(This is a re-post of the third and fourth posts I wrote on fasting, from 2012)
“Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever. -1 John 2:15-17
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus is saying, “don’t worry about your stuff- your life, your food & drink, your clothes, but instead seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. God will take care of all your needs.” In other words, some of us need to stop or fast from worrying and instead seek God’s kingdom. How many of us are worried about stuff? Fast from that and replace that worrying energy with seeking God’s kingdom.
Worry means divided, distracted, or to go to pieces. It’s like something in the back of your mind, or out of your mind keeps pushing it’s way to the front of your mind, or the front of the line. Jesus says, “no cuts, stop it”. Jesus does not say not to plan for, dream about, or anticipate tomorrow. Jesus says to not be distracted from today, from what is before you, by questions about tomorrow.
He also says to replace that worry with kingdom desire. Instead of worrying, seek God’s kingdom. Worship, pray, or play with God. Give to others, encourage someone else, or do an act of faith (spelled r-i-s-k). Fast from the worries to make way fro the kingdom. The King will take care of all your cares in your tomorrows.
John’s words in 1 John 2, reflect the same ideas of our worldly desires needing to be fasted from in order to find God. I noticed the word craving here.
What do you crave? Do you crave God, heaven, Jesus, God’s kingdom? Is anything wrong with craving something like a piece of chocolate? No. God created chocolate and our ability to enjoy it. So, what is the problem that John is writing about? The problem is when we put the things of the world before God. God loves the world and so should we, but we need to love God more than the world; more than we love the people of the world or the things of the world.
Part of fasting is to renew our appetites in the right directions by disciplining them towards God. Disciples go through discipline. Disciplines are not optional. Being a disciple is not optional.
Christians who have a lot of trouble finding God in their lives may not be disciples. Disciples do the stuff. Many of us have made listening to the word and reading the word an end in itself. We feel good. We feel inspired. We gain knowledge. But, if we don’t do something, there is no growth and no change in our whole lives. It would be like watching videos and hearing lectures on parachuting, but never putting one on and going up in a plane and jumping.
We have a ‘bizarre world’ christian culture that implies that, “it is enough to just know and be inspired about the word.” No one usually says that, and the people who speak and teach and preach do encourage the listeners to do it, to live the life. My point is that because we don’t do discipleship, not much growth happens because discipleship is not lecture and inspiration, but hearing and doing; then wrestling and working it out together.
Many people who know the word have never launched their lives in the kingdom off the pad. God guides people who are moving. Discipleship is something you do.
There are many exceptions and many disciples, but I am writing about those who are not disciples and are not doing it. The Christian life for us, that Jesus died for, is a life walking with, in the world.
Disciples, seek the kingdom and stop the worrying. Disciples, unplug from the world to be undistracted from seeking the kingdom in your lives. Christians are called to a life of temperance all the time and abstinence when appropriate.
James, chapter 4 illustrates the need for fasting from the world:
What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.
You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? God jealously longs for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. -James 4:1-10
James writes that we have, “cravings that are at war in our own lives”. These cravings cause conflicts, disputes, and even murder. These cravings result in jealousy, struggles, and fights. James writes that these things are the result of unfaithfulness and friendship with the world. God loves the world and wants the world saved (John 3:16) and so should we, with God’s love. The friendship with the world that makes you an enemy of God is something different. God loves the world, but is not the world’s friend.
Friendship is when you have things in common and fellowship around those things. The world is moving against and away from God. The Christian is moving with and toward God. So, the Christian cannot align with or friend the world and if he or she does, they have ceased to move toward and be a friend with God. James says you can not be on both teams.
God jealously longs for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us.
The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God. His jealousy is not like human jealousy, that often is a wanting of something someone else has. God is jealous for us to be wholly His. The more we are in God, the better life we will have and God knows this. God wants to and deserves to be number one in our lives. The human illustration is that the married person wants to be the number one person in their spouse’s life. If they are looking at others or sharing intimacy with others, the spouse is jealous, and rightly so; because they made vows to each other at their wedding to be faithful and we long for them to stay faithful and are jealous if they are not.
Our flesh craves the worldly things, but God jealously longs for our faithfulness, writes James. How do we get from unfaithful craving for the world to faithfulness to God? Grace. We need more grace. Got grace? Get more grace.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor or his empowering presence. God has already made provision for our faithfulness. We don’t earn the ability or work our way to it, but we must procure it. He activates you to act. You act in faith, by his faithfulness, through his grace.
James gives inspired instruction on how to extricate yourself from the world. How to stop the friendship with the world by cutting off those cravings, through fasting from the world.
This is what James says to do:
Humble yourself: Humble those cravings by starving them.
Submit to God: Re-set your self under God.
Resist the devil
. Hold your ground and stand against the devil.
The word devil is from diabolos, witch means, “the Slanderer (par excellence)”: the quintessential, the best at it, slanderer. Slander is, “oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which will harm the reputation of the person defamed”. Character assassination and smear are words for slander. This is the devil’s stock & trade.
You can expect slander from mouths that the devil has commandeered and you can stand against it. James says that the devil will run away from you if you stand against him, while humbling yourself and submitting to God; seeking grace (God’s unmerited favor & empowering presence).
What does the devil have to do with fasting from the world to find the kingdom? Why does James insert this counsel about deliverance into a section in his letter about out of control desires, repentance, and humility?
Being in the world, but not of the world has it’s pitfalls. James may have in mind, that when you are unfaithful to God, moving toward idolatry, you open a door for the dark side (the demonic) to get a foothold in your life.
The devil is only one person, but I assume that James means the devil’s forces who carry out his attack on the church. Lies are the calling card of the devil’s forces. They will lie about you, God, and others. If they get into your thoughts at all, they will be whispering lies. If the dark forces gain enough ground in a person’s life, they fill there mind so much, that the person begins to (irrationally) speak out the lies of the enemy.
James reminds Christians that they are to simply resist the knock on the door and not answer.
The world is enemy territory, because of the fall of man. God’s kingdom is taking it back, but the job is not done. The Christian who feeds from the unsanctified world will get sick and that is what James is addressing. Park of the sickness is “devil trouble”. This trouble is not like getting severely attacked, but is like you opening a place where the attack can get in and start nesting.
James has instructions on how to unfriend the world:
Come near to God
and wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded.
Repent, humbling yourselves before the Lord. James writes that the sin filled Christian can become a “spiritual schizophrenic” (double minded), which is when your soul or mind is split in two. Living a double life is not a good condition, but it is mentioned in this letter to Christians, because it is a common condition, in my opinion. If that is you, James has some instructions: we need to repent deeply.
Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep
We need to mourn and grieve. There are some of us who have issues of life, pain and sorrow that we have not released, and anger that is a volcano beneath our lovely spiritual, false-self masks.
Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness
We have laughed and joked when we really need to cry. We need to cry tears and cry out to God for grace and mercy and repent.
Some of us joke about our sins and have rationales for each one. We have become cynical and are sarcastic, even about spirituality. This is all pride, that God can not bless: God stands against the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. That is the antidote, the path to God. Fasting from the world.
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