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Fasting Day 19: Breaking Bondage, The Disciple’s Fast

Are there secret sins from which you cannot get free, no matter how hard you try or how many times you confess?  God desires to set you free. He has established a path to freedom for you – a path of fasting.

“Is not this the fast I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness” (Isa. 58:6).

The Disciple’s Fast is a fast to break bondage and besetting sin. Many Christians fall prey to besetting sins. Besetting sins aren’t every day sins or momentary omission. Neither are they sins of rebellion – sins where God has clearly said, “You shall not,” and the Believer says, “Oh yes I will!” shaking their fist in his face. Besetting sins are habitual sins that enslave people.

A besetting sin controls you. Although you don’t want to go back to the sinful behavior and beg to be free, you once again find yourself committing the same sinful act. You are helpless and broken before God, yet you can’t be free. You cry out, “I can’t help it!” You hate playing the game and you always lose…but you can’t help accepting the invitation to the next game.

The disciples tried unsuccessfully to deal with just such a sin involving a boy. Jesus said that the problem was so severe that it couldn’t be treated with every day, ordinary means. “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting,” He said (Matt. 17:21).

Are you a modern day disciple of Christ, besieged by a besetting sin that requires extraordinary means? Jesus died on the cross for all sin, including your besetting sin. The blood of Jesus Christ is the most powerful thing on earth. It destroys sin and delivers from death and hell. Yet some Christians are in bondage to alcohol, drugs, sex, tobacco, pornography and other besetting sins.  The Bible promises us that “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man” (I Co. 10:13). Others face the same temptation as you; yet you are chained to it uncontrollably like a slave. Scripture promises you a way out (see I Cor. 10:13)). The Disciple’s Fast is that very way of escape for you as a modern day disciple.

Background

In Matthew 17, a loving dad approached Jesus and brought his son who suffered from seizures. The seizures frequently caused the boy to fall into the fire or water.  The father had brought his son to the disciples, but they could not heal him (even though Jesus had previously given them the power to cast out demons.)  Jesus rebuked the demon; it came out of the boy and he was healed from that moment. The disciples later came to Jesus privately, inquiring as to why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus answered:

“Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:20-21).

Jesus had long before spent forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness. For Him, casting out the demon was possible because a fast accompanied his faith. After Jesus was baptized, he returned “full of the Holy Spirit,” and was led into the wilderness where He fasted. After fasting he returned to Galilee in the “power of the Spirit.” Fasting is central to releasing the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives – the power of the Spirit over oppression and besetting sins.

In Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough [Affiliate Link], Elmer Towns shares valuable insight into besetting sins and gives practical steps toward gaining freedom from them. If you are plagued by besetting sins, I highly recommend that you get this valuable book and pour through the pages on the Disciple’s Fast. The following is taken from this excellent book.

Besetting sins overwhelm and control us because we believe Satan’s lie (see John 8:44). Satan lies to us about sin and we believe him. With besetting sins, Satan gets us to believe one of the following three lies:

  1. I tried before, and can’t break it.
  2. I don’t want to do this, but can’t help it.
  3. I need an answer, but can’t find it.[i]

We believe Satan’s lie and don’t see the way of escape. We can change our actions and desires, but we believe we are powerless because we have surrendered our will to Satan instead of God.

“When Satan controls our thoughts, he controls our lives. When he lies to us about our lives, we are in bondage.”[ii]

We wonder how we can ever break these bondages. How can we regain control of our lives? When you take control of your physical appetite, you develop strength to take control of your emotional appetite.[iii]

The Power of the Disciples Fast

The father of the demon-possessed boy didn’t understand the true nature of his son’s problem.”Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water” (Matt. 17:15). The father just thought his son was sick. He attributed his problems to internal sources, not external spirits. But Jesus knew that a demon had entered the boy and was controlling him.

The father brought his son to the disciples but they were unable to heal him. (Matt. 17;16). They could not break the yoke of bondage.

When you enter the Disciple’s Fast, you are wrestling for control of your life. By controlling what you eat, you determine deep inside that you will control your life for God’s purpose. Dr. Towns describes the power of this fast:

“When you make a vow and reinforce it with the Disciple’s Fast, you move into the strength of decision making. You give up necessary or enjoyable food as a demonstration of the commitment of your will. When you make a choice to fast, you strengthen yourself to stand against a force that has enslaved your spiritual appetite.”[iv]

When you control your physical appetite, you strengthen your spiritual appetite.

