Isaiah 58:5-8 (NLT)
You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.
Several months ago, I embarked on a journey to better physical health. It began with a juice fast that lasted ten days only drinking natural juices and water. The first few days were complete and utter torture as my body responded horribly to the challenge. After a few days, I was fine. I noticed from the beginning to the end that I did not suffer as much with a physical fast as I do in a spiritual fast. The fatigue did not seem as bad. The cravings not so severe. I used many of the same practices during the juice fast as I would during a spiritual fast, but my body did not respond the same way. It was not the battle it is when my flesh feels threatened. Now as our church enters a corporate fast, I am in the fight of my life to once again crucify my flesh that threatens to take the place of the Spirit. Fasting can be used for physical cleansing. But the most powerful form of fasting by far is fasting and prayer when we seek to cleanse ourselves of this world allowing God’s Spirit to take over. The flesh of our body and sinful nature unite and rebel against such an intrusion. My flesh is definitely weaker than my Spirit but it puts up a heck of a fight!
God is very specific in the kind of fasting that He wants. I do not think it is a short period of time when His People abstain from certain foods and activities. But I believe based on His Word that the Lord wants His People to live a fasted life. Short periods of focus fasting and prayer will allow revival to break out as individuals experience a breakthrough together no doubt. As Children of God, we are called to live in His Righteousness as His Holy, Consecrated People. This requires a distinct separation from our sinful nature and the things of this world that cannot often be established in just one day. Repentance is to turn from our wicked ways and follow Jesus Christ who is the Only Way to reach the Father. It takes a strong sword to split the core of a man between his flesh and spirit but God’s Word will if allowed access. (Hebrews 4:12) God doesn’t want you to deny your flesh and live a life in a constant battle. He is calling you to nail your sinful nature to the Cross with Jesus Christ and live in freedom!
Romans 8:2-4 (NKJV)
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We are called to be a new creation in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17) How can we become new when we hold tightly to the things of old? It is impossible to experience the renewal and resurrection power of Jesus Christ living among the dead. You are called to be the Light of the World. (Matthew 5:14) You cannot be the Light if you allow darkness to reign in your life. The Spirit of Life (Jesus Christ) has made me free from the law of sin and death. My flesh is not on board with this because to fully embrace the freedom offered by the Grace of God through Jesus, it has to die sooner rather than later. The lie of the enemy tells us that we do not have to deny ourselves and that grace covers our willful flesh and its evil desires. But it is clearly stated in this verse that “He condemned sin in the flesh” and that it is a “righteous requirement” that we walk “according to the Spirit”. Those who walk in the Spirit walk by faith not by sight. The flesh does not like the unseen things of God because it is not a partaker of such blessings and promises but is left behind. So you see we are locked in a battle with our own flesh in accepting the things of God designated for our life so we fast to separate ourselves from this world and access the supernatural things of God.
2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT)
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Fasting is all about freedom. God uses things this world considers foolish to shame those who think they are wise. (I Corinthians 1:27) By crucifying our flesh, we experience freedom in the Spirit. Real freedom and not as the world has made it seem. There is no real freedom in this world or there would be no obituaries. The cemeteries would be empty with no more grieving widows. But the truth is that this life ends in one place – death for those who do not accept the Gift of God that is Eternal Life. With acceptance comes responsibility to maintain a right relationship with God – His Grace is sufficient to do that for those who strive for a relationship with the Lord. God does not desire religious people with regular fasting schedules and routines. The Lord is looking for those who will come to Him and fast their life daily giving Him the parts that were once withheld even when it is a painful and difficult sacrifice – He will help you win the fight! “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” (Isaiah 61:1-3) Jesus Christ has given us His Spirit to break every chain of the flesh that is holding us back today. However, freedom is not for us alone but like every other good gift from God should be “running over” into the lives of others.
