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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

When You Fast - Part 2

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 6:17-18
“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Daily Scripture Reading - 1 Corinthians 8

Puritan Catechism
Question #9 - What is the work of creation?
Answer - The work of creation is God's making all things (Gen. 1:1) of nothing, by the Word of his power (Heb. 11:3), in six normal consecutive days (Exod. 20:11), and all very good (Gen. 1:31).

Devotional Thoughts
Matthew 6:17-18 - But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Jesus just taught us how NOT to fast. We are to avoid the tactics of the hypocrites. The hypocrites did everything in their power to be seen and praised by other people in their supposed spiritual service to God. They thought that if others thought they were spiritual, then they must indeed be spiritual!

Now Jesus is teaching us how to fast. When we fast we are to anoint our head and wash our face - to remove any indication whatsoever that we are denying our bodies for our spiritual benefit. The term for anointing the head refers to using scented oil to groom our hair. They would use this perfumed oil to help comb their hair and to smell good. Unlike the hypocrites who would wear old clothes and mess their hair up as if to say that their fasting had caused a bad nights sleep, we are to look our very best!

When we fast we are denying the flesh but that doesn't mean we have to look like we our flesh is being denied. As a matter of fact, if we claim to be denying the flesh and yet make a big deal out of how much our flesh is suffering then in reality we are catering to the very flesh we are professing to deny! We are promoting our pride and letting our flesh get the better of us.

Jesus goes on to tell us that we are to fast in secret. Don't announce it to the world, or to church as that is pride. It is to be between us and God, in secret. It is not to be displayed for anyone. When He sees us fasting in secret and knows our motive and heart attitude, He will never fail to reward our spiritual devotion and discipline!

Now then, if a group of people, like a family or a church, call a fast in order to repent of some sin or to seek His will regarding an important corporate decision, then we can encourage one another in the fast and pray and sing and worship together. There is nothing wrong with corporate fasting unless the fast is for show, to impress others, or even to try to convince God about how "serious" we are about spiritual service. Many times in the Old Testament the whole nation of Israel was called to fast. Other individuals fasted when praying or interceding for the nation or for individuals. But the fast, even if used in the process of grieving, is to be done in a manner that does not draw attention to the one fasting but instead glorifies God. Whatever we do, whether it is prayer, giving, or fasting, we do it to God, not for ourselves or even for others!

A good way to look at our spiritual service to God is to think about our church services. When we sing, we sing to God, right? We pray to God, we give to God, and we worship God! Or at least that is what we claim. Jesus is saying that we must endeavor in whatever our spiritual pursuit to focus the attention and glory on God. We should not give so that others can see what we give. We should not boast about our worship. We should not praise or pray for the benefit of other people in the vicinity! We sing to God. We pray to Him. We don't pray to the congregation! Our worship of God is not an entertaining show for others to watch. It is to be our heartfelt thanksgiving and praise and worship to the One who made us and loves us enough to have sent His Son to die in our place. It is indeed all about Him. All things that were created (EVERYTHING), including YOU, were created by Him and for Him. We must please Him and Him alone.(Colossians 1:13-18)

The benefit to pleasing God is that in doing so we will enjoy fellowship with other believers and we will know His love more and more every day! Whatever you do today - think of Him! And if He calls you to fast, obey. In your heart surrender yourself to deny your flesh and encourage your spirit with the Word, fellowship, communion with God, and praise to our LORD Jesus Christ.

Puritan Voices
We are reading a small portion each day from Enoch Walked With God - A Sermon by Edward Griffin

There are two other things implied in walking with God which are not exactly suggested by the figure.

1. The man who walks with God walks humbly. God will not walk with him else; for "the proud he knoweth afar off." The whole of man's duty is summed up in doing justly, in loving mercy, and in walking "humbly" with his God. The Christian, with all his intimacy with his Maker, does not approach him with familiar boldness, but is the more abased the more ho sees of him. "I have heard of thee," said Job, "by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."

2. The man who walks with God exercises a living faith. This, according to the apostle, was the main spring of all those graces which gained to Enoch the reputation of walking with God. "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God: but without faith it is impossible to please him."

II. I am to show the consequences of walking with God.

1. By thus walking with God the soul contracts a holy intimacy with him. The consequence is,

2. That it makes advances in the best of all knowledge, the knowledge of God. An intimate walk with God affords an opportunity to study his character, to see it developed in the free communications he makes, and to listen to his instructions. He is the great instructor of mankind; but his teachings are not extended to those who live estranged from him.

