Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fasting: Golden Arches or Pearly Gates?

Isaiah 58:1 – 14
Fasting: Golden Arches or Pearly Gates?

When we think of fasting we think: spiritual, weird, torture. The thought of denying the appetite triggers cries of protest.

We love our taco palaces, pizza houses, burger joints. We can’t bear the idea of life without chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, baby back ribs, juicy barbequed stake.

As families we cherish or yearn for our meal times.

It is said, “If you want to pack your church; announce a feast. If you want to empty your church out; announce a fast.”

***** FASTING IS REBELLION AGAINST THE STATUS QUO *****

I. Fasting at spiritual “breakpoints.”

A. “Breakpoint” is a crisis (time of grief, disappointment, disaster)

1. Dr. says, “it’s cancer.”
2. Teenage daughter says, “I’m pregnant.”
3. Son says, “I have AIDS.”
4. Boss says, “You’re fired.”

***** When you say “I cannot” that’s when you give God a chance to say “I can.”

B. Biblical examples:

1. King Uzziah...
2. Nineveh – Jonah announced destruction, Nineveh repented with a fast.
3. Queen Ester – when Haman threatened to wipe out the Jewish people.
4. King Jehoshaphat – threatened by armies.
5. Moses – before a holy God to receive the 10 commandments.
6. Jesus – lead into the wilderness before His ministry.

C. Why fast?

1. We hunger for more than food.
2. God place in us a hunger for spiritual realities.
3. (v 5) there is a fast that God desires.

II. Fasting if spiritual “breakthroughs.” (vv 6 – 7)

***** Notice that food is not mentioned... other appetites must be brought under submission.

A. God uses fasting for breakthroughs.

1. Do you feel like you are on a religious treadmill?
2. Do you feel like you are just going through the motions?
3. Do you feel the weight of moral bondage or baggage, bad habits, selfishness, isolation?

***** Fasting breaks up our hard hearts and frees us from empty worship.

***** Fasting breaks the calluses off our deaf ears.

B. God uses fasting to break yokes (vv 9 – 10)

1. Breaks us from the unhealthy pattern of a critical spirit – “pointing of the finger.”
2. Loosens fists clenched in covetousness and materialism.
3. Gives us light to see (euphemism for perceiving God and responding to God.)

C. Things God wants to do for us.

1. Healing (v 8)
2. Righteousness (v 8)
3. The presence of God (v 8)
4. Answered prayer (v 9)
5. God’s guidance (v 11)
6. Satisfaction and strength (v 11)

BOTTOM LINE: God intends to use fasting to increase our prayer life and bring the appetites of this world under control.

How many days should you fast? How hungry are you?

III. Busting Myths.

A. The truth:

1. Fasting is NOT a diet. You diet for physical (or psychological) reasons. You fast for spiritual reasons.
2. Fasting is NOT a hunger strike. It is not to gain “leverage” with God.
3. Fasting does not oblige God. It is a step of obedience.
4. Fasting does NOT get from God what He’s reluctant to give.
5. Fasting is NOT a way of punishing ourselves. Fasting can bring sin to the surface so we can receive God’s deliverance and forgiveness.

6. Fasting is NOT just for the super spiritual. It’s for everyone who has an extraordinary hunger to see God break into their world.

***** Fasting is the fastest way to get our hearts in a place to receive from God what He wants to give all along.

B. Cautions:

1. Fasting is NOT about food. It is our heart.
2. Fasting takes on many forms in the Bible (I count 9).
3. If fasting is about breaking unhealthy appetites and behavior patterns then we need to fast from OTHER things: TV, internet, games, destructive relationships, etc...

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