It is amazing how easy it is to live as a surface dweller, never having to deal with anything of any significance and denying those hidden things that pull at our heart. On the other hand, to become a person of depth requires a willingness to feel pain, sorrow, heartache, admit to fears and anxieties, as well as experience great joy, freedom and abundant living. Jesus inhabits the depths and desires to draw us down into the heart so we can enjoy a authentic relationship with him in the reality of our pain and our joy.
If you notice Jesus' teaching and his dealings with people, he quickly moved past the appearance of things, past the surface, past the superficial understanding and took people below the surface, to the deeper things. As we have read through Matthew 6 we have discovered Jesus dealing with this issue as he gave instruction concerning giving to those in need, prayer and now concerning our attitude in fasting. He was speaking to a culture that had learned to live by the letter of the law without understanding the heart of it. Through his example and living Jesus is moving us from this surface orientation to a place of depth and significance, a place of understanding, a place of relationship:
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:16)
Almost word for word what he said concerning those who pray with wrong understanding and motivation:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)
There is something important to understand in this; our Father requires sincerity in our relationship. We know we are far from perfect but he has covered our imperfection with his grace. Making allowance for our imperfection, he seeks a real relationship with us; he desires us to have a sincerity in the things we do in this relationship. Fasting and prayer are intimate things between us and our Father. These are not things to be put on display so that others will think better of us. Prayer and fasting are relationship actions that draw us in to God, allowing us to be more sensitive to his heart, opening our eyes to his will. If we make it a surface act, one that improves our stature among man, we have nullified this beautiful moment of fellowship with God. It would be similar to a wife who is invited to a beautiful, romantic candle-light dinner for two with her husband, inviting the newspapers, television crews, and internet bloggers along to show how romantic she is. How do you think her husband would feel?
There are parts of our lives that need to be on display:
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Then there are parts that are meant to be privately intimate with our Father, just him and us:
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18)
I pray you will discover the intimacy with God that he desires for us and that our hearts long for. I pray you will hear his gentle voice calling you into the deeper place where he longs to dwell with you. I pray that today you will come to experience the reality behind the words of the psalmist:
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?...
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:1-2, 7-8)