THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 8-21-05
LESSON TITLE: "GREAT LESSONS FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT: FASTING FOR GOD"
We are truly excited to have you with us today as we together break the Living Word of God. We are certainly glad that you have chosen this day, to give this time to our Creator - so that together we may Worship and Praise His Holy name!
As we come together this day, it is my hope and prayer that we will each participate and do our part to make this time acceptable before God. As a collective offering of those who love God, and who are willing to submit their own sacrifices before His throne.
So, At this time, as we turn our full attention to the reason we have come together, let's approach our Father's throne in prayer:
What would we do without Jesus? Our God does so much for us each and every day of our lives. This morning, we want to begin praising God with a song which reminds us of just how much we need our Savior. So, won't you join in with the congregation at this time as we sing together, "I Need Thee Every Hour!"
(SONG # 1)
In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul said, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." This is certainly a very familiar and true teaching of Christ. However, I would like to consider another verse this morning which goes on to teach us a little more about love. Read with me Colossians 3:14, here the same inspired author said, "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." Wow, what a great passage of scripture!
So what is Paul talking about here? If you look at the context, he is reminding the Colossian Christians that we are all one and equal in Christ. Why, because he clarifies that we have put on the new man, with new knowledge, based on the very image of Jesus Christ Himself.
Next we learn about some characteristics which make up this new creature which is focused on the things of God. In the two verses proceeding verse 14, Paul proclaimed, "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do." Wow, did you catch all of that? We are God's Elect and chosen ones. And thus we are to exemplify Him in all we do. What a great opportunity this is, as well as a challenge to do all that we can for the sake of Christ.
Now back to our main verse, where he said, "above all these things put on love!" You see more than anything we need to learn because love is really at the heart of everything. Why are we kind, humble, meek and patient? Well, because we have learned to love as Christ has commanded us. Why do we forgive? Because we have learned to forgive as Christ forgave us. Praise be to God that we can follow His example and love, because when love is at the heart of it all we are seen as Christ-like in all that we do.
Finally, notice the outcome of having the proper love as commanded by Christ. Again, we read from Colossians 3:14, "...love is the bond of perfection!" Have you ever wanted to be seen as perfect? Well, here we learn that we can be seen as perfect or complete before God if we learn to love as Christ did. So the question is, do we love as the Bible teaches us? And furthermore, do we love to the extent that we are seen as perfect in the eyes of Christ?
In just a few minutes it will be time to begin our main study of the day. Our discussion today will deal with the Biblical teaching of fasting, and the specific title is, "Fasting For God." This is the next lesson in our series of study which is entitled, "Great Lessons From The Sermon On The Mount."
So please stay with us for this morning for this study from God's Word, and at the appropriate I will be leading our main thoughts from God's Precious Word. Now let's join together in our next song of the morning. The name of this hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul."
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ray Sullins
In our text today, we will be reading from Matthew chapter 6 and beginning in verse 16 as the Bible says, "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites with a sad countenance for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you that they have their reward, but you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place and your Father who sees you in secret will reward you openly."
Here we find another aspect of what we might refer to as Christian living. In fact, so far in chapter 6, we have seen three different things including fasting. The first being the fact that we must have charitable deeds and do good to all men. We see the second thing that Jesus spoke of in chapter 6 in His great Sermon on the Mount was the idea of prayer and how that He taught His disciples how to pray. And now the next thing that He brings up is fasting. As we think about the concept of fasting, I might ask how many sermons have you heard on fasting? How many times have you been encouraged to fast? Or before, possibly you have wondered, should we fast? Or really is it a command that applies to us?
No doubt as we look into the scripture we find that fasting was a big part of following God. Throughout all the Old Testament we find those who fasted. And as well in the New Testament, we find examples of those who were fasting for the sake of God. It's important that we first of all understand what it means to fast. In fact, if we were to look into the dictionary, we would find the idea of fasting means "to abstain from food." Another idea presented is that "one must eat very little," or the third thing is "an act or a practice of withholding oneself from food." So again, all three of these ideas show us where one has determined, has chosen that they will not eat. They will not satisfy the flesh with eating, although the body needs to eat, in order that they might commit their time to a spiritual thing such as devotional study or work for the Lord. And so fasting is a very spiritual idea. It is an idea that says, "I will fast and I will put aside my fleshly needs and wants and desires and I will focus solely on God and do His Will and accomplish it."
