In the sermon on the Mount Jesus taught about fasting.
“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites . . .” Mtt. 6:16
Fasting – not feeding the body for spiritual purposes, had been practiced for a long time before Jesus.
- Day of Atonement told to deny yourself – maybe fasting in Leviticus 23:26-28. I Samuel 7:6 – about repentance not penance. (On the board write repent - When God shows us we have sinned then we re-pent or change our way of thinking and return to the Penthouse or God’s higher way of thinking.
- Ill. Luke 18 Pharisee boasted he fasted twice a week. Why? Somehow he was establishing self righteousness.
The purpose of fasting is not:
1. Penance or punishing yourself.
2. Making you more righteous or right with God.
3. Earning some favor with God by fasting.
I think Jesus revealed the purpose of fasting in Mark 9
Paraphrase the account in Mark 9.
Listen and pay close attention to Jesus’ words. Larry Lea use to say, “Read the red and pray for the power.” Meaning read the words of Jesus that are in red in your Bible. The father of a demon tormented son told Jesus I brought my son to Your disciples but they could not cast it out.
Some important points to note:
1. Everyone including the father knew this was a demon.
2. The disciples were given power and authority to cast out demons and had been successful at doing it.
“O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” JESUS
Obviously Jesus expected better from His disciples!
“Jesus would not allow them to make an excuse for a swing and a miss!” Bill Johnson
Paraphrase: So they brought the boy to Jesus and he manifested full blown. Jesus asked the father how long has this been going on? The father said since childhood the demon has thrown him into the fire and the water to kill him.
The father pleads with Jesus, “But IF You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” He obviously does not know Jesus is God.
Jesus said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23
This puts seeking a solution for an on-going problem back on our plate.
“If you can believe. . .”
Next Jesus rebuked the demon (calling it a mute and deaf spirit) and cast it out. My thoughts: A mute spirit – it would not speak to the disciples said to identify itself. It would not listen to them – deaf. But it had to listen to Jesus and obey.
“The spirit cried out and convulsed him greatly. But it came out of him. . .” vs 26
The disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast him out?”
Jesus’ answer reveals the real root purpose of fasting.
“This kind cannot come out except by prayer and fasting.” Vs 29
People often think Jesus is saying, “This kind of demon only responds to prayer and fasting” but that is not what He is saying
- Prayer and fasting do not drive out demons or else Jesus would have told us to do it that way. They had been casting our demons using Jesus’s name (authority), and faith in His name.
Mathew 17 and Luke 9 give more details about this same incident.
In Mathews account when the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast out the demon Jesus said the reason was
“Because of your unbelief . . .” Mtt 17:20
How could Jesus say they had unbelief when they had been using His name and faith to cast out other demons?
There are different kinds of unbelief:
1. Ignorant unbelief because you lack knowledge of the Word of God. This is solved by: Romans 10:17, 2 Peter 1:4.
2. Natural unbelief from being more dominated by your 5 physical senses. All their life they had been taught to live by their 5 senses told them. They were dominated more by what they were seeing in the natural rather than what God had told them in Luke 9:1 (their commission to cast out demons, and heal the sick).
Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief. Truly I say to you if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move. And nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind (of unbelief) does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Mtt. 17:20-21
If you translate that this type of demon will only come out if you pray and fast, then you slip back into works and out of grace.
But when you see that Jesus is saying this kind of unbelief only comes out by pray and fasting you see the real purpose behind fasting.
Fasting – the denial of food is for the purpose to deny your 5 physical senses from dominating your life. Prayer added is to strengthen your spirit man to dominate your body and soul.
Fasting without adding more purposeful prayer is just a diet.
Fasting with extra time in prayer will sensitize your spirit and desensitize your body from dominating your life.
Unbelief can get into a believer’s heart and the result is unbelief hardens a believer’s heart. How then does unbelief get into a believer’s heart?
The heart is the place where we believe and make choices.
“For with the heart man believes. . .” Romans 10:10
“Guard (Keep) your heart with all diligence, for out of IT are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Picture on the board of circles of body, soul and heart and spirit.
Spirit – the divine nature of God- fruit and gifts from here with your newly created human spirit. All treasures of wisdom and knowledge dwell here. Called the Inner man.
Your spirit has gates outward towards your heart but nothing can come inside your spirit because it is sealed and kept from contamination (Eph. 1:13).
Heart = the place you believe God and make choices.
Your heart has gates from the spirit to affect it. But the heart also has other gates from the soul and the body that can affect it in a negative way. “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it…”
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Soul – your mind that needs to be renewed with the Word. Your emotions and will need to yield to the spirit inside you. The soul has gates open from the heart inside and from the outside coming in from the body.
Gates to the soul and to the heart:
1. The Eye gate – records 87% of all impressions
2. The Hearing gate – records 7% all impressions
3. The Smelling gate – records 3.5% all impressions.
4. The Taste (mouth) gate – records 1% all impressions.
5. The Feel gate – records 1.5% of all impressions.
Are there any gates you are not guarding that are getting to your heart? If so, what are you going to do about it?
Prayer: Heavenly Father. You made me a spirit being who has a soul and lives in a body. I am to become more spiritual minded than worldly or physically minded. You told me to guard my heart. Tonight I am asking You to show me areas where my heart unguarded and allowing the enemy to come in and influence me. I will repent where you show me and take back the ground I have surrendered to the enemy. I will begin diligently guarding all the gateways to my heart as You have commanded me. As I do this I will become more and more spiritual, wise and discerning, so that I may carry out Your assignment upon my life. Thank You for the enlightenment You have given me tonight. In Jesus’ name, amen.