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Threefold Work of Fasting and Prayer

Obedience Earns Authority
The Call to Obedience
Fasting and Prayer
The Result

Obedience Earns Authority

Jesus came to earth as God’s representative and said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  With this foundation of truth, Jesus changed the world.  He lived among us, was tortured, executed, buried and on the third day after his death, he rose from the grave to life everlasting.  After His resurrection he appeared to His disciples and gave them their life’s mission.

Matthew 28:18-20  Then Jesus came to them and said,  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  NIV

God is counting on us.  He has limited His power and presence on earth by ordaining the Body of Christ as His representatives in this world.  It is our responsibility to be God’s ambassadors in the lives of the lost.  As individual Believers, we don’t understand the full implication of this responsibility.  If we did, we would live far different lives than we do.  We need to truthfully examine our lives and our dedication to God.  He expects us to change our world, but as Believers, we still live self-centered lives that don’t glorify God.  Do we understand that our lives are supposed to bring glory to God?  Do we understand that our lives are to reflect the love and majesty and holiness and righteousness and truth of God?  Like a full moon on a cloudless night we are to reflect the glory of God in the darkness of this world.  Our lives as Believers were intended to be blazing beacons of light in the dark depravity of this disreputable world.  God intended for His transforming power in our lives to make us the light of this lost and dying world.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  NIV

God redeemed our lives so that rather than Jesus spreading God’s love and truth across the face of the earth, we would.  But to grow to fill the hole left by Jesus, we have to become more like Him.  This is the genius of God’s plan:  that we would be transformed into the image of Christ through continuing the ministry of redemption started by Jesus.  God expects something from us, something worth the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son.  Do we realize how precious that sacrifice is to God?  Do we realize what it cost God to watch His Son suffer and die?  Do we understand He has a grand and glorious purpose in redeeming our lives from sin and spiritual death?  If not, we need to start thinking about it.

Jesus told the new church that God had invested all the power and authority of heaven and earth in the person of Jesus.  Jesus then assigns this power to Believers as His representatives in this world.  God has ordained that His power and authority work through us!  We are the representatives of God in this earth.  Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, started the ministry of redemption with the expectation we would finish it.  Jesus healed the broken hearted, preached deliverance to the captives, set at liberty those who were bound, gave sight to the blind, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, suffered, was crucified, died and rose again from the dead and then said, “Here, go do the same!”  He gave us the opportunity to move Heaven and Earth.

Matthew 16:19  ”I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  NIV

We wouldn’t give the keys of a muscle car or an SUV to a kid who couldn’t see over the dashboard.  Jesus wouldn’t give Believers the keys to Heaven and earth, unless He could make sure it was safe for us to have them.  The power that Jesus has invested in us won’t start without the key.  The beauty of the keys Jesus has given us is this, we have to spend time with God to figure out how to use them.

John 8:28-29  So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.  The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."  NIV

Jesus only did the things He had seen the Father do.  Even Jesus didn’t presume to do anything on His own.  In the King James Version it’s worded this way, “…I can do nothing of myself…”  Jesus knew what the Father wanted Him to do because He spent time with the Father.  The gospels are loaded with accounts of Jesus separating Himself from the crowd and the disciples to go off alone and seek God.  Why was the power of God so manifest in Jesus ministry?  Yes, Jesus was the Son of God.  We are God’s children too.  Yes, Jesus was on a mission from God.  Jesus sent us on a mission also.  But most importantly, God’s power was manifest in Jesus because He was completely yielded to God’s will.  Jesus spent hours, days, weeks, months, praying and fasting and submitting Himself completely to God’s will.

Even in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus sought God’s will.  Jesus had a will of His own and wasn’t looking forward to torture, death and separation from His Father.  Yet, for our sake, He submitted Himself to God’s will.  “Nevertheless, not my will Lord, but yours be done.”  Notice, Jesus sought God’s will in prayer.  Notice, Jesus submitted Himself to God’s will in prayer.  It was through time in prayer with the Father that Jesus clarified God’s will, and submitted to it.  The amount of time Jesus spent in prayer with His Father was reflected in His obedience.  Jesus’ obedience was reflected in the power God could entrust in Him.  After Jesus’ obedience, even to death, God was able to fully invest His power in His Son.  Jesus was then able to say, “All power in Heaven and earth has been given to me…”

The Call to Obedience

The early church had a better understanding of what God expected of them.  Satan has tried to destroy the Body of Christ, but he can’t.  He has persecuted the Body of Christ, but they only love God and serve Him more diligently knowing their lives are at stake.  So Satan has lied to the church, just as he did to Adam and Eve in the garden.  “That power was only for the early church to get it started,” he whispers in our ears.  “Miracles only happened so the unbelievers would believe.  You rely on faith to know God exists,” he hisses.  “There is no such thing as demons and the devil.”  he lies, “That was just a way of explaining mental illness to the ignorant savages.”  “God doesn’t really expect you to be a peculiar people, separated from the world, set apart and Holy, ready for His use.  If you turn off your T.V.s and start praying, people will think you’re weird, they won’t want to associate with you!”