You make a freeing choice to be delivered. Jesus confronted a man who came to him for healing with the question, “Do you want to be made well? (John 5:6). Jesus knew the man wanted to be healed. He asked to build anticipation in the patient. Jesus wanted the man to desire the power He could give him.

Many Believers go to the altar at church and beg to be delivered from bondage. “Lord, please take adultery from me.” Or, “Please take cigarettes from me.” They want God to do it all. They want to be zapped – to have all appetites instantly removed. But this is not the way God works. He wants us to look inside of ourselves, so that we make the decision to obey and follow Him. He deliberately did not create us as robots to be controlled by Him. He gave us a free will to choose Him – for salvation that leads to eternal life, and then for the “working out” of that salvation in our daily lives. This “working out” brings the power of the eternal life within us to bear on every aspect of our lives. (See Jn 17:3; Ph. 2:12; Ph. 4:13.)

You recognize that an external power is responsible for your bondage. The father didn’t recognize that a demon spirit was responsible for the son’s bondage. The disciples didn’t recognize the cause either. Yet Jesus immediately “rebuked the demon and it came out of the boy” (Matt. 17:18).

Recognizing that demons are influencing our lives does not mean that we are “demon possessed” and controlled internally by demons. It means we realize that we are controlled externally by demon spirits. Some believe they were born as homosexuals. Others believe they are alcoholics because a parent was an alcoholic. Although the causes are external, there is an internal depression that says, “I’m worthless.” They give up, when if they controlled their bodies through fasting, they could enable their spirits to take control of their natural man.

You confess your previous lack of faith. You must realize your weakness before you can be made strong. I have two dear friends who are marathon runners. They both have to realize in advance of the marathon their physical need to practice, train and build strength. We declare our faith when we realize what God can do. We also declare our faith when we realize what we cannot do. Faith is realizing God’s tactic and submitting to it.

You specifically state your besetting sin. Write out the specific bondage you want to break. In doing this, you strengthen your will by stating what you want. You focus your energies on the problem. You build anticipation to break the problem. You build up your faith in God to expect an answer.[v]

“If you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move” (Matt. 17:20).

Fast repeatedly until you get a breakthrough. Jesus said, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21). The verb action in the original language is continuous. Jesus was saying that we should continually fast in order to be free from besetting sins. This could involve fasting for a longer period of time, or fasting more often, such as once a week for several weeks.

Fasting is similar to receiving an answer to prayer. Sometimes we pray once and have the answer. Other times we must keep seeking, asking and knocking before the answer comes (See Matt 7:7). The longer we refrain from food, the more determined and disciplined we become. After a while, our faith grows to trust God for bigger miracles in our lives.

Steps to Deliverance

Choose the type and duration of your fast. Write down the specific foods to be avoided (See Types of Fasts). Sign a fasting contract between you and God (Such as the Pursuit21 Fasting Contract). On this contract you can write the bondages you desire to be broken. You do not need to list the specific acts of sin, but the overall bondage from which you want to be freed. Set a beginning and end to your fast. If you will be fasting more frequently, write down the days you will fast. Once you have done this, stick to it and follow through.

Specific spiritual steps need to be taken as well. Bondage grows from seeds in our mind. Roots grow deep into our subconscious and affect our emotions, our appetites, and actions. To break spiritual bondage, we must follow the strategy God has provided for spiritual warfare.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

Step1: Renounce Counterfeit Control

Discern reality from counterfeit. This comes by recognizing and renouncing any control over your mind that is not from Christ. “As the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3, KJV).

Counterfeit control comes from several places. From the values we learned as a child in an ungodly home. These values can impact generations. Media impacts our lives deeply. The choices of books, movies, music and websites we visit can lead to counterfeit control. Have you ever been involved – even innocently – in the occult, New Age, black or white magic, or other cults or religions? These sources involve an external power that could influence our lives.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Renouncing counterfeit control frees us up to walk in Jesus abundant life.

Pray aloud: I renounce (insert the counterfeit influences holding you in bondage).

Step 2: Acknowledge Self-Deception

We often deceive ourselves. We must recognize this and embrace God’s truth.

“You desire truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Ps. 51:6).

