Isaiah 58:6-8 (NLT)
“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.”
The day has finally come. The end of Daniel Fast 2016. Those who chose to participate forsaking meat, bread, sweets, and beloved caffeine are ready to get back to living again. Many congregations will break their corporate fast by taking communion together. There could be nothing more fitting. Though my body is relieved that the days of fasting are coming to a close, I am not sure my heart is as happy. The commitment of our church and family to this endeavor this year has yielded more than I can begin to explain in one blog. The Lord has poured out in response to our cry. Though my flesh is anticipating lunch without restrictions, my spirit is in mourning. I am torn between leaving this place in the Presence of God where 21 days of prayer and fasting takes you. Each step gained closer to Jesus is precious and few as the fight against our flesh, distractions, detours, schedules, routines, and busyness of life take over. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to lose the place where this journey of 21 days have led me. Lord, I want to live a fasted lifestyle all the time. However, if I continue to serve meatless meals and bean filled dishes ever baking again, I do not think my family will oblige. In fact, I am quite sure there would be a rebellion. So, how do we maintain this ground gained in fasting in our everyday life.
To tell you that I was struggling with ending this time is really an understatement. It literally brought me to tears. Going to my prayer closet, I took my concerns to the Lord and He brought me right here to Isaiah 58. The heading in the New Living Translation is “True and False Worship”. The people in this chapter had been fasting and praying to the Lord. They came to the Temple every day and seemed excited to learn about the Lord. They acted religious and righteous as though they would never abandon the Law of God. They would try to get close to God so that He would do their bidding. They even pointed out their time of fasting before Him. Why wasn’t God impressed? “We have put ourselves through all this and you, God, have not even noticed???” These were their cries to the Lord.
God did not hold back and let them have it. “I will tell you why! It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves…” What? Fast to please ourselves…have I fasted for me? When I read this I was dissolved to tears. This one statement was my complete undoing. I would never want fasting to be about me. But sadly in all the years that I have done it, there have been many that were just that all about me. I will be transparent because I think we should all consider the motives of fasting and prayer as a unit. To corporately seek the Face of God in such a demonstration is definitely as step in the right direction unless it has become like so many other things a performance of religion that is false worship and from a heart of true worship.
Joel 2:12-13 (AMP)
“Even now,” says the Lord, “Turn and come to Me with all your heart [in genuine repentance], with fasting and weeping and mourning [until every barrier is removed and the broken fellowship is restored]; Rip your heart to pieces [in sorrow and contrition] and not your garments.” Now return [in repentance] to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness [faithful to His covenant with His people]; and He relents [His sentence of] evil [when His people genuinely repent].
When I really want to dissect the meaning of a verse, I like to read the Amplified version of God’s Word. Fasting without true repentance is nothing more than a religious act or worldly diet. The prayers offered during this time must begin with repentance and surrendering ourselves, once again, to the Word, Will and Way of God completely. While your stomach roars, mood swings, and weakness sets in, your flesh fights for control. It is hard to focus, but we must press in. The origin of the word “fasting” was “hold firmly” and the sense evolution via “firm control of oneself.” To hold in observance or to keep or observe. Fasting is restricting the flesh to release God’s Spirit in our life. If you do not want to follow the Lord completely giving one’s life to Him solely and surrendering all, then fasting is not for those individuals because it will do nothing in their life.
Fasting is accepting God’s Invitation to “turn” and come to Him with all your heart in genuine repentance until every barrier is removed and the broken fellowship restored. It is God’s Way of opening the door to His Presence so that you can come in closer than ever before. If it does not remove barriers, or break chains, it is not working like it is supposed to which usually means that we are not doing our part. Rip your hearts to pieces and not your garments. It means seek righteousness not religiosity. Return to the Lord your God. Discover His Grace and Compassion again. Let His Abounding and Unfailing Love overtake you in these moments that make your body weak so the Spirit can takeover. Fasting is all about removing me so that He can have His Way. The Lord promises that those who do will find that “it shall come about after this
that I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29)
Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)
“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.”
To live the fast life. That is my goal today. I don’t want to leave this place of physically fasting with a plan to remain as close to the Lord as I am right now with every intention of moving in closer. I needed a plan. God gave me one. If fasting is meant to remove every barrier and restriction between God and me, I must fast my life every day. If fasting is not a food limitation but physical apprehension then it can be applied to every area of my natural life as I strive to do these things that God has asked of me – free the captive, lighten the burden, release the oppressed, break the chains, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, meet others needs and not hide from family who need help…naturally or spiritually. True repentance leads to the fast life which will always be experiencing the Love of God by stepping into His Presence and letting that Love pour Light into our world. If fasting is nothing more than gaining “firm control of oneself” – it is a daily fight not seasonal gesture.
Romans 12:1-2 (AMP)
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].
Could it be that this is how we actually achieve the position and posture of living sacrifice? Is it a fasted life lived in daily repentance with God? Is it forcing our flesh to be in firm control aided by the Spirit of God who bears the fruit of self-control? I think it just might be. It is by apprehending our flesh and forcing it to submit to the dedication of all of ourselves to Jesus – mind, soul and body. Living that way every day no matter what we eat or what day that it is. I just don’t understand the new age church philosophy that we can live the way that we did before we meet Jesus and experience His Love and Grace. I just can’t see that as logical or intelligent. That we can have God’s Best at our worst would mean that the Lord lowered His Standard of Glorious Living for us. I don’t want less than God’s Very Best. I am not satisfied with His Permissible Will. I want to be as close to Jesus as possible so I do not become mistaken or mislead into thinking sin is acceptable and less is more. This is my choice. Each is given the right to choose. In the end, the Truth will be revealed.
Do not be conformed to this world. The fasted life is not the popular life. It means that in true repentance one strives daily to turn more and more real estate of their life over to the Lord for His Plan and Purpose…not our own. I don’t want the Lord to make MY life better. I want to live the life that He wrote out before I was born. I must mature spiritually day by day and moment by moment seeking, searching and striving to know Him more and do what He asks. Fasting and prayer will only aid my cause as barriers fall, mountains move, and walls come crashing down before me as I make my way to the King.
Isaiah 58:9-12 (NLT)
Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
The reward of a fasted lifestyle is not something God comes up with to pay us back for our efforts. It is accepting the life that He promised us from the very beginning. Each step closer yields a reward that most often is not a tangible blessing but inward maturity spiritually that produces the Gifts of His Spirit. To experience the perfect “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” that comes from living in true repentance and fully in Covenant with God will never be explainable. It satisfies our soul and comforts our mind with a peace that passes all understanding so it really doesn’t matter what is going on around us. In exchange for our life as a living sacrifice, the Lord grants us salvation, healing, wisdom, protection, as He answers our every call. If your life is not experiencing such characteristics, just move in a little closer. Give just one more room in your heart to His Work until His Spirit makes its way all the way through.
Well, we made it. Or did we? Today as I prepare for church and to break our corporate fast, my heart and mind are searching for another area of surrender for the days ahead. I don’t want to stop pursuing the Lord like I have the last 21 days. I want more. I want my worship to be true. I want to be a living sacrifice. I want to live the fast life.
Psalm 27:4 (NIV)
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.