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Fasting Day 1: Drawing Near

Drawing NEAR

Fasting is drawing near to God. It’s body-talk expressing our hunger for Him.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Biblical, New Testament fasting is the bowing of the knee to God. It is a submitting of the body, the flesh, the will, the heart – the seat of your appetites – to God. It is the bowing of your everything before God and submitting to Him.

When I’m hungry, my stomach cries, out, “Feed me.”

“I am your obedient servant,” I reply. “Whatever you say, I will do.”

We become servants to the cry of our flesh to receive food. We eat for ourselves. But when we fast, God says, “This is for Me.” Just as food satisfies us, fasting satisfies God because we are saying to Him, “The cry of my soul for You is greater than the cry of my stomach for food and the cry of my flesh for temporal substitutes for You.”

James 4:7-10 instructs us in our drawing near.

7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Submitting and Resisting

“Therefore, submit to God” (James 4:7).

Exposing Other Submissions

Fasting reveals the measure of mastery things have over us – whether it is food, or television, or movies, or social media, or technology…or whatever we submit to again and again to cover up the weakness of our hunger for God.

What have you been submitting to time and again to cover up the weakness of your hunger for God? You may not know the answer to that question this morning, as it is the first day of your fast, but by tonight, you’ll at least have the beginning of a running list. I will too. No matter how frequently I fast, each time I do I discover bottom line desires that have come to control me since my last fast.

Submitting by Self-Humbling

When we fast, we are humbling ourselves before God. Therefore, if we fast in the right manner, renouncing pride, fasting should result in humble submission of our will to God.

In Tony Evans Speaks Out on Fasting, Dr. Evans described the relationship of fasting and self-humbling:

It is a humbling experience to say no to something you crave, to bow low before God and admit there is a need in your life. Fasting demands humility, and humility means self-denial. [i]

Pride

Pride is the opposite of humility. The Biblical definition of pride means to be lofty or haughty; to exalt or make higher; to raise up.

  • The dictionary definition of pride means to have too high an opinion of oneself, or conceit; excessive self-love and arrogance because of imagined superiority.
  • Conceit means “too high an opinion of one’s own abilities and accomplishments, and often suggests an unpleasantly assertive manner.”

I don’t know about you, but my natural tendency is to exalt my own desires, my own plans, my own rule above God’s (my imagined rule, that is). My natural man never lets go of its imagined superiority to God.

One theme remains the same throughout various Hebrew and Greek definitions of the word “humility” in the Bible. Repeatedly the definitions imply “lowering” as directly opposed to the “elevating” of pride. They involve recognizing one’s true condition and having the real estimate of oneself as opposed to thinking too highly of oneself.

Every time I put confidence in the flesh I am being prideful! I am exalting my position, desires, and opinions above God’s—above what is real and true in the spiritual realm. I’ve bought Satan’s lie and accepted his bribe, adopting a false opinion of myself that is too high. I am not the ruler, owner, possessor and authority of my life. I do not have the real estimate of myself – that apart from Christ I can do nothing.

“Pride is Satan’s specialty. It is the characteristic that most aptly describes him. Pride is the issue that had him expelled from heaven…The stronghold of pride is associated with the worship of self…The most effective means the enemy has to keep believers from being full of the Spirit is to keep us full of ourselves. No wonder the bible states and restates that God hates pride…” [ii]

“If we don’t presently have an issue that is actively humbling us, we veer with disturbing velocity toward arrogance and self-righteousness. We are wise to remember that Christ never resisted the repentant sinner. He resisted the religious proud and Pharisaic. Remember, pride wears many masks…Pride is not the opposite of low self-esteem. Pride is the opposite of humility. We can have a serious pride problem that masquerades as low self-esteem. Pride is self-absorption whether we’re absorbed with how miserable we are or how wonderful we are. We are wise to be on the constant lookout for pride in our lives. I believe we can safely say that if we’re not deliberately taking measures to combat pride, it’s probably doing something to combat humility.” [iii]

Pride is detestable to God.

“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13).

“The arrogant cannot stand in your presence” (Psalm 5:5).

We tend to dismiss pride as a light case of vanity – a mere irritation to others, but not a major offense to God. This is what Satan would have us believe. He’d love for us to buy the lie that the very sin that was his downfall is harmless to us today.

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty of themselves…it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Pride and a full stomach are old companions (as we saw in Dethroning King Stomach). Submitting ourselves completely to Christ and bringing our entire life into conformity with Him as we fast begins with sincere repentance and turning from sin.