3. This closer inspection and clearer discernment of God, are the most powerful means to sanctify the soul. Views of God are transforming. While "with open face" we behold "as in a glass the glory of the Lord," we "are changed into the same image from glory to glory." Therefore,

4. A sure consequence of such an intimacy between God and the soul, is an increased mutual affection. The more the soul knows of God the more it will love him, and of course the more it will be beloved. What a most tender friendship did Enoch and Enoch's God contract for each other during their intimate communion for three hundred years. If we would enjoy the same blessedness, we must, like Enoch, walk with God.

5. Such an intimacy between God and the soul cannot fail to establish mutual confidence. The more God is seen the more securely can the soul commit the management of all its interests to him, and venture its everlasting all upon the truth of his word. On the other hand the more this confidence is found, the more God can confide in such a soul. He will not trust those to whom he can say, "I know you not;" but of those who are intimate with him and confide in him, he will say, "Surely they are my people, children that will not lie." It is the greatest happiness to feel this confidence in God and to know that he has this confidence in us. If we covet this, let us walk with him.

6. Such an intimacy with God will preserve us from bad company. A man who is walking with an honorable friend, is not likely to be annoyed by disagreeable intruders or to break away after low society. When the soul is in the immediate presence of God, neither sin nor Satan dares to invade; neither the world nor any of its perplexing cares will venture to intrude. Every Christian knows what distressing and dangerous companions these are. If we would avoid them and more fully enjoy the profitable and delightful society of Enoch's God, we must do as Enoch did.

7. Another consequence of such a close walk with God is, that we shall find support under the unavoidable trials of life. When we are in distress, very soothing is the company of a prudent and sympathising friend, who, from the stores of his knowledge, can suggest subjects of consolation. But how much more blissful the society of God, whose heart is all tenderness, and who can open to the soul the most comforting of all truths. There is no consolation like this. Indeed it is well worth while to be a while in the furnace, for the sake of walking there with one in "the form of the Son of God."

8. Another consequence of walking with God is the enjoyment of his protection. Myriads of enemies and dangers swarm in all the way to heaven; but while God is near he will not suffer them to annoy us. When one of Enoch's spirit hears the thunders at a distance, his refuge is nearer than the danger, and he steps in and is safe. He hides himself where no evil or enemy, though searching for him throughout the world, can find him.

9. Another consequence of walking with God is, that we shall always have a faithful monitor at hand, to throw in timely cautions to keep us back from indiscretions and sin or to reclaim us when we have wandered. The conscience of one who walks with God is preserved tender, and God is faithful not to suffer a son who cleaves to him to err by his side without rebuke. To possess such a monitor is one of the greatest blessings of life. Let those who would enjoy this exalted privilege, take care never to depart from the side of their Saviour and their God.

10. Another consequence of walking with God is an enlightened view of his providence and government, a clear discernment of the glories of the heavenly world, and a peaceful assurance of his eternal love. Tell me what is happiness if this is not. What, of all the enjoyments of the world, can be exalted happiness compared with this?

11. Another effect of walking with God is a higher enjoyment of ordinary blessings. By the placid love which by this means is kept alive, the mind is put in a frame to enjoy every other comfort. And the gratitude which is thus mingled with the enjoyment of God's gifts, renders them all the sweeter.

12. Another effect of walking with God is a greater preparation for usefulness. In proportion as the mind becomes wiser by converse with God, and holier by near and transforming views of him, it is fitted for stronger and more persevering and better directed efforts for the happiness of others.In proportion as its faith and benevolent desires are enlarged, its prayers will be mighty for the salvation of men. Its very breath will penetrate their conscience and their heart as no other means can do. And it will throw out upon the world the all commanding majesty and winning sweetness of a holy example. One such man will have more influence upon the order of society and the salvation of men, than millions who never walked with God.

Another consequence of walking with God is a peaceful death. In Enoch's case it was not death, but a triumphant translation. And in every other case, in proportion as a man has walked with God, his end, though he leaves his body behind, is still triumphant, or at least serene. How unspeakable a comfort, when one is struggling with the king of terrors and about to enter on eternal and unchangeable scenes, to have "the full assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost." How much better than to sink under awful fears of eternal wrath, or even under doubts which leave the soul to measure over the dark valley alone. Would you enjoy this triumph, or even this serenity in death, you must prepare for it by walking with God.

Bible Reading For Further Study
Reasons to Fast:

Recommended Songs for Worship


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