The Evil One has gotten much farther with lies and deception than he has ever gotten through head-on confrontations with Believers.  The modern church needs to shake off the centuries of layered lies and return to a belief in the Bible.  It is only through believing in the Bible and following the examples of Christ and the early church, that we will find our way to restoration.  God needs the modern church to be restored to its rightful position of Holiness and Power.  The Body of Christ needs to be a “peculiar people” set apart for God’s service.  We need to be separated from the world by our actions.  If the lost can’t see any difference between our lives and theirs, why should they give up sleeping in on Sunday mornings?  Why should they come to church and pay ten percent of their earnings just to be another hypocrite in a pew?  Obviously they know a scam when they see one, because they are avoiding church in droves!

But God is calling those who will listen, to return to Him.  God is calling us to separate ourselves out from among them.  God is calling us to return to Holiness, be reconciled to Him and restored to our rightful place of Holiness and Power as the Body of Christ, the Anointed One of God, the representation of God in this lost and dying world!  How do we do it?  How do we turn again to God after centuries of deception?  We must return to our examples in the Bible and learn from them.  The Apostle Paul knew how to do it.  He said, “Be imitators of me, even as I am an imitator of Christ.”  Paul followed Jesus’ example.  Jesus sought God through fasting and prayer and was obedient to the Father, even to His own death.  Paul was obedient to his own death also. 

Philippians 3:7-11  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  NIV

Paul, like Jesus, was obedient even to death.  Paul died to his own desires, so he could live in Christ.  Paul died to his flesh, so he could share in the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  Paul had found the key.  Paul said he prayed always with every type of prayer.  Paul fasted often.  He thanked God that he prayed more than anyone he knew.  Paul laid down his life, sacrificing his will through times of fasting and prayer.  He submitted himself to the will of God.  In return for his obedience, God could trust him with revelation knowledge and with power.

Ephesians 6:10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and is his mighty power.  NIV

A clearer translation of the original Greek text would be:  Finally, my brothers and sisters, increase in strength, being in the Lord.  Then, through His power, be mighty together with God.

You see how it works in Ephesians 6:10.  Paul explains it.  Be in the Lord.  Don’t live for yourself, but submit yourself to the Lord.  By living in the Lord, you are strengthened spiritually.  The act of living yielded to the will of God, which is having Jesus as our Lord, makes us stronger in our spiritual being.  Now, being stronger spiritually, by living yielded to God, we function together with God mightily, through His power.  The power isn’t ours and we don’t use it on our own.  The power is God’s, and if we are functioning together with Him, only doing those things we see the Father doing, His power will work through us to minister to the needs of this lost and dying world.  It’s like Bryan Pearson said in one of our evening fellowships, “We don’t use God’s Power, It uses us!”

So how do we strengthen ourselves, build ourselves up to handle the power God intends to channel through us to minister to this world?  The same way Jesus did.  The same way Paul did.  Seek God.  Submit to God, seeking His will through fasting and prayer.  Yield ourselves fully, die to ourselves, lay down our lives as a sacrifice to God through obedience.  Fasting and prayer sounds out of place to the modern church, yet it is God’s key to the restoration of the Body of Christ to its rightful place of Holiness and Power in this earth.  It is the key to the power of truth, which is the redemption of the lost.  It is the key to the power of revival that God has ordained to sweep across the face of the earth!  It is the truth Satan has tried to keep from the church for centuries!  Why?  So we wouldn’t walk in Power.  But it is time.  God is saying to everyone who will listen, “IT IS TIME!  It is time for the Bride of Christ to ARISE from Her slumber!  It is time for the Body of Christ to SHAKE OFF the bonds of complacency!  It is TIME for the world to experience the presence of God through the Body of Christ in POWER AND IN TRUTH!”  It’s up to us.  God is counting on us.  Jesus expects Believers to take the keys of fasting and praying and open ourselves up to submission and yielded-ness in Christ.  We find His expectation in the Word. 

Matthew 9:14-15  Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus answered, ”How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?  The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast…”  NIV

The bridegroom has been taken from us.  Now we will fast.  We should have been fasting for the last two thousand years, but it’s never too late to start.  And God is calling on us to start, NOW!

