching upon the knowledge of a mature Christian actually causing his brother to stumble. Read the whole chapter and you'll understand the anxiety with which Paul is addressing the situation at hand. But in this light, what Paul says in this text further epitomizes the danger that we face in the knowledge we have attained:
"We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a] 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ."- 1 Cor. 8:1b-3,9-12
So what we have hear is Paul saying, "I know that you know, but why are you letting others suffer from what you dictate to allow in passivity of your kinsmen, God's beloved, your brethren because you know what you know."
I just have to exhort and admonish us that if our knowledge is puffing us up rather than edifying and building up our family in the love of God, then we not only sin against them, but Jesus Himself. You not only degrade the beauty of what knowledge should do in enhancing one's relationship with Christ, but we alleviate the beauty of the "knitting together of love" (Col. 2:2) that is to culminate itself in the CHURCH; Jesus' Bride.
Because if you love God, despite your knowledge, such knowledge of Him to you becomes what establishes you to think like Jesus and to be made new in the way you view things.
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.- Romans 12:1-5
In essence, it's not about you or what knowledge you posses, but rather, it was given to help show you the way God's divine nature, by the Holy Spirit is renewing you to not only think of others, but to advance the Kingdom in light of how you think, ultimately leading to your actions and fruit wrought forth to God, you, and humanity. All for your sanctification as you become more like Jesus, for God's kingdom and will to be accomplished, and for the distribution among God's people the gifts that He has given to you in grace.
"2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, "- 2 Pet. 1:2-13
Take time to asses your heart, but even more, ask God to search you out.
How much do you think you know?
Who is God that He is mindful of us?
Is your knowledge diminishing the edification of the Body?
What does God's word display about knowledge to you?
How does that personalize this aspect of not only seeing God's heart but push you to pardon that love and motive of affection to others?
Don't ask for much, be quick to listen and repent, all the while do know and recognize the irrevocable grace and love promoted by God's heart for you. A truly incomprehensible thing that leaves humanity in awe. Not something you can fully understand without Him, by the Holy Spirit, revealing it to you. Think upon Jesus and His heart and what Humility was set in His mind for others.
"Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." -2 Timothy 2:22
What does it mean that we might flee youthful lusts? If we notice here, it says, "flee also," so in all actuality, it is simply adding onto the already intended purpose and emphasis of what is being stated (vs. 1,10,15, 20-21). What Paul is exhorting Timothy in here is upon how he should seek to be strong by the grace that has been given while dwelling in the coexistence of those who are seeking God in purity and untainted heart. This being the case, it is not hard to understand that Timothy was still a disciple. In other words, he didn't have it all down! But, with regards to any position, gender, or individual, we all must delve further into addressing these "youthful lusts" that we all struggle with.
Youthful lusts consist of two primarily defined categories:
1) A "youthful" or hindering of growth.
These may be titled the "habitual' sins, specific sins that hinder any and all growth because of the ensnaring and hold they may have upon us. These always seem to come back for us and keep us at this "youthful" state of spirituality rather than in a maturation process and fulfilled state in who Christ has now made us to be.
2) A "youthful" perspective and motive.
What are you desiring for and in the midst of your life with Jesus? Many a time our perspectives of God's power is limited by immaturity of who God is. Jesus desires a fleeing of youthful things, but this requires the strength to let go and hold on to Him in faith, spirit, and in truth. How can a child do in his own strength what only a mature person can accomplish in God's strength?
In light of all of this, our focuses must change and our dependence must become the life by which we lead for us to truly grow and develop. If your focus is on youthful things so shall your perspective, your strength, and your life be. Paul is saying, "Forget and flee these things that hinder your maturity!"
Now the question that arises is, "How does one flee?"
Looking at the second half of vs. 22, it is evident that if you are fleeing youthful lusts, then you are running in opposition to them. This implies a focus and pursuit of something else. In this aspect it is the characteristics of God in righteousness, faith, love, and peace that can only come when one seeks our LORD. For He is Love and is our peace(1 John 4:16, Ephesians 2:14). So, only by pursuing Him, with a pure heart, may we truly attain these attributes.
Now, here is a beautiful an paradoxical cycle when we think about it. How does one pursue Jesus with a pure heart? By fleeing youthful lusts. How do we flee youthful lusts? By pursuing Jesus. In Him these other treasures of growth shall be consummated.
My, brothers and sisters, oh that we would seek Jesus. Seeing each moment that His heart actively pursues us! In order to grow to become strong, to mature you must GIVE UP. Give up these things that hinder you, give up trying to do it on your own strength, and GIVE IN to seeking and depending upon Him, just as He sought you.
1 Timothy 4:12,15
SAVED BY GRACE, IN SEARCH OF THINGS WHICH LAST FOR ETERNITY, I DESIRE TO DELVE INTO DAILY LIFE AS WE LIVE TO EMULATE THE LOVE CHRIST PARDONED TO US AS HUMANITY AND GOD'S CHURCH.