We are so good at deceiving ourselves that most of the time, we don’t recognize it. We deceive ourselves when:

  • We hear God’s Word and fail to apply it (Ja. 1:22).
  • “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).
  • “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3).
  • We evaluate our wisdom by the standard of the world instead of by God’s wisdom ( I Cor. 3:18)
  • We think we can sin and then escape the consequences (see I Cor. 6:9).

As long as we deceive ourselves, we stay in bondage. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Pray audibly, I acknowledge (insert here the areas in which you have deceived yourself).

Step 3: Forgive to Overcome Bitterness

When you refuse to forgive someone you put yourself in spiritual bondage to them and to sin.

“If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:10,11).

List the names of those you need to forgive. Do not list any sins or violations they may have committed against you or a loved one – just list names.

Forgiveness is a choice. God requires us to forgive others, therefore, it is something we can do.

Pray audibly, “I forgive (insert here the names of the ones who have wronged you in some way).” As you forgive others, you experience God’s forgiveness in your life.

Step 4: Submit to God’s Authority

Submitting to God’s authority and to those He has placed over you overcomes rebellion in your life. Jesus compared being under authority to a demonstration of great faith (see Matt. 8:8-10).

We are all under a chain of authority that God has placed over us. We are asked to submit to the authority of (1) civil government (Rom. 13:1-7); (2) church leadership (Heb. 13:17); (3) parents (Eph. 6:1-3); (4) husbands (I Pet. 3:1-4); (5) employers (I Pet. 2:13-23); (6) God (Dan. 9:5,9).

Pray audibly, “I submit to (insert the specific authority in your life).”

Step 5: Take Personal Responsibility

Pride keeps us from taking personal responsibility. We must accept out share of the responsibility for our problem. Giving in to the sin of pride and self-exaltation puts us in bondage. The Son makes us free, but freedom doesn’t mean passivity (John 8:36). Submitting to Christ is an active process. We are free to do what Jesus wants us to do.

Confession of our sin is important. When we confess, God promises to cleanse (I John 1:9). However, many Believers today have fallen into the trap of mere rote – of saying mere words without true meaning. They have “confessionitis.”  They repeatedly confess their sins, but immediately return to them because they are in bondage. Each time you confess, God forgives. But each time we confess, the inner “you” becomes increasingly weaker.

There is a cure for confessionitis. It is found in the way we confess our sins. We should not just say, “I’m sorry for (insert name of sin).” This leaves us with excuses for our sinful actions—excuses such as, “I couldn’t help it” or “So-and-so pushed me and I gave in.”

You are responsible for the sin that has control over your body in a habitual way (Rom. 6:13). Praying, “I’m sorry” doesn’t take responsibility for it.

Fast and pray, “I am responsible for (insert specific sin here).” Taking responsibility for your sin humbles you before God and enables Him to bless you with the freedom He longs to give you.

Step 6: Disown Sinful Influences

These could come from friends and acquaintances. Each of us is predisposed to certain behavior from several sources, including (a) emotional/psychological problems, (b) genetics, (c) direct sinful stimulation, (d) wrong heroes or role models and (e) direct satanic or demonic activity.[vi]

These things are a part of some people’s family history. We must disown the sins of others and their influence on our lives if we are to be liberated spiritually (Exod. 20:4-5; Gal. 5:24). This can be accomplished through three steps. (1) Recognize that you have been crucified, buried and raised with Jesus Christ and you are now seated with Him in the heavenly realm (2 Cor. 4:14; Eph. 2:6). (2) State that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:24). (3) Verbally claim the blood of Jesus over the evil one (I cor. 6:20; I John 1:7).

Pray aloud, “I disown (insert specific negative influences in your life).”

The six steps to freedom taken in addition to fasting are:

  1. I renounce…
  2. I acknowledge…
  3. I forgive…
  4. I submit…
  5. I take responsibility…
  6. I disown…

These six steps are part of waging war against the enemy, however, they must be accompanied by fasting. The disciples had been given power to cast out demons (i.e. spiritual warfare) prior the time the father brought his son to them for healing. They were unable to cast the demon out because spiritual warfare alone was not sufficient against besetting sin. “This kind does not go out except by prayer [spiritual warfare] and fasting” (Matt. 17:21, emphasis added).

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?”
Isaiah 58:6

Question: How does this give you hope of breaking the bondage of besetting sins?


[i] Elmer Towns, Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996),30

[ii] Ibid., 31

[iii] Ibid., 31

[iv] Ibid., 31

[v] Ibid., 33

[vi] Ibid, 39

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