Matthew 6:16  “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full…”  NIV

You see from this passage, Jesus said, “When you fast…”  He didn’t say, “…if you fast…”  It was a foregone conclusion in Jesus’ mind we would fast.  He considered it an imperative.  He considered it a natural part of our lives as Believers.  He considered it necessary for us to function properly.  Yet, it is a foreign concept to the Body of Christ today.  We have been lied to and deceived.  We are self-seeking and self-centered.  We are fast-food Americans who don’t know the meaning of the words sacrifice, self-affliction, suffering, submission.  People, it’s time to learn.  We learn it the easy way, through submission to the Will of God, or we learn it the hard way, through persecution for the Faith, the likes of which has never been seen in the United States, ever!

The Body of Christ has become complacent.  The church is more interested in attendance figures and offering totals than they are in redeeming the lost.  Here is a perfect example.  Ryan Leatherman comes to the fellowship that meets in my home.  He told me about a letter sent out by his pastor to the members of the congregation.  The pastor explained that two big contributors to the church had died recently.  Because of this, there would be a $45,000 shortfall in the church budget.  In response to this financial crisis, the pastor and the elders had decided to form an evangelism board to study ways to bring more people into the church to compensate for the financial shortage.  Ryan was outraged!  I hope you are too.  I hope you’re not sitting there wondering, “Well what’s wrong with that?  Isn’t it a good thing to get new people into church?”  The problem is, the focus wasn’t to save the lost who live in danger of burning in hell eternally.  The push was for the lost to come to church and put money in the offering basket. The goal doesn’t serve the Living God, but serves a budget.  God needs to be sold to pay the bills!  May God have mercy on us and lead us to repentance before we are called to an eternal accounting of our hearts!

And it’s not just the leadership of the church that has sinned.  Jesus wasn’t just talking to the eleven disciples when he said, “…Go into all the world and teach the Gospel to every nation…”  Many Believers were gathered there.  I heard an estimate of about 500.  They were the Body of Christ.  That was the whole church when Jesus was sending them out!  God sent ministry gifts to the Body of Christ to build up the Body, to do what?  So we would be built up to carry on the ministry of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We are expected to do it.  Yet, how many of us are content to sit in the pews on Sunday morning and listen to the sermon?  With that out of the way, we have fulfilled our duty to God as good Christians.  If there is any ministry going on, it’s the responsibility of the pastor.  That’s what he’s getting paid for isn’t it?  If he needs help the elders or deacons or the leadership team can pitch in.  This mind set is so contrary to the Great Commission given us by The Son of the Living God, it is beyond my ability to understand how the church has gotten it so twisted around.  Yet, this is the state of the modern church.  We didn’t fall this far overnight.  It has taken two thousand years.  Two thousand years of complacency and laziness.  Two thousand years of subtle lies from the Devil.  But it’s time for us to repent.

God has a mighty work at hand.  It requires the Body of Christ to rise to its full stature as the representation of God in this world.  It requires the Body of Christ to fully submit to the will of God, to yield to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, to wield the Power of God in submission and maturity.  People, we are not available.  Folks, we are not ready.  Dear brothers and sisters, we have been sleeping.  But, God’s Spirit is moving in the Body of Christ.  The Spirit of God is crying out, “AWAKE!  AWAKE!  Rise from your slumber!  Throw off the old comfortable raggedy blanket of complacency and GET UP!”  God is leading His Body into repentance, restoration and redemption.  Repentance: for the sins of complacency and for conforming to the world, repentance for not separating ourselves from the world and setting ourselves apart for God’s service, repentance for shunning Holiness in preference for the veneer of religion.  He’s calling us to Restoration:  restoration of the Body of Christ to its rightful position of Holiness and Power, restoration of the Body of Christ to the ministry of the Gospel of Christ, restoration of sound doctrine, restoration to the life illustrated in the book of Acts and in the writings of the Apostles.  And Redemption:  redemption of the time lost in our sins, redemption of the souls lost without God, redemption of the precious time that is left, for these days are truly evil and they will get much worse!

Fasting and Prayer

For Repentance, Restoration and Redemption to happen, requires the Power of God.  To wield the Power of God, we have to be yielded and mature.  To bring us into this maturity, for us to intercede for other Believers, for us to prepare the hearts of the lost, God is specifically calling Believers to FAST AND PRAY.  Praying alone is not what God requires.  Fasting alone is an empty exercise.  God requires Believers everywhere to begin fasting and praying for REPENTANCE in the Body of Christ, RESTORATION of the Body of Christ to its rightful position of Holiness and Power in this earth and REDEMPTION of the lost.  This will only come about through fasting and prayer.

