Second Nature  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:23
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SECOND NATURE FASTING January 26th, 2020 VIDEO – SECOND NATURE SLIDE 2 – TITLE WELCOME Good Morning! Welcome to Fox Valley Christian Church, where every member is a missionary. THE WOLF I am sure some of you have heard this before, it is a little grissly, but bear with me. Have you ever heard of how an Eskimo kills a wolf? First the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood." Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly new, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade. So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor sharp sting of the naked blade on his tongue nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more - until the dawn finds him dead in the snow. Self-indulgence, our desire for more and more … it’s a trap. It’s a trap that is set for us and the more we crave, the more we pursue, the more that our enemy sits back and watches us slowly kill ourselves. And really, some of the things we indulge in … they are not bad for us, but when we become consumed by them we lose focus and they begin to be harmful for us. Is it wrong for a wolf to crave their next meal and be attracted to blood? No. Is it dangerous for a wolf to be so consumed by their craving that they miss the knife? Absolutely. So what do we indulge in? We indulge in: - Food and needless overeating Drugs and Alcohol Lust and Pornography Shopping and getting more and more stuff, no matter the long term cost Knowing everything that is going on and we genuinely fear in missing out on something. We see this on Social Media and the time that is devoted to it Our looks and self care. Makeover, manicures, massages, botox, etc. - In luxury items. Boats, vacation houses, bigger TVs, better stereo systems, etc This list could literally go on and on. Some of these things; Drugs, Pornography … they are bad in small doses as well as large doses. Some of these things are not bad where self-control is involved, but when we lose self-control and begin to indulge, they become dangerous for us … shopping, food, hobbies, etc. INTRO We are in the middle of our sermon series on Spiritual Disciplines. Where we are looking at some of the different spiritual disciplines. Not in an attempt to become Pharisees that are disciplined to practice different traditions and regulations … no, we want to pursue God and in so doing pursue godliness. So far, we have talked about Bible Intake and Prayer. These two are the most known of the spiritual disciplines and, for the most part, they are not too difficult. It is generally a lack of motivation and selfdiscipline that keeps us from practicing these disciplines. Today though, we are going to talk about a discipline or habit that is sometimes dreaded or feared, often avoided, and mostly because it is just not understood. It is the habit that people seem to get the least excited about, but it is also the discipline that we see tremendous spiritual gains from when practiced with the right intent, the right heart. Today we are going to be talking about fasting. The goal today is simply to cover what is fasting, and why would we practice fasting. WHAT IS FASTING? The initial answer to this question is simply this: FASTING IS A CHRISTIAN’S VOLUNTARY ABSTINENCE FROM FOOD FOR SPIRITUAL PURPOSES. - It is CHRISTIAN, fasting by a nonChristians obtains no eternal value because fasting’s motives and purposes are to be God centered. It is VOLUNTARY in that fasting is not to be coerced or forced. Fasting is way more than just a crash diet for the body’; it is abstinence from food for SPIRITUAL PURPOSES. But … fasting does not JUST mean fasting from food. It is the most typical type of fast referred to in the Bible … but it is not solely fasting from food. Richard Foster defines fasting as, “The voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” For the most part, the Bible when talking of fasting refers to it only in the sense of abstinence from food. But we would be wrong if we said that this is the only spiritual abstinence referred to in scripture. We also see a spiritual abstinence from marital intimacy … 1 CORINTHIANS 7:2-5 SLIDE 3 – SCRIPTURE 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. SLIDE 4 – SCRIPTURE 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. SLIDE 5 – SCRIPTURE 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. SLIDE 6 – SCRIPTURE 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. There are many things to note here … and we will circle back to them … but I want you to see that this is a fast from intimacy in a marriage. It is a fast that is initiated and agreed upon by both parties, it is for a spiritual purpose, AND it is for a limited time so that we do not give Satan a foothold. This scripture allows us to see though that even though most scripture we will reference today has to do with food, fasting can be applied to all areas of our lives and for some of us … it should be applied to areas of our lives outside of just a fast from food. SLIDE 7 – TITLE WHAT KIND OF FASTS DO