As we move into the season of fasting, I want to invite you to consider how we could be more FREE in Christ. In Isaiah 58, the Lord admonishes us to fast with HIS desire at the core of our motives - with GREAT promises of breakthroughs and blessings! It is an invitation for more than giving up chocolate or red meat; it is a holy appointment with the Great Physician to break apart strongholds of evil in our life!
“[Rather] is this not the fast which I choose,
To undo the bonds of wickedness,
To tear to pieces the ropes of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free
And break apart every [enslaving] yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not to hide yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your healing (restoration, new life) will quickly spring forth;
Your righteousness will go before you [leading you to peace and prosperity],
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 I am.’
If you take away from your midst the yoke [of oppression],
The finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and [every form of] wicked (sinful, unjust) speech,
And if you offer yourself to [assist] the hungry
And satisfy the need of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your soul in scorched and dry places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Here is a simple work through of this section of verse as you consider how to approach your own time of fasting for the blessing and glory of the Lord:
1. What sin/ wickedness has a grip on you? Or put more gently, what do you RELY on for entertainment, physical indulgence, pass times, income, etc, that is not clearly OF THE LORD?
(ie: social media, shopping, inappropriate internet searches, drug/ alcohol/ tobacco dependence, compulsive eating, work addiction, superficiality, provocative or dark tv...etc.) This is your list of what to set aside and pray over for release from. Affirm with your words, "the Lord has set me free from --- . I am giving up --- for the glory of the Lord."
2. How can you incorporate donating to the poor, hungry, homeless, and destitute into your time of fasting? Sharing your "bread" may be giving away resources including money, your extra goods, clothing, and supplies. Allow the Lord to direct you towards radical generosity.
3. What does your own family need? How can you attend to it in a new and deeper way during your fast?
4. How can you remove yourself from EVERYwhere you encounter or participate in "fingers pointed in scorn" and "every form of wicked speech." This could be cable news, social media, politics, television shows, gossip, or even your usual social groups.
This might seem like an extreme change from giving up a meal or a food group occasionally. However, fasting is from God and for God to transform us! Let us not allow, "the traditions of man to make the Word of God to no effect (Mark 7:13)." Participate in fasting the way God desires, and enjoy His supernatural benefits! It is always worth far more than it costs us to move into obedience to the Lord!
It can feel terrible to be exposed. We grow up learning to cultivate a public image that diverges from our private reality. We learn what is and is not socially acceptable in order to survive and thrive.
However, Jesus teaches a new way of living. Truth is eternally paired with grace. Fully.
Exposing our truth - the gritty, ugly, rancid, animalistic humanity within - and embracing God's love in spite and around all those degraded moments IS freedom.
The habit of confession, even only to God, is our starting point to grab a hold of the forgiveness and love only Jesus offers. Nowhere else in the world is transparency met with such kindness! And as we wipe the sullen mess off our soul, we find God's light shining brighter and brighter, illuminating our thoughts, even our instincts.
We can only extricate ourselves from our baseness through re-learning living in Christ's grace. We can only walk forward in grace and love if we also lean into truth - even to the point of buckling under the weight, beating our chests, and crying out in our unworthiness.
The alternative is a life only part lived, hiding... a broken and un-filled life. Have courage and choose truth.
9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”