The nation of Israel had months set aside dedicated to fasting.  There were special days that were set aside for fasting.  The religious leaders of Israel fasted twice a week.  Why?  God’s intention wasn’t that Israel be skinny.  God’s intention was that Israel would continually be aware of the necessity of dying to self to live to God.  God wanted Israel’s mindset to be self-denial in service of their God. Because of the wayward hearts of mankind, this backfired, as all Spiritual things do when they are entrusted to natural or immature people.  Instead of bringing about a continual awareness of subservience to God, it became and opportunity for the religious to show off in front of the people they wanted to impress.  We have to guard our hearts against these same inclinations.

As a general rule, the most common fast of the Israelites was to not eat food from sunrise to sunset.  There were other things the Israelites fasted from and it didn’t always have to be food.  It didn’t have to be from sunrise to sunset.  Today, people with some medical conditions can’t fast food.  But there are other things that can be abstained from to spend time seeking God.  The goal or result of any fast should be a constant awareness of sacrificing our lives so we can yield ourselves to the Lordship of Christ and live continually in obedience to God.

Fasting takes practice.  No one likes to feel uncomfortable.  This is one of the things that makes fasting such an important exercise of the spirit.  It makes the physical being subject to the Spiritual being.  As Americans, we aren’t use to denying our flesh.  We are use to indulging it.  But the spiritual exercise of fasting brings our bodies into subjection to our Spirits.  It is the strengthening of our Spiritual being that we need.  If we can’t control ourselves or submit ourselves to God, God can’t invest His power in us.  It is quite natural to begin a fast and then fail, fall short of our intentions, give in and eat something, cut the fast short.  It’s quite natural.  It’s quite human.  That’s the reason we need to fast.  Our spirits are willing, but our bodies dictate our actions.  Our spirits want to serve God, but we serve our bodies.  We want to be strong in the Lord, but we aren’t stronger than our own desires.  This is why we need to fast when we pray for repentance, restoration and redemption.  God needs us to live in Him for the work that is at hand, yet we live for our flesh and our earthly desires. 

To begin to bring our bodies into submission to our Spiritual Being, we need to start small.  To plan a forty-day fast to learn to submit your flesh to the Spirit is planning to fail.  Start out small.  Plan on skipping one meal a day.  Spend that time seeking God through prayer and communion with Him in His Word.  Fasting is an empty carnal exercise if we don’t submit ourselves to God during the fast.  We can’t fast a meal and watch T.V. to keep our minds off our rumbling stomachs and expect God to be well pleased with our sacrifice.  We have to submit ourselves to God during the fast.  When the stomach growls, say, “God, I offer up this minor discomfort as an offering of obedience to You.  Lord, take this act of submission, take this slight sacrifice as an offering to You.  I offer up my life to You Lord.  Help me make this sacrifice pleasing in Your sight.”  Every time we feel discomfort, we should offer up ourselves in submission to God.  Use each hunger pang as a reminder to submit to God.  Every small victory of the Spirit over the flesh strengthens our Spirit.  Every act of submission to God builds up our spiritual strength.  With each little victory under our belt, (instead of that extra cheeseburger), we can move on to bigger and better disciplines.  Soon we will be able to submit to God in fasting and prayer from sunrise to sunset without being defeated by our flesh.

It is important to be submitted to God.  Human nature will always try to corrupt Spiritual things.  The fast cannot become a contest or a badge of spiritual pride.  It must be undertaken in all humility, and, as much as possible, kept to ourselves.  There is a fast that works well for my lifestyle.  I deny my flesh breakfast and lunch, but have supper with my family.  I feed my Spirit during those times I would ordinarily feed my stomach.  During the day, as my stomach complains, I take those opportunities to offer up a prayer of submission to God.  I ask Him to help me make my sacrifice acceptable in His sight.  I ask Him to take my offering and set the captives free.  I imagine in my heart what God can accomplish with my submission to Him.

Fasting and prayer turns our hearts back towards God.  When our hearts are seeking God, the physical discomfort of going without food draws us closer to Him.  This discomfort can serve as a reminder of the discomfort our disobedience causes our Father.  This discomfort can serve as a reminder of the pain we cause ourselves when our sins separate us from God.  Our discomfort can be an outward expression towards our Heavenly Father of our inward regret and sincere repentance.  Repentance isn’t repentance unless it costs us something.  To be obedient, we have to give up our sin.  Obedience costs us our sin.  We can’t hang onto it.  But repentance cost us more than just giving up our sins.  Deeply felt and sincere repentance costs us.  We are grieved in our hearts over our transgression.  Our spirits are broken and humbled.  True repentance takes its toll on our souls – and it leaves an impression.  Fasting is not only an expression to God of our inward regret, it is a physical offering for our transgressions as well.  We give up part of ourselves.  We lay down part of ourselves at the throne of God, giving our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

Walter Jahncke made an insightful observation about fasting.  He said, “Fasting isn’t just putting aside sin…In fasting, we willingly put aside something that is lawful and permissible for us to enjoy.  Not only is it lawful and permissible, it’s necessary for life!”  This is the truth of Biblical fasting, it is a form of willingly laying down our lives for God.  It is an outward expression of inwardly dieing to self.  To fast is to give up what is necessary to sustain mortal life.  The Israelites understood that true repentance required an immediate outward illustration of an inward change of heart.  When they returned again to the Lord after following their own desires, they fasted and prayed and showed their humility by wearing sacks and dumping dirt on their heads.