Psalm 51:16-17 (NLT)
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Freedom is found in a broken heart. Fasting will break your spirit and your heart as it becomes more evident just how “in charge” and “powerful” our sinful nature and flesh are. However, a broken and repentant heart is not maintained by guilt but prepared for a purpose. God wants to pour more of His Spirit inside of you so you will walk in freedom every day not just during designated times of your life. People will rejoice in the freedom found through a fast but then return to the old habits and lifestyles after the corporate effort ends. Freedom found can be easily lost when we lock ourselves back in the chains of bondage from which we were freed. The flesh does not fancy weakness so it will give all that it’s got to regain control. God does not desire any other sacrifice other than Jesus Christ. When our heart is broken for God, we allow the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) to take over and then it is our heart that God desires again. Jesus paid the price so that you could walk in freedom every single day of your life right into Eternity…fasting allows you to walk the walk of freedom that He intended unlimited by natural life and limitations.
Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
To be a living, holy sacrifice that God finds acceptable is going to take something from you, but what is given in return is immeasurable. I thought that we had a good life. The Lord had blessed us over the years as we followed Him, but everything fell apart on October 24, 2011. How could my son have stage IV cancer? How could he be so close to death? Where was my God? Where was our healer and deliverer? What had I done wrong? Why this? Why now? I have said it before and I will said it again. I hate cancer. I miss all the wonderful people whose lives have been cut short by it. But I will never regret the faith that we have found through this journey to healing. Although we are in the middle of round four, I cannot wait to see what the Lord is going to do this time to secure more of our life in confident hope. The world says to panic and blame God but my Spirit says, “He is perfecting all that concerns me!” (Psalm 138:8) I know this only because I have chosen to fast my life to the Lord.
Matthew 4:1-5 (NLT)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Fasting requires sustenance. How can that be when fasting is abstinence from food? You have to feed the Spirit to overcome your flesh. As your flesh begins to realize that it is under attack, it will fight back. When the “tempter” came offering relief from natural hunger, Jesus answered him with God’s Word. Over and over again, Jesus counterattacked with the Word. If you do not know the Word of God or spend any time reading and studying it, it will not be easily accessible. Just as David would not accept Saul’s armor and weapon against the Philistine Giant, your Sword will be dull and ineffective when encountering the enemy. A weak spirit is of no use. We gain strength in fasting from the Word of God, it is the Bread of Life (John 6:35-36). His Word is Living Water that will satisfy our soul even as we deny our flesh. (John 4:10) If you desire to live the fast life, you need God’s Word inside of you as daily nutrition to strengthen your spirit man so that it can overcome your flesh.
James 5:13-16 (NLT)
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Fasting without prayer is like dieting without exercise. You may achieve some results but for the absolute best outcome there must be a partnership between the two. Dieting may shrink your body but exercise strengthens it. Fasting may limit your flesh but prayer crucifies it. The Spirit is willing but your flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41) You must exercise the Spirit in your life. When you don’t know what to pray – God’s Spirit will pray for you! (Romans 8:26) You must only enter in to such intimacy – the Lord will do the rest. There is no circumstance in life that should not be covered in prayer good or bad as we exercise and strengthen our spirit. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27) One of the most difficult parts of fasting is the interruption of our schedule and routine, but this is the most important part that we stop living life as usual to fast and pray. Just as we must restructure our life to change the way that we treat our body, we must do the same for our Spirit.
Colossians 2:6-12 (NLT)
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
You have been set free. Walk in your freedom today. Do not be bound by the things of this world. Allow Jesus Christ (the Word) to circumcise your heart and pour His Spirit in. Circumcision is now a religious observance but now it has become a condition of a heart surrendered to the Lord through a fasted lifestyle. Daily we deny our flesh and accept more and more of His Life-Giving Spirit to take over. During the process of fasting there is sacrifice and it may be painful during that time but in the end you will never miss what the Lord removes as you enjoy all that He is pouring into your brand new life. (I Corinthians 15:22) You will be complete lacking no good thing (James 1:4) just as Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2) has promised. Try the fast life! You just may like it!
Romans 6:13-14 (NLT)
Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.