WE SEE? SIDE NOTE: There is a lot of scripture … I am going to be saying a lot of scripture references today and not necessarily reading all of the scripture. So please make note of these references so you can go back and read through the different occasions and stories. NORMAL FASTS First, there are normal fasts. When we look at Matthew 4 and Luke 4 we see that Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. The specific wording though is that He was hungry and that He went without food. A normal fast is a fast from food, not a fast from water. The body can normally function no longer than 3 days without water. So the most common fast for a Christian is to drink water or perhaps fruit juices and nothing else. PARTIAL FAST Next, we see a partial fast. These are fasts where the faster abstains from most food, but not all food. They limit themselves to a certain selection of food. Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1) eat only vegetables and drink only water. The time limit they do this for is 10 days, but for them they were doing this for 10 days to show the King’s steward that they should be allowed to do this as a way of life to honor God. It was partial in what they were eating and drinking, but it was not partial in the time span. Same can be said about John the Baptist (Matthew 3). He lived off of locusts and wild honey. This was a fast, it was a dependence on God for nourishment and it was not stated as a temporary thing. It became a partial fast as a lifestyle for him. ABSOLUTE FAST We also see absolute fasts. No food, no water. EZRA 10:6 SLIDE 8 – SCRIPTURE 6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. It was a short period of time, but it was absolute. No food, no water. Esther (in Esther 4) requests that the Jews fast and pray on her behalf and she asks them to go 3 days and night without food or water. An absolute fast. Paul, while he was blinded for three days, practices an absolute fast. ACTS 9:9 SLIDE 9 – SCRIPTURE 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. SUPERNATURAL FAST Finally, we see a couple references to supernatural fasts. These are fasts that are physically impossible without God intervening. Moses goes to the top of Mount Sinai to meet with God and he writes: DEUTERONOMY 9:9 SLIDE 10 – SCRIPTURE 9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. Without God, this is impossible. It is a supernatural fast. This is not to be repeated without God’s specific calling and miraculous provision. SLIDE 11 – TITLE WHO IS INVOLVED IN A FAST? PRIVATE FAST Jesus, in Matthew 6, talks about fasting being private. He says we should fast in a way that is not to be noticed by others. Because of this reference, people believe that ALL fasting should be private fasting. You have to remember that Jesus was speaking to a specific issue that was going on with the Pharisees, and that although private fasting is a good practice … it is not the only way to fast. But … some fasts in fact are private and they are meant to be private, between you and God. CONGREGATIONAL FAST We also see Congregational Fasts. JOEL 2:15-16 SLIDE 12 – SCRIPTURE 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; SLIDE 13 – SCRIPTURE 16 gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. ACTS 13:2 SLIDE 14 – SCRIPTURE 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. SLIDE 15 – SCRIPTURE 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." During these fasts, all, or a part of the congregation comes together to fast for a specific purpose. The Elders and myself have done fasts together. We have fasted for guidance, direction, for His strength, for His purpose and will. SLIDE 16 – TITLE NATIONAL FAST The fasts become so great that the entire nation is called together for a fast. In the way we celebrate a national day of prayer, they would come together as a nation to fast. 2 Chronicles 30 – King Jehoshaphat calls a national fast as he is preparing to ask God for help. In both Nehemiah 9:1 and Esther 4:16, the Jews are called to a national fast. We even see other nations … specifically Nineveh … in Jonah 3 calling a national fast in response to Jonah’s proclamation. During the early days of our nation, congress proclaimed 3 national fasts. Presidents John Adams and James Madison each called all Americans to fast, and Abraham Lincoln did so on three separate occasions during the Civil War. HOW OFTEN DO FAST’S OCCUR? REGULAR FAST We see both regular and occasional. Under the Old Covenant, every Jew was to fast on the Day of Atonement. During their exile in Babylon (Zechariah 8:19), the leaders of the Jews instituted four annual fasts. We know that the Pharisees (Luke 18:12) traditionally fasted two times a week. OCCASIONAL FASTS We also see occasional fasts … and these are more common today. It was the kind that Jehoshaphat and Esther called for. Special Occasions where the need arises. WHY DO PEOPLE FAST? Throughout scripture we see several reasons of why people fast. But all of them are intended to draw us closer to God and to draw us closer to Godliness. They all have a spiritual purpose. - - - - - - To strengthen prayer – we