Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Does A Fast Change, If Anything? (fasting series)

Do you mind if I ask you a personal question? Why are you fasting? No, I am being serious. What are you hoping to get out of it? Some people do it to lose weight even though fasting in the Body of Christ is a spiritual matter. Others fast because they want something from God? They want to earn his favour or twist his arm to get what they want. Fasting is neither of these, and if it is for you, you may find yourself complaining like this lot:

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, 
‘and you have not seen it? 
Why have we humbled ourselves, 
and you have not noticed?’ (Isaiah 58:3)

Of these people God said:

For day after day they seek me out; 
they seem eager to know my ways, 
as if they were a nation that does what is right 
and has not forsaken the commands of its God. 
They ask me for just decisions 
and seem eager for God to come near them. (Isaiah 58:2)

But God sees more than intention, he also observes the fruit of our heart. They may have been fasting and seeking to come closer to him but their action toward others during their fast showed anything but a heart for God:

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers. 
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
(Isaiah 58:3-4)

If our fast is not changing who we are, bringing us closer to our Lord, allowing our heart to be changed to be more like his, then we are wasting our time and sacrifice. God asks this question of us:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, 
only a day for a man to humble himself? 
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed 
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? 
Is that what you call a fast, 
a day acceptable to the Lord? (Isaiah 58:5)

What kind of fast do you consider would be acceptable to the Lord? One that has benefit for our eternity, one the brings us more into line with his heart, one that changes us:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
  (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Consider for a moment what you want from this fast. Consider your motives and desires. Honestly, what do you want from this? If there is an selfishness or manipulation involved then either change your heart or quit the fast. We can't earn anything from God. Everything comes from his point of grace. The greatest thing we can desire for ourselves is a heart like Jesus and if fasting opens me up to this change then I will fast. That is the purpose of fasting, to be changed so that we would desire and understand the will of God. If we enter into it with this purpose, to be changed, he tells us things are going to happen:

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  (Isaiah 58:8-9)  
Isn't that our great desire, to hear the voice of God say to us "Here am I". Open our eyes Lord! We can't live without your presence.

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