Cleansing Hand and Heart

“Cleanse your hands, sinners, andpurify your hearts, double-minded people!” (James 4:8)

Israel fasted but without success because they were not grieved and repentant over the sin in their lives.

“‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?” (Isaiah 58:3).

We must do more than merely abstain from food. We must respond wholeheartedly to God with a commitment to testify for Christ with our entire being.

Cleansing Your Hand

The Greek word for “hands” is believed to be derived from a word that carries the meaning of hollowness. It is related to “hands” in the sense of “hollowness for grasping.”

How many times have you grasped for things of this world and been left completely hollow?

You may have grasped for blatantly sinful things. . . or you may have simply grasped for innocent pleasures, pleasures that had a numbing effect on the things of God. Or you may have sought your stability in the things of this temporal life.

16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. 17 And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.” ( 1 John 2:16-17, AMP).

Cleansing Your Heart

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

The “heart” means our mind, will, and emotions. The seat of our appetites and desires.

Seeking with all our heart includes the things to which we expose our hearts outside of our devotional time with God in the morning. Throughout the day, we have an option to allow certain influences into our lives. Often, we buy Satan’s lie that we can be exposed to questionable influences and remain unharmed.

But, these optional influences have a direct bearing upon our pursuit of God. They are outward steps of the inward pursuit of the heart. They are instruments that either invite or quench the Spirit of God. They are an invitation to the devil, the world and flesh to use our lives as a dumping ground.

When I was a child, I remember making a visit to the local land fill.  So many years have passed since then that I’ve forgotten why we went, but the sight and the stench were so horrific that the memory of it never left my mind.

What if we could see and smell the effects of the sin and impurities in our lives? What if we truly saw the landfill that our heart and our hands have created? Fasting is an opportunity for spring cleaning of the soul!

Spring Cleaning

Think about your home. You probably do surface cleaning once a week. As you perform this maintenance cleaning, your home looks pretty good, right? But every now and then you decide you’ll aggressively deep clean, even though you doubt it needs it that badly.

So you clean the ceiling fan blades. . . move the beds and clean everything underneath. You even move the sofa, too. And every step of the way, you’re shocked at the dust and grime that have accumulated. Just when you think you’ve made headway, you realize you forgot the blinds, windows and window sills. So you swipe the blinds with you fingers just to check, and dust flies. You clean them first so as not to set of a dust storm by raising them while dirty. Once clean, you move them out of the way and set about to clean the windows and sills. What do you see? Dead bugs and spider webs! Gross!  Now you’re really in high gear, cleaning top to bottom every crevice and crack, even baseboards and crown molding. You’re sick at the realization you’ve been living in that filth!

Although your home looked clean and neat on the surface, as you began to dig deep, you saw its true condition…and it wasn’t pretty.  It was time to clean out all the crud that accumulated over time. So it is with our lives. Fasting is an opportunity to purify our hearts of the impurities we’ve allowed to accumulate. It is a time to repent…and to resolve to resist impure influences in all forms, no matter how harmless they may seem.

Resisting Impure Influence: Paul in Corinth

“I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (Psalm 101:3).

As Paul entered Corinth, a city known for its depravity, lust, perversion and sexually explicit expressions, he took a vow before the Lord, taking extra measures to maintain consecration to and concentration on Christ. Since he had no choice but to face the temptations, he took extra measures to protect himself from the evil influences. (See Acts 18:18 and Numbers 6:1-8.)

Do we think Paul would have ever chosen to sit and be entertained by the acts of immorality openly displayed as worship to the goddess of love, Aphrodite? Much less pay money to watch and be entertained by the acts of sin?

And yet this is what we do with much of our entertainment—movies, television, video games, music, etc. Pride causes us to think we can handle it—we can be around it and not be affected. To forsake such “fillers” of our minds and vessels is to find freedom!

What have you been holding in your hand? What are the desires of your heart?

The salary you’ve so desperately sought to hold in your hand – has it been holding your heart? Have you elevated your pursuit of success above your pursuit of God?

What about the things you’ve literally held in your hand?

The remote control you’ve held in your hand—what programs have you turned to? What Spirit-grieving things have you beheld? What language have you voluntarily chosen to expose yourself to as so-called entertainment?

What magazines have you held in your hand? What books have you been reading? What websites have you visited with your computer mouse or your phone or tablet device?

