“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:16-18 NLT
In verses 1-18 of Matthew 6 Jesus speaks on three subjects:
1. Giving - verses 1-4
2. Praying - verses 5-15
3. Fasting - verses 16-18
These three disciplines are critical to the success of our Christian life. God has set these three things as a dynamic trio of spiritual warfare. Giving breaks the carnal tendencies of selfishness. Praying keeps us in communication with God. Fasting strips our flesh of its grip on our appetite and places our primary focus on the table that God has prepared for our dining.
Feeding our body and spirit with a healthy diet is essential to wholesome living and successful service to God.
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT
Most of us are dominated by our appetites. We spend a significant amount of time and money feeding our flesh with things that try to satisfy our cravings. In many cases we are eating ourselves into an early grave. When Eve (she ate first) and Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 3:1-7, they ate us into death itself. Immediate spiritual death took place.
Let’s face it - we all like food. Food smells good and tastes good. Food is supposed to fuel our bodies so we can live. Instead of eating to live we live to eat. In reality we could say that our appetite has become our god.
“They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.”
Philippians 3:19 NLT
Now let’s recognize that an appetite can be more than food. We crave pleasure and things as well. Hedonism (pleasure seeking) and Materialism (material things being more important than spiritual values) have become idols of worship in our culture. We crave physical comfort and we feed it’s appetite. We are slaves to our own desires! We develop habits with T.V., cell phones, social media, relationships, music, and even in our inability to control our tongue, We work hard to identify ourselves by the car we drive, the house we live in, the degrees we hold, etc. There’s certainly nothing wrong with hard work and the benefit of it. However, we must keep it all in focus. Proper perspective is crucial!!
Jesus knew this when He gave His sermon in Matthew. This sermon is the greatest sermon ever preached. The sermon is known as “The Sermon On The Mount” (Matthew Chapters 5-7). Right in the middle of this sermon Jesus gets to the heart of our problems. There are three categories of people that we must consider in respect to the disciplines of Giving, Praying, and Fasting.
1. The religious man - This man is the one who does these things out of sheer obligation and self exaltation.
This man will go through life striving to gain meritorious standing with God by his actions. Often, this man is also someone who is deceived by his own pious arrogance and thinks he is in right standing with God because he is “religious”. This man is like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus time.
2. The Carnal man - This man is the one who ignores these disciplines because they are too exacting on his own desires. This man is absorbed by selfish pursuit and spends his time striving to fill that longing of self comfort and possessions.
3. The Spirit Filled man - this man is the one who’s utter dependence is upon the Lord Jesus Christ and his desire is to walk with Him in the most wholesome sense of the Word!
This man understands that God has given us the privilege of enjoying His creation and yet realizes the fallen state of this world. This man knows that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone! This man loves his Lord and Savior and seeks to please Him in his words, thoughts, and deeds. He knows that this current world is lost and dying. He knows that this life is given to him for a purpose that is greater than the superficialities of this temporary life. The focus of his life becomes the coming Kingdom of Heaven. This world pales in comparison and its allurements lose their luster. Life is lived in light of eternity and personal gratification becomes secondary to the will of God. Balance is better understood and the disciplines that are implemented are done so in order to facilitate the pleasure of the Almighty! This man wants His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Which of these three are you?
Let’s ask God to fill us with His Spirit and help us live our lives in absolute abandon to His will and purpose. Then, and there, we will find the purpose of our lives and the pleasure of our deepest longings!!
Are you willing to give, pray, and fast? If so, make yourself available to God and ask Him to help you develop in these areas. Seek godly counsel and begin to implement these disciplines into your walk with God. Watch God do great things!! He moves on behalf of those whose hearts are His!
If I can assist you in any of these areas, simply text or call. God bless you as you pursue His heart!
Curtis R. Norris
Rev. Curtis Norris