It is also interesting to note that Jesus Himself fasted. In fact, you might remember just a few chapters back from the great Sermon on the Mount where we have been studying together for several months now, back in chapter 4 of Matthew. We find there where Jesus was led up into the desert of the devil. Then in verse 2 if you'll read with me, "And when He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights and afterward," it says that, "He was hungry." I want you to notice the parallel of this verse that is given over in Luke chapter 4 because I think there it actually gives a little bit better definition of what Jesus did when He fasted. There in verse 2 of chapter 4, again the book of Luke. It says, "Being tempted for 40 days by the devil," now hear this, "and in those days He ate nothing." You know instead of using the wording that He fasted, the idea was that He ate nothing and then it goes on in verse 2 to say, "And thereafter, He was hungry." Well certainly, if we didn't eat for 40 days and 40 nights, we would become very hungry. So here we have the ultimate example of one who fasted, one who was willing to again set aside fleshly needs and desires because we all need to eat, and how often do we want to eat? Well, you and I probably want to eat at least three times a day and when we add the snacks in maybe five or six times a day. But really if we think about those in the world who are less fortunate who might eat two times a day or one, at least we expect one meal a day. We want to be able to get some nutrition and strength and to be able to energize ourselves again. Then I might also add, what happens if we miss a meal? It's probably good for us, but if we miss it, then we miss a few meals and we haven't eaten for a long time during the day, what does our body do? It begins to feel a bit weak sometimes. We begin start having a few aches or cramps in the stomach and it is saying, "Feed me! Feed me!" Well, fasting means we set those things aside. We don't worry about that flesh because we are so focused on the moment and on the things that we are striving to do for God.
Another good example about fasting that we find is in Acts chapter 9. This would have been after the church had been started on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and now there would have been Christians and here in chapter 9 and verse 9, it says, "Paul completely abstained from food for three nights." There for three days, he was completely abstaining from his fleshly needs for food so that he might focus on what? On God. Another example we find of old that I might make mention of is there again in Daniel where we read about how that there was a type of fast for food, an opportunity that Israel had and sometimes the prophets or even the apostles or even disciples in the New Testament throughout scripture, different individuals were willing to say, "Because I am busy with the work of the Lord, I am not worried about at this time serving the flesh or satisfying the flesh."
As we think about then the concept of fasting, we might wonder then should we be involved in fasting? Is it something that is commanded or that is taught? I want you to go back to our context there in Matthew chapter 6 and notice with me again those things that were mentioned as we've already really referred to at the outset, giving of really our possessions as charitable deeds to those that have need, prayer and then as well now, fasting. In those verses, we find these three objects and what's interesting is that two of these are reiterated in other places of scripture. For example, in Acts chapter 2 and verse 42, it says that "they continued in the apostle's doctrines." And then one of the things that the Christians or the church there in the New Testament on the Day of Pentecost what they continued in was prayer. Not only there but we go on to find that God commanded that we pray without ceasing and that we pray for all things and in every thing to the Father and that we make our requests known to Him and so on and so forth. Prayer is continually reiterated throughout the New Testament even after the church had been established as a command, a requirement of one who loves God. And why not? It is the avenue that we have as we spoke of last week to speak to God directly. So prayer is important.
The other idea that is given there is this idea of charitable deeds. We know also this was the case because we can go again to Acts chapter 2 and we can find there the idea that talks about the fact that they were again doing the deeds. In fact, it says there that "they all gave of their possessions and they had all things in (what?) common." They were helping each other. What was the discussion there in 1 Corinthians, chapter 16 verses 1 and 2? That they give of their means. Why? That they might help the needy and help those who had need. Giving of our gifts, our offerings, and really those things that we have to be charitable, to help those that are less fortunate and prayer.
These things are continually reconfirmed throughout the New Testament. But what about fasting? Now we do see a mention as we saw of Paul fasting and we see few references, but we never see the New Testament church actually fasting as a group or in a sense on an individual level. But we still, I believe, can learn a lot about God and our need to serve God from fasting and certainly we can think for a minute about how we might be able in our lives to take part in a type of a fast in order that we might serve God more.