Ladies, I like following fashion trends as much as the next woman, but there are times I can tell it is seizing my heart. I can sense that it is causing my focus to shift from eternal to temporal things. My values can shift ever so slightly so that the scales are tipped and what is temporal and fading becomes more real and treasured to me than my real life in Christ Jesus.

No, fashion magazines absent of filth aren’t overtly sinful. But the desires and values and focus they foster in me can become sinful. There are seasons they have no bearing upon my spiritual walk. But in other seasons of my life, I put them away entirely in order to get my values back on track with God’s.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Evidence of An Alarming Trend

Women aren’t just reading fashion magazines anymore, though. “Fifty Shades of Grey” – the erotic fiction trilogy that sold more than 40 million copies and surpassed the last “Harry Potter” book in the U.K. – is evidence of that.

The Fifty Shades craze indicates something deeper than the book itself: Women are dissatisfied. They haven’t found what they’re looking for.

Today, women are the fastest-growing consumers of pornography.

  • One out of every three visitors to adult websites is a woman.
  • 20% of women say they’re addicted to pornography.
  • 60% of Christian women in a recent survey said they have a significant struggle with lust.

How have women spiraled into this addiction? Because the hidden things went unchecked. The private desires of the heart were not confronted.

No matter how it’s expressed, lust will not be satisfied until it has destroyed you. Paul describes those who have indulged in impurity as having “a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19). It leads to perpetual hollowness of the hand.

Reversing Cause and Effect

The practice of fasting began with the loss of appetite and inability to eat during times of great stress. Hannah was so distressed about her barrenness that “she wept and did not eat” (I Sam. 1:7). Fasting began as a natural expression of grief. David fasted to demonstrate his grief over Abner’s death (2 Sam 3:35). Many places in scripture, fasting is described as “afflicting” one’s soul or body (Is. 58:3,5 KJV). Over time, the cause and effect was intentionally reversed. Fasting came to be practiced as an external means of demonstrating and encouraging an internal feeling of grief for sin and for cultivating earnest prayer.

The original cause (deep grief and stress) drove people to the effect (not eating). Later, when people desperately needed answers from God, they turned to the effect (not eating) so they could afflict their souls to the point they would pray to God with all their hearts (cause).

If we truly want to draw near to God, we must allow fasting and prayer to bring about grief over personal sin. We must allow the effect (abstaining from food) to bring about the cause (grief, remorse and sincere prayer).

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully” (Psalm 24:3-4).

The basic foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Unconfessed sin hinders our prayers. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make a comprehensive list of your sins. Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your mind.

Drawing Near

When you fast, you are choosing to submit the appetites of your mind, will and emotions to the appetite of your spirit man. In other words, every appetite in you longs for more of God, longs to draw near to Him.

“If you seek him, he will be found by you” (2 Chronicles 15:2).

Yes, as you draw near to God in fasting and prayer, repentance, and worship, He will be found! He will draw near to you! And He promises to satisfy you and fill you with good things!

 “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Ps 107:8-9).

He’ll Be There in No Time

As you draw near to God, saying a quiet yes to Him, He’ll be there in no time! The Message breaks this James 4 passage down for us in simple, easy-to-understand terms:

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet” (James 4:7-10, MSG).

A Moment of Worship:

Give Us Clean Hands

Kutless it is well extended edition
Give Us Clean Hands
From It Is Well by Kutless

 

Create In Me a Clean Heart

Donnie McClurking Again
Create in Me a Clean Heart
From Donnie McClurkin…Again

 

I Am Thine (Draw Me Nearer)

I Am Thine (Draw Me Nearer) featuring Klaus Kuehn
Gateway Worship: The More I Seek You

Focus Questions:

  • In what ways have you been dabbling in sin?
  • How have you let your heart be the devil’s land fill? 
  • What have you submitted to rather than saying a quiet yes to God?
  • Get serious, really serious before God today. Bow the knee of your heart before the Mater today; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet and be truly, fully satisfied.

Bible Reading: James 4:7-10; Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 5:5; 2 John 2:17-17; Jeremiah 29:12-13; Psalm 101:3, 24:3-4; 2 Chronicles 15:2

 

FROM THE FASTING ARCHIVES

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[i] Tony Evans, Tony Evans Speaks Out on Fasting, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2000), Kindle edition.

[ii] Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 57

[iii] Ibid., 58

 

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