Daniel 9:3-5  So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Oh Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong.  We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws…”  NIV

In the Old Testament, an atonement was associated with disobedience. 

1 Samuel 7:6  When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord.  On that day they fasted and there they confessed,  “We have sinned against the Lord.  “  And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.  NIV

Life sustaining water was poured out on the desert floor to show repentance for disregarding God’s life giving presence.  Life sustaining food was rejected to show repentance for walking away from God’s path of righteousness.  Repentance costs us something, our life of sin.

For the Body of Christ to be restored to its rightful position of Holiness and Power in this earth, the church has to repent of its complacency and worldliness.  Once we have repented of our willful, selfish, worldly, prideful ways, and returned to following Christ’s example, our relationship with God can be restored.  Restoration is the work of rebuilding our relationship with God and returning to a lifestyle that exhibits God’s Holiness and Righteousness.

Holiness is that quality of God that separates His characteristics, actions and thoughts from those of everyone else.  God doesn’t entangle Himself with things that are below His level of interest.  God is interested in our well-being.  To God, sin is just another word for anything that hurts us or those we come in contact with.  Therefore, God is interested in helping us avoid sin so we don’t harm ourselves or others.  He calls on us to be Holy even as He is Holy so we won’t engage in activities that harm ourselves.  He wants us to set our hearts on things that are above.  He wants us to separate ourselves from the things of this world, the things that harm us, and be a people separated for His use.  Being separated from the sludge of this world to serve God in Holiness, will in itself, be a witness to this fallen world.  They will finally be able to see a difference between a life lived to serve God and their own lives.

God’s Righteousness is the divine justness of all His actions.  You will notice throughout scripture, God makes judgments.  He doesn’t avoid conflict.  He doesn’t give sin a pass so He won’t hurt someone’s feelings.  God judges, and God judges justly!  God expects us to be Righteous also.  He wants us to call sin sin, and not only avoid it, but to instruct the world to turn from it.  To be the righteousness of God through Christ, we have to be honest with the motivations of our hearts and not just go through the actions.

Isaiah 58:5  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  NIV

For a fast to be delightful and acceptable before the Lord, we must have a right attitude.  We should be appropriately ashamed for our offensive action.  We should be afflicted in our hearts, grieved by our misconduct.  We should be broken before the Lord, bent low like a bulrush, humiliated by our self-indulgence.

Joel 2:12-13  “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  NIV

When we are truly repentant, it tears our hearts.  It breaks our hearts before the Lord.  Then God says, “Come home again to me.”  The whole reason for repentance is restoration with God.  “Come home again to me.”  Repentance with a broken heart opens the path to home.  On a larger scale, when Believers all across the world seek God with fasting and prayer, it allows restoration of the Body of Christ.  It allows us, as a people set apart for service to God, to be restored to our rightful place of Holiness and Power in this earth.  We will follow the beckoning of God’s voice.  “Come home again to me.”

Ezra 8:21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.  NIV

It is through examining ourselves and dealing harshly with our waywardness, worldliness and willfulness that we find the righteous path.  God has made a way for us to return home to Him.  He has told us to fast and pray and we will find the righteous path.  God, by His Spirit is leading the Body of Christ to restoration.

1 Peter 4:1-2  Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.  NIV

Do we really want to live, determined to please God?  In our hearts we do, but it’s so hard.  It’s difficult to lay down our lives like Jesus did.  Peter tells us we must arm ourselves with this same understanding, though.  We must kill our human nature so we can live for God.  What is fasting?  It is a mini death.  It is denying life to our earthly bodies.  It is denying what is essential for the life of our bodies, weakening our flesh.  At the same time we strengthen our spirits by making our flesh subject to the will of our spirits and submitting our spirits to God.  It is an actual physical act of dying to self, so we are free from the bondage of our earthly being, to live again to God, determined to please Him.  It is a steppingstone towards submission to God and perfecting ourselves in Christ.  Will any of us reach perfection?  As a whole, no, we have already missed perfection by being us.  But we are told to be imitators of Christ.  I believe Jesus when He says, “…But with God, all things are possible.”  I believe it is possible to completely subject this mortal body and human nature to God and live perfectly in God’s will.  The Word tells us in James 3:2 that anyone who doesn’t offend others with his words, is a perfect person, able to control the rest of his body.  The word translated “perfect” in the King James Version of the Bible, means “mature”.

