Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Fundamentals of Fasting XVII

 You can do all the right things for the entirely wrong reasons. Most of the time, people get away with it because even when that new friend you made at the gym ends up stealing your car, or that gentleman caller who seemed smitten with the stories of your cats empties out your bank account, you don’t want to believe it because it would mean you were duped, taken, swindled, and bamboozled.

The difference between pulling the wool over people's eyes and God's is that God knows the heart's intent. The best poker face in the world won’t be able to get past one glance from the Almighty, and every desire of the heart is laid bare before Him as though it were sitting in the light of day. It’s not that people don’t try. They still do; they just never succeed.

Objectively speaking, the people of Isaiah’s time did more to ingratiate themselves to God than most church-going folks today. God still called it a transgression. Just by that interaction alone, you begin to understand the dire straits the modern-day church is in. They sought God daily; they were delighted to know His ways; they asked for His ordinances of justice, took delight in approaching Him, and even fasted, yet God tasked Isaiah with itemizing their transgressions.

In most cases, church-going folk today are only interested in two primary things: is it entertaining, and does it end early enough that they’ll be the first ones in the buffet lines? Everything else takes a back seat to those two requirements, and if the answer is yes to both, then sound doctrine, biblical teaching, seeking God, or being delighted to know His ways would be a nice bonus but not necessarily a deal breaker. For some, insistence upon the truth is the deal breaker because everyone knows you have to change with the times to be relevant, and too much focus on biblical living will make everyone around you think you’re a stick in the mud.

It’s funny how a generation of people who have never known the true presence and power of God can insist with a straight face that they are the pinnacle of understanding and spiritual maturity. Being the apple of God’s eye isn’t a small feat after all; there can only be one unless God has multiple apples in His eye. It’s akin to someone who’s never been outside insisting that they’re an astronaut.

The men that today’s church looks down upon as backward and legalistic operated with more authority and power than this present generation can fathom. Their exploits on behalf of the Kingdom are such that they are remembered from generation to generation, all the while never claiming that they were anything more than bondservants of Christ.

In order to establish a given coordinate, you need the longitudinal line and the latitudinal line. For us to be complete believers, those whose sacrifice God receives and whose pleas He hears and responds to, we must be rightly positioned, both vertically and horizontally.

When a lawyer asked Jesus what the great commandment in the law was, His answer gave all the necessary coordinates required of an individual to be in good standing with God.

Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’”

Going through the motions may fool those around you, but it won’t fool God. That was the summary of the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy, and it was likely that its reception was akin to the reception any modern-day messenger would receive if they were preaching repentance today.

There is a difference between what we do, how we see what we do, and how God sees what we do—to our way of thinking, fasting once a year warrants God’s eternal appreciation. It warrants an answer to every prayer, whether silent or spoken. It warrants Him opening every door, making smooth every path, and fighting every battle.

I fasted for a day; why didn’t I win the lottery? Why didn’t my acne go away and my teeth straighten out? When our expectations are not met because they are unbiblical, we get bitter and morose and, like those of Isaiah’s day, begin to wonder if the Lord has seen or if the Lord has heard.

Isaiah 58:3-5, ‘“Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”

The people saw their fast as an affliction of the soul rather than an opportunity to grow in God. They were bitter and angry because they’d done this thing they deemed worthy of note, yet God seemed blind to their sacrifice. They were lodging complaints at God based on how they saw their time of fasting, and as clarification, God informed them of how He saw their fasts. Rather than worshipful sacrifice, God saw the truth of it, and it was far from what they pretended it was. Their fast was for strife and debate; they found ways around a true fast by justifying the practice of things they ought not to have practiced during their fast.

The message is clear: Don’t be like these people! Don’t fast to get noticed or jump to the head of the line; don’t approach it like an affliction but rather as a blessing- an opportunity to fellowship and be in the presence of the object of your devotion.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea, Jr.  

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