see fasts (like in Ezra 8:23, Nehemiah 1:4, Daniel 9:3) that go along with prayer for the purpose of strengthening prayer. To seek guidance – we see fasts (like in Judges 20, Acts 14) where God’s people are seeking His guidance and His direction. They don’t know the right answer so they fast to show their dependence on Him and seek His direction. To express grief – We also see fasting tied to grief. Actually 3 of the 5 fasts I just gave scripture references to are also joined with grief. We see in 2 Samuel 1:11-12 fasting, grief, mourning are happening at the same time. To seek deliverance or protection – we see fasts (2 Chronicles 20:3-4, Ezra 8:21-23, Psalm 109:24) that are seeking deliverance or protection from God. Both physical and spiritual. To express repentance and the return to God – To go along with that, we see fasts (1 Samuel 7:6, Joel 2:12, Jonah 3:5-8) where the fast is to express repentance and a return to God and His will. To humble ourselves before God – we see fasts (1 Kings 21:27-29, Psalm 35:13) that are intended to act as a humbling before God. The intent of the fast is to humble ourselves before God. To express concern for the work of God – We see fasts (Nehemiah 1:3-4, Daniel 9:3) that are an expression of concern for the work of God and for His people. To minister to the needs of others – God in Isaiah 58:3-7 talks about fasting for the purpose of ministering to the needs of others. That it is to be a turning from self and a turning to the needs of others. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God – Jesus fasts in Matthew 4 for 40 days and nights as a preparation for the temptation that is coming and for the ministry ahead. It is a way to be strengthened for temptation and to dedicate yourself to God’s will and His work. The Bible is full of reasons to fast and I am sure that I have missed some. Fasting is an essential discipline because the benefits of fasting are tremendous for this life now and the one to come. CAN YOU FAST WRONG? Yes … so some quick helpful tips for fasting. FASTS SHOULD BE BROKEN WITH CARE We know that the longer you fast from food, the more care that should be taken with specifically how to break a fast. I would encourage you, if you plan on fasting from food … especially for a longer period of time … google how to break a fast. Your body needs you to break a fast in a specific way. Knowing that, I would encourage that you take care when you break non food fasts also. If you decide you are going to go 40 days without purchasing luxury items for yourself … you shouldn’t break that fast with a shopping spree. In the same way too much food could hurt your body, too much of what you have been neglecting could hurt your heart (or the heart of why you were fasting to begin with). FASTS SHOULD NOT BE FORCED ON SOMEONE ELSE As we saw earlier in scripture … some fasts affect others. If I decide to fast from marital relations, that affects my wife. So that scripture literally says to agree on the fast so that both parties are involved in it. I would say the same with other fasts as well. If Jen decides she is going to go on a vegetable and water fast for a specific purpose … great. But as the one that primarily buys groceries and cooks, she should not force everyone into the same fast as her. Understand, there is a difference between fasting for a spiritual purpose and a change in diet for health purposes. You cannot force someone into a spiritual fast and you should not. You can encourage, but you should not force someone into one. It defeats the purpose. FASTS SHOULD NOT BE DONE FOR PUBLIC APPROVAL Fasts should not be done for public approval … this is why we saw Jesus speaking of private fasts. The Pharisees were doing it just to look holier. And they weren’t just fasting, they were making themselves look starved and without just to show how great the act was they were doing. This made the act, the practice, purposeless. At least spiritually purposeless. Fasting should always be done with the intent to draw closer to God and Godliness WALKING POINTS So as we leave here, missionaries and missionaries in the making. I want to encourage you to fast. For each of us our fasts might look different. You might fast for any number of the reasons above and you might fast from something different. It all depends on the motivation and reason. You might fast with your family, you might fast privately, you might fast with your small group or ministry team. You might fast for yourself, you might fast on behalf of someone else. My encouragement though would be that you really think on fasting, meditate on fasting, spend time with God praying about fasting, look to His word and see it in scripture. And then when you recognize the Holy Spirit calling you to fast, I want to encourage you to respond to that call. I would even encourage for some that you plan a fast of dedication that you carry out in the days to come. It can even be simple, but a fast that you express to God your willingness and desire to pursue Him through fasting and through all of the spiritual disciplines.
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