Philippians 3:12-14  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called be heavenward in Christ Jesus.  NIV

We have not lived perfectly, as Jesus did, but, theoretically, we can become perfect.  Will any of us achieve perfection in this life?  That depends on us.  If we will yield ourselves completely to God we can, but are we willing?  Sadly, the vast majority of Believers have no desire to give up their lives and die to self.  They will never have to worry about achieving perfection.  But, what if we did want to be perfect and mature, wanting for nothing; serving God with every breath we take?  What if, that same zeal that drove Paul to strive towards perfection, were to kindle in our own hearts.  What if, by the Spirit of God, God were to supernaturally put that desire in our hearts through a special dispensation of His Grace?  It is happening.  There are those Believers who are being stirred up by the Spirit of God to want more of God.  But it requires our death to our own desires, so we can live determined to please God.

Matthew 28:18-20  Then Jesus came to them and said,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  NIV

Jesus told every believer to be actively engaged in the work of the ministry.  He sent us out.  His plan is not complete without us doing our part.  He needs us.  We are His Body.  We are how He gets around on this earth.  If we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.  If you aren’t doing your part, it isn’t happening.  Take a look at the world and you will see.  We are supposed to be the light of the world, yet it sinks into everlasting darkness as each hour passes.  We are supposed to be the salt of the earth, yet the stench of the rottenness of human nature gone astray fills the air.  This world is going to hell while Christians sit in pews waiting for the pastor to save the world.  It’s not his job people, it’s ours.  God wants us restored to our rightful position of Holiness and Power so He can redeem the lost through the sacrifice of our lives.  Yes, that’s what I said, Jesus can’t redeem the lost unless we sacrifice our lives, just as He did.  Listen to the Apostle Paul, perhaps the message will get through.

Colossians 1:24  Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  NIV

When Brian Minahan brought this scripture up during fellowship, he said, “It’s kind of shocking to think that anything could be lacking in Christ’s sacrifice that Paul would have to add something to it, but Paul says it in the scripture.  There must be something to it.”  And, of course, both Paul and Brian are right.  The redemptive work of Christ on the cross was complete and sufficient for the salvation of all mankind.  The only thing remaining was to tell the Good News to the lost.  Now, in the case of Paul, what was lacking of the burden of Christ, that Paul had to supplement, was Paul.  Paul was what Jesus lacked so that Jesus could effectively minister to everyone touched by Paul’s life.  Paul rose to the Holy challenge, and filled up what was lacking of Christ’s burden with his own body.  Paul functioned as the Body of Christ.  Paul fulfilled Christ’s roll in this earth.  I’m here to tell you, there is still something lacking in the burden of Christ that needs to be filled in.  Jesus told us,  “Take up your cross and follow me.”  He said it to you and me.  We have a roll to fill.  There is still something missing to make Christ’s sacrifice for mankind complete.  It’s you.  It’s me.  It’s the Body of Christ taking up the cross of Christ, dieing to ourselves and living only to please God.  Your Spirit may be willing, but your flesh might be stronger.  Kill that flesh.  Kill it a little at a time.  Kill it one meal at a time.  Deny your flesh what it needs for life and give life and strength to your spirit.  Submit your flesh to your spirit and submit your spirit to God.  Take up the cross of Christ.  Crucify your flesh.  Die!  Bury your old human nature in the grave and be resurrected by the Power of God to live only for Him.  Then, take your place as the Body of Christ, restored to your rightful position of Holiness and Power, God’s representative in this lost and dieing world.

Ephesians 5:15-16  Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  NIV

The Scriptures say that Jesus was slain from the foundations of the world.  It was always God’s plan to redeem mankind through His Son.  It has always been Jesus’ plan to spread redemption to mankind through the Body of Christ.  It is our job to bring God’s redemption through Christ to the inhabitants of earth.  Not only are we to bring redemption to the lost, we need to redeem the time that has been lost in our complacency and selfishness.  Because we haven’t been a bright and blazing beacon in this dark, depraved and decaying world, the days have truly become quite evil.  We have our work cut out for us.  We need to fast and pray to strengthen our spirits for the task at hand. 

Isaiah 58:6-8  “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  NIV

What kind of fast does God find acceptable?  A fast that empowers or emboldens us, enabling us to break off the shackles people bind themselves with through their sin; a fast that strengthens us to shake off the heavy burden, allowing the brokenhearted to escape from bondage; a fast that infuses our being with the power of God so we are able to throw off the yoke of enslavement that crushes the captives of evil.  God wants us to share the Bread of Life with a world that is starving for Holiness.  God wants us to gather into the Family of God all those who are poor in spirit.  When we meet people who have been invited to the Lamb’s bridal feast, but who have no robes, God intends for us to be able to clothe them in the righteousness of Christ.  God takes delight in a fast that opens our eyes, infused us with God’s light and makes us ministers to this lost and dying world.  What kind of fast pleases God?  A fast that makes us like His Son.  Listen to the prophet of old who heralded the Anointed One of God.

