We are participating with our fellow Jesus’ followers across Rome/Floyd County in 21 Days of Connection at TRC. We have written about why we pray and fast as well as some expectations and practices.
The Scriptures demand that citizens of Jesus’ kingdom put to death the “flesh”.
Here is a sampling of texts that speak about our “flesh” and what we are to do with it:
Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:22-24 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Romans 8:12-17 (ESV) 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV) Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Let me say this: it is impossible to do a complete exposition of these texts in a single blog post. Each passage deserves it’s own sermon, but I’ll try to be fair to the context of each passage in making application.
With that in mind, let’s observe some truths.
- The flesh is the bible’s way of speaking about the curse of the fall that has infected our physical bodies and has caused them to eventually die and while alive desire the kingdom of darkness and that kingdom’s dark manifestations.
- The flesh is opposed to the Holy Spirit and his work in cleaning us up and producing in us holy desires that are manifestations of the kingdom of light.
- The flesh cannot be stopped by harsh lifestyles that reject good things all the time due to misunderstood and misapplied laws.
- The flesh desires some evil stuff.
- The Spirit produces things contrary to the flesh.
- Christians have to put the “flesh” to death or they evidence they are not sons/daughters of God.
So, what does an emphasis on prayer and fasting have to do with all of this stuff about the “flesh” particularly if harsh treatment of the body is no help in stopping the indulgence of the “flesh” as Paul said in Colossians 2:23, as posted above?
- We are to pray at all times. That’s written. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Jesus assumes we’d all get the Old Testament passages instruction regarding fasting and that we’d practice it (Matthew 6:16-17 and note that the Lord said “when you fast…”)
- Fasting is different from prayer in that it is not a constant state of living. Fasting is not simplifying life. Fasting is doing without something for a period of time in order to seek God and receive his power in our lives. This happens because when our bodies and souls have less and we fill that space with prayer and other biblical ways of seeking God we hear, receive, ask, seek, knock and expect the Good Father to give.
- Fasting also helps us to put a sword to our “flesh”. Sometimes, because of the fall, even those who have believed the gospel, received a new heart and new desires by the indwelling Holy Spirit have a battle. This battle is spoken of by Paul in Romans 7. This battle is one where some of our desires are set against our soul and it’s easy to give in to and do the things that are not good while it’s super hard to do the things that are good. This is the battle against the “flesh”…the left-over vestiges of the curse in ourselves that wage war against the work of the Spirit. You know what your flesh is if you are in Christ. You feel the struggle. Fasting helps us to kill that thing. Martin Luther said that his flesh “grumbled dreadfully”. Mine does too. If I don’t put my sinful desires to the sword daily, I fear those desires may rise up and have me. Fasting helps me to kill that murderous nature that wants to choke out life.
So, if the withholding of items of food or drink or technology is hard, that’s because it’s a fist fight and the flesh is punching back. You had a plan and you are trying to work it but it’s hard. Iron Mike Tyson, a famous boxer, once said that “…everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” You had a plan but your flesh has punched you in the face and you want to quit. Don’t quit. Work the plan. Stay the course. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE. Don’t let your flesh win.
Here are a few tips on staying the course:
- Even if you are on a total fast, get your body moving and blood pumping. If you are not on a total fast, do a workout. Physically make your body obey. You will receive the good old endorphin rush and you’ll actually feel better.
- Pray. When it gets hard, actually call out to the Lord. Out loud. Ask for help. Wait on the Holy Spirit to lift you and guide you and counsel you.
- Make sure you are encountering the Lord in the Scriptures. Use the bible as your guide.
- Be competitive. Don’t accept loss. My boys like to compete. I like to compete. My youngest routinely hears from opponents this question during basketball games: “why are you so angry?” He’s not angry. He’s playing to win. He’s competing hard. He’s out working the other lazy bums who are just happy being out there. If you don’t wan to win, don’t play sports. Do something else. Fun is secondary to winning. Losing is not fun. We have fun if we win. Sorry if that offends. But its a fact jack. Point? Don’t accept losing to Facebook. Have enough self-pride (not talking about sinful pride in being opposed to God, so don’t email me about my choice of words) to not let something that actually does not physically exist to beat you. You understand there is no “Facebook” stand anywhere, right? It’s a program on the inter webs. It does not physically exist. Don’t lose to that! Demand that you win against these little things. Maybe what you are battling is not little. Maybe its a beast of a monster in your life. Don’t lose to it. Do what you have to do to win against it as long as you are not breaking a commandment.
- Talk about the challenges in your small group. Help each other succeed.
- Look forward to the reward both present and future. There is no loss in seeking God no matter what we give up. Treasure is stored up in heaven and supply for the Kingdom here. It is no sin to strive for Jesus’ reward. Jesus told us to live for Kingdom reward.
Keep battling! I know you are doing well. Fasting is just a temporary implement to help you kill sin. By Gods grace that is happening.
Soli Deo Gloria!