Let me give you a few examples. Let me think with you just for a moment about the things that you have done for God before. Have you ever gone out and knocked on doors or worked for God in different areas? Maybe you have gone on a campaign before. Maybe you've gone to a third world nation and you've taught the Bible. What happens often when you get out there and you begin knocking on doors and maybe you start in the morning and it rolls around to 12:00 or 1:00 and you are getting a bit hungry, but still there's a lot of work to do? You know you can't just run back or go to the store. Maybe you've got a little water with you but you really don't have any food with you. What is that? Well, here you have set aside a physical need or want and you've done the work. I can recall many times as I had opportunity to work in Africa where we would have long stretches or moments and hours where we would not eat at all. Often we would be able to have maybe a drink of water or something, be able to sit down and rest for a few moments, but as far as sitting down to eat... Sometimes we would eat breakfast and go all day until it got dark or when we got home at night or wherever we were staying and then at that time, we would eat. Well, that was a type of a fast where we said, "We're committed now and we're not going to take the time to stop and to eat or to fill and satisfy the flesh. We will push forward today and go ahead and do the work and eat later." Well again, I just submit to you that this really is a type of fasting. Maybe in your life before you have began to study the Word... I know often I might have opportunity as a minister to sit down and to study the Word and to get involved in depth in maybe a study that I am having or reading and I am talking with someone else about God and before you know it, where's the time gone? It is as if, "Oh well, what happened? I missed lunch." And you look up and somebody calls you and you say, "I didn't realize it was that late." Well again, you have put aside the fleshly needs because you are so focused on God that you are willing to fast.
Now I want you to get back to the text with me because what is the point that He is making here anyway? When He mentions the charitable deeds and He mentions the prayer and He mentions the fasting, what is He talking about? He's really not necessarily talking so much about the fact that they do it although I remind you that He says here, "When you fast." He is saying that when you do it, when you set aside the flesh for Me and to focus fully on Me, when you do it, as if they were expected and would do it. So be mindful of that. Then notice what the real focus is here. "When you do it, do it for the right reason." Isn't that the same thing we looked at with the charitable deeds? Isn't that the same thing we looked at with prayer that you not be like the hypocrites standing in the streets, but that you pray from a sincere heart. And when we look at fasting here, when you fast, don't disfigure your face and walk around, "Oh, I'm so hungry and look what I'm doing for God." It's not about what you are doing for God that others might see it. What He states here is the fact that you go home, that you wash your face and that you make yourself appear that you are not fasting to the world, but God knows and God will reward you. You see the idea here is not so much the activity, it's the characteristic or the attitude that we have in doing the activity. Are we doing it with a sincere motive? Are we doing it for the right reasons? Are we doing it that we might glorify God and show Him how much we love Him and grow ourselves?
Now that all being said, let me clarify again there might be times that we do things like this, give of our charitable means and that others know about it, but yet still our motive was right. We didn't go out there and say, "Look everybody, I am going to give something," or "Look everybody, I'm going to fast on this date at this time and then I'm going to end at this time." What do we know about a person that does that? That they are caught up in themselves and they're not about serving God. They're about getting the praise of man. That's what Jesus says. But what if someone sees us when we're doing these things and they find out? Then glory be to God because our attitude shows them that what we are all about is serving God not serving ourselves. You see, we've got to be serious about the work that is before us as children of God. We've got to be individuals who understand that we have many opportunities to give and to help others and to pray and to fast if possible and to set aside the fleshly needs and desires in order that we might go and serve God and then we are willing, then we are willing to fully commit ourselves to Him. Why? Because we love Him and because we know that when we show we love Him through our ability to serve then we're going to be blessed by God in turn.
I hope all of us will take advantage of every opportunity to set aside the flesh in any way that it might be or the fleshly needs to be able to fast for God so that we might commit ourselves fully to Him and show Him with every fiber of our being mentally and spiritually that we are focused on Him, that we love Him and that we'll always put Him first.
(SONG # 3 - "I Know That My Redeemer Lives!")
Let me thank you again for choosing to be with us today. I hope our time together has been an encouragement and blessing to us all. We invite you to join us every First day of the week, at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to this time of Worship before God!
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Thanks be to God that He has given us the avenue of fasting to prove our love and devotion for Him. May we all do more for God every day just to show how much we truly love Him.