Isaiah 61:1  The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners...  NIV

And then the Son of God, when He had come in the flesh, stood in the synagogue and fulfilled the words of the prophet.

Luke 4:18-19  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  NIV

Jesus entered the world as a man.  Lived and died as a man.  Was tempted just as we are, yet was without disobedience to His Father.  Then He chose us.  We have been crushed and bruised under the weight of our sin.  But we repented, we were restored to a right relationship with the Father; and Jesus has sent us on a mission of liberation to redeem the lost.  He has equipped and empowered us, but only in measure.  To the extent we yield ourselves to God, His Power can work through us.  We can’t wield the Power of God on command.  Not even Jesus could, or would.  Jesus only did what He was told to do by the Father.  We can’t make God’s Power work, we can only yield ourselves to God’s will.  If we only pray a little, we will see little of God’s Power.  If we fast and pray, and yield ourselves to God, He can began to work through us.  If we want to see God’s Power manifest in this world, we have to give ourselves without reservation to God through fasting and prayer.

John 4:31-38  Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’?  I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.  Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.  Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.  I sent you to reap what you have not worked for.  Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” NIV

Jesus didn’t find life in the food He ate. He found life in yielding to His Father’s will.  He was consumed with the task set before Him and sustaining His physical life by eating wasn’t a priority.  He was gazing out across eternity at the vast crowd of unredeemed humanity.  He would pour out His life to finish His work assigned Him by the Father.  He would yield His perfect life to humiliation, torture and death.  He would allow himself to be nailed to the tree.  There, according to God’s law for humanity, he would be cursed, separated from God, for the Scriptures say in Galatians 3:13, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”  While no sin existed in Jesus, He would face separation from His Heavenly Father according to the Law.  Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, we sin and separate ourselves from God. It’s as if we think God won’t know about our sin if we don’t fellowship with Him.  But Jesus, couldn’t sin against His Father because sin didn’t abide in His being.  His relationship with God couldn’t be broken.  Yet, He allowed Himself to be nailed to a tree, where according to God’s Law, He had to be cursed, which means to be separated from God with a vengeance.  While Jesus had never done anything to displease His Father, God stood from His throne; and with great racking sobs that shook Heaven and earth, turned His back on His Only Begotten Son.  Jesus, for the first time in all eternity was left alone on the cross without His Father’s presence.  And He cried out in that incomprehensible agony, Mark 15:34 “My God!  My God!  Why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus knew why.  But Jesus needed us to know why.  He had to say it or we never would have known how He suffered separation from His Father so we would never have to.  Then He cried out from the cross, Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit!”

Jesus didn’t yield his life to sin and death.  Jesus is life.  I doubt He could have been killed on the cross.  I imagine He would have hung on that cross and suffered from that day to this because HE IS LIFE and I doubt anything has the power to kill Life itself.  But, He willingly gave up His Life.  And, even though He couldn’t feel His Father there with Him, He told His Father, I yield my life over to you.  Then, in death and separation from God, He descended into hell.  But it wasn’t a beaten and broken man that demons drug through the portals of hell.  No, it was the Lamb of God, it was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, it was the Great I Am, and He wasn’t being dragged, because, Jesus hadn’t surrendered His life to sin and death!!  He was still the sinless Son of God!  And He stormed the gates of hell and kicked them in with the pent-up fury that only God could feel after watching for centuries as Satan destroyed God’s beloved human race.  And Jesus preached deliverance to the captives; and the Word says that the tombs were thrown open and the ground spat out many saints of old who had died holding onto the faith of God’s promised redemption; and these Believers who were raised from the dead exclaimed to everyone, “I saw the Son of God preaching deliverance to the captives in hell!”  But Jesus didn’t stop there. 

After preaching in hell for three days Jesus rose from among the dead.  That Power that raised Jesus from the dead also releases us from death and makes us New Creations in Christ.  We can share in Christ’s resurrection power.  Jesus ascended into Heaven to sprinkle His blood on the alter of Heaven.  Then He returned to earth to confirm the truth of the prophecies of old.  He appeared to His Disciples and comforted and instructed them.  He told them, even though I have to return to my Father and you won’t see me again on this earth until I return in Glory, I’m not leaving you alone.  I’ll be sending a comforter who will be with you always and lead you in all truth and righteousness.  Wait for Him in Jerusalem.  I will be with you through Him, even to the end of the age.  Oh, and I want you to finish the work I’ve started here on earth.

