Monday, February 18, 2008

Matthew 6: Three Duties of a Christian

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. God is GOOD! Wow is about the only word I can think of to explain the way God moved last night during our altar service. There was so much love, unity and excitement about what God is doing. For 20-30 minutes we just stood in God's presence. Some were weeping, others laughing, some on their faces…it was such a time of spiritual renewal and refreshing.

I believe that God was responding to our upcoming 21-day Daniel fast. I shared with our congregation that God is calling us to a 21-day fast beginning March 2nd and continuing until March 22nd. The response has been overwhelming. Last night, and this morning, I have had emails and phone calls from people EXCITED about the fast. God is UP TO SOMETHING!

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that there are three duties that EVERY Christian should be doing on a regular basis. GIVING, PRAYING, and FASTING. He says, "WHEN you give…WHEN you pray….WHEN you fast…" I believe there are so many things that God wants to do for us, through us, and in us if we are obedient to His Word, especially in these three duties. I just finished a wonderful book by Jentezen Franklin entitled, "FASTING". This book has been life changing for me. I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who is interested in a deeper relationship with God.

I would like to share a few things with you today that God is speaking into my heart about the THREE DUTIES OF A CHRISTIAN.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (KJVR) And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

(MSG) By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.

During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples of the kingdom of God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: GIVING, PRAYING, AND FASTING. As I mentioned earlier, Jesus said, WHEN you give…WHEN you pray…WHEN you fast."

He made it clear that FASTING, like giving and praying was a NORMAL part of the Christian life. As much attention should be given to FASTING as is given to giving and to praying.

What is fasting? Pastor Franklin in his book says the following, "Since there are so many misconceptions about it, I first want to clarify what fasting—biblical fasting—is not.

  • Fasting is not merely going without food for a period of time. That is DIETING—maybe even starving—but fasting it is not.
  • Nor is fasting something done only by fanatics. Fasting is not to be done only by religious monks alone in a cave somewhere. The practice of fasting is not limited to ministers or to special occasions.
  • Stated simply, biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. Fasting has always been a normal part of a relationship with God."

Listen to the impassioned plea of David in Psalm 42:

Psalm 42:1-5 A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God. (2) I'm thirsty for God-alive. I wonder, "Will I ever make it-- arrive and drink in God's presence?" (3) I'm on a diet of tears-- tears for breakfast, tears for supper. All day long people knock at my door, Pestering, "Where is this God of yours?" (4) These are the things I go over and over, emptying out the pockets of my life. I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd, right out in front, Leading them all, eager to arrive and worship, Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving-- celebrating, all of us, God's feast! (5) Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God-- soon I'll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He's my God.

When you eliminate food from your diet for a number of days, your spirit becomes uncluttered by the things of this world and amazingly sensitive to the things of God. As David says in Psalm 42:7, "Deep calls unto deep". David was fasting. His hunger and thirst for God were greater than his natural desire for food. As a result, he reached a place where he could cry out from the depths of his spirit to the depths of God, even in the midst of trial.

Solomon, when writing the books of wisdom for Israel, made the point that a CORD, or rope, braided with three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Likewise, when GIVING, PRAYING and FASTING are practiced together in the life of a believer, it creates a type of threefold cord that is not easily broken.

Could we be missing our greatest BREAKTHROUGHS because we FAIL to fast?

Again, from Pastor Franklin's book, "Remember the thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold return Jesus spoke of in Mark 4:8, 20? Look at it this way: when you pray, you can RELEASE that thirtyfold return, but when PRAYING and GIVING are a part of your life, I believe that can release the SIXTYFOLD blessing. But when all three—GIVING, PRAYING and FASTING—are a part of your life, that HUNDREDFOLD return can be released. If that's the case, you have to wonder what blessings are not being RELEASED. What answers to prayer are not getting through? What bondages are not being broken because we fail to FAST."

There is a story in the Bible, found in Matthew 17:14-21, where some of the disciples couldn't heal a boy who was demon possessed. When the boy was brought to Jesus, the Bible says He "rebuked the devil: and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour" (v. 18) BUT WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE?

After all, Matthew 10:1 records that Jesus had already given the disciples POWER to cast out evil spirits and to heal every disease. So why couldn't the disciples cast out the demon and cure the boy?

That's what they wanted to know as well. When they were alone with Jesus, the asked Him. Jesus replied:

Matthew 17:20-21 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and

Most of us when we read, or when pastors and teachers teach from this passage we tend to focus on, "and nothing shall be impossible unto you." I think a lot of people stop right there, but Jesus didn't because He knew there was MORE…much more.

See that word, HOWBEIT? It is the connection—it's the KEY that unlocks the power in the statement, "NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE UNTO YOU." Jesus told the disciples that they needed FAITH, even faith as small as a tiny seed. But that wasn't all. Long before this incident, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the Wilderness, where He spent FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS taking no food. "HOWBEIT this KIND goeth not out by PRAYER and FASTING." For Jesus, casting out that stubborn demon wasn't IMPOSSIBLE.

If Jesus could have accomplished all He came to do without fasting, why would He fast? The Son of God fasted because He knew there were supernatural things that could only be released that way. How much more should fasting be a COMMON PRACTICE in our lives?

According to the Words of Jesus, FASTING is the duty of every disciple and every believer in Jesus Christ. I challenge you today to read Isaiah 58, take notes, and think upon what you are reading. I believe that God will SPEAK into your life.

I pray that these words will saturate your mind today, and you will meditate upon them… "WHEN you GIVE…WHEN you PRAY…WHEN you FAST…"


Pastor Rusty

Today's "Through the Bible in a Year" reading: February 18, 2008 (Monday): Judges 1:1-Judges 3:6

This week's MEMORY VERSE: Matthew 17:20-21

Matthew 17:20-21 "And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say
unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain,
Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible
unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."


Treasure Seeker said...

i love this teaching. it has really opened my eyes to the power of the three together - giving, praying, and fasting. i am excited to see what God is going to do through our local church as a result of obedience to His word.

wow! i am ready (in the spirit) to go the distance!