John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  NIV

Jesus set it all up for us before He left.  You can read in Acts how the Holy Spirit descended on the Believers who were waiting for Him in Jerusalem.  You can read of the Power of God that was manifested through the Believers; how their yielded lives allowed God to perform miracles.  This pouring out of the Spirit was also foretold by the prophets of old, as was the harvesting of souls into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Joel 2:23-24  Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.  He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.  The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. NIV

In Israel, winter wheat was an important crop that provided the nation with bread. The wheat was planted in the autumn and harvested after the rains in the spring.  The planting season was marked by two sets of showers.  The early rains in autumn watered the seeds and got the plants started.  The later rains in the spring brought the crops to maturity, ready for the harvest.  Between the showers it was dry and the lack of moisture stressed the crops.  A certain amount of drought stress is good for most crops.  It causes them to build up protein in the plant, making it more nutritious when harvested.  But there needs to be the rain at the end of the season to bring in the fullness of the crop.  We see the early rain in the book of Acts, as God watered the seeds by His Spirit and got His church growing.  We have seen the drought.  We have lived the drought!  But God has promised us the latter rains that will bring the crops to maturity and allow for a great harvest.

God wants to pour out His Spirit on the world and bring the harvest of souls to maturity, but He has a problem.  The Spirit of God has to work through Believers.  For the most part, Believers today are too immature to be trusted with the power needed to bring in the harvest of souls.  Because of this, God has found it necessary to wake up His Body.  God has stirred up watchmen with the message of fasting and prayer for the Body of Christ.  God wants everyone, who will yield themselves to Him, to Fast and Pray.  Through fasting and prayer, the Body can yield itself more fully to God and become mature.  When God can trust us with His Power, it will rain down on the Body of Christ once more, as it did in the early days of the Church.  Personally, I believe it will be a greater manifestation of God’s Power than was seen in the book of Acts.  There is work to be done, and the Body of Christ has to shake off the worldliness it has wrapped itself in and get out of bed.

Romans 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  NIV

God is calling the Body of Christ into service.  But He won’t send us into the fields unprepared or unequipped.

2 Timothy 1:7  For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  NIV

With this spirit of power, we are also told to study to show ourselves approved, so we will not be ashamed.

2 Timothy 2:15  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  NIV

In the King James Version, it says, “Study to show thyself approved…”  I like that because it’s more specific about the preparation we should go through, “Study”.  We must be diligent to immerse ourselves in the Word of God and in prayer, so we will know our Lord and His purpose for us.  Then, when we step out in spiritual service, our works will be approved by God and we won’t make mistakes that bring shame and cause hurt.  When we know the Heart of God and His word and will, we are steadfast in The Lord when we meet opposition.

God would not have us ignorant of the opposition we will face either.  We will face the same challenges Jesus faced.  The demons of hell would cry out to Jesus, Matthew 8:29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted, “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”  NIV  But the religious leaders of His day said, Mark 6:3  ”Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.  NIV  The “religious” establishment of this world likes things just the way they are.  There is money to be made in the “religion” business.  It becomes dangerous for Believers when they start to serve God, rather than serve the institutions of man.

2 Timothy 3:1-5  But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.  NIV

Paul wasn’t warning Timothy about people in the world in this passage.  Paul was warning Timothy about people in the CHURCH!  People who have a form of godliness, but deny the power of God.  We were told that wolves would sneak into the flock to destroy many.

Matthew 7:15  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves…”  NIV

Just a little further on, Jesus tells us that these pretenders were never His followers to start with.

Matthew 7:21-23  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me you evildoers!’  NIV

Understand now, these people genuinely believe they are servants of God.  So much so, that on the day of judgment, they confront Jesus to his face claiming to be his servants.  But we have been warned against them now and can know them by the fruit of their lives.  We are told to avoid them.

Paul tells Timothy, “Have nothing to do with them.”  It’s good advice.  Over the past two thousand years there has been plenty of opportunity for the church to be infiltrated.  I’m not saying “church” is bad.  I’m passing on Paul’s instructive warning about the “bad” people who hide behind a façade of religion.  In fact, there are probably bad people hiding in every church.  And it’s not just bad people who will oppose you.  There are many well-meaning, but spiritually near-sighted people in the church.  Some may be spiritual imposters, others may be sincere Believers who have believed bad doctrine.  What ever the case may be, we are warned to avoid these people.  Don’t oppose them, don’t confront them, pray for them and avoid them.  Those are our instructions.  Our mission from God is to spread the Good News throughout the whole earth.  Let’s get busy.

Revelation 3:15-22  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you sere either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ 
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent.  Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  NIV