Kingdom Fasting

Exploring The Question, "What Does Jesus Say About Fasting?".

Dan Franklin
Jun 4, 2023    39m
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Join us as we continue our study in the Book of Matthew and explore the question, "What does Jesus say about fasting?". We will dig into what this passage teaches us about, what is fasting, what is the purpose of fasting, and should Christians be fasting. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Life Bible - Kingdom Fasting
Intro: [00:00:00] Hey there. Thanks so much for checking out one of our messages here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. And we know there are two great ways you can connect with us. You can visit our website at LBF.church to learn more about all of our ministries and what we believe. And also, you can subscribe to us on YouTube to make sure that you don't miss one of our future videos.

Gabe: [00:00:19] Thanks, band, I love what a proclamation of the faithfulness of our God that song sings. My name is Gabe, one of the teachers in the men's group. Turn with me to Matthew chapter 6, verses 16 through 18. It reads, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." This is God's Word.

Dan Franklin: [00:01:21] Amen. Good morning, and you can be seated. I want to share something real quick before we get into our passage for today. And that's that, if you're following closely through our series, through the Gospel of Matthew, you may have noticed that we skipped a section. I don't know if anybody noticed, if you did, congratulations, you get a gold star for noticing. All right, so some of you can come to talk to me afterward. So last week, we took a break from our series through Matthew to celebrate Pentecost Sunday and to celebrate God's gift of the Holy Spirit to us. But the last time we were in Matthew, we were going through Chapter 6, verses 1 through 4, which is the beginning of this extended section in Matthew 6, 1 through 18, where Jesus talks about three acts of righteousness that we're called to do, but that we can either do them to impress other people or we can do them out of obedience to God, trusting that he will reward us. And he talks about giving, then he talks about praying, then he talks about fasting. And so we did giving, and now we're talking about fasting. What happened to praying? What happened to praying is that we have an all-church goal this year that has to do with us becoming a church that is more focused on prayer. And so we were making plans for our fall because fall is typically a time that sort of we launch something new. And we decided when we get back to September when we get into our fall series, we want to spend not just one week talking through the Lord's Prayer, but we're going to spend six weeks and really set it aside and live in the Lord's Prayer for those weeks, asking what God wants to do in us. Because we really believe that we pray to experience union with God and togetherness with him. And so we said, you know what, here, let's do this. Since we're already going through Matthew, let's not do the Lord's Prayer now, let's do it later on when we can really sink our teeth into it, when we can really take our time and see what God has to say to us about it. So if you came and you're like, oh, I'm a little bit bummed out, I wanted to hear one sermon on the Lord's Prayer. Wait a couple of months, you're going to get six of them. I'm really excited for when we get to that.

Dan Franklin: [00:03:34] But that means that today we focus on Jesus' words about fasting. Now, there's been a story in the news just the last couple of weeks having to do with the Los Angeles Dodgers, some of you know about it, it's a story that has nothing to do with baseball. But what happened is that they are having a pride night later this month, and as part of that pride night, they invited a certain group that they were going to honor, and the group is a drag queen group. And not only that, but they really are overt in mocking, sort of making fun of Christians, Catholic nuns in particular, but very hostile to Christianity. And so what happened was when this was announced that the Dodgers were going to honor this group, there was a lot of pushback and a lot of people who felt like this was inappropriate. And so the Dodgers said, you know what, never mind, we're disinviting them, and we're not going to have that night. Then the Dodgers got a whole bunch of flak from another group of people, and they decided, hey, never mind, we are going to re-invite this group, which, if nothing else, is a lesson. It's like a roadmap in how to make nobody happy with you, and how the Dodgers handled this, it's like, good job, guys, now everybody's upset with you.

Dan Franklin: [00:04:43] Now, here's the reason why I'm bringing up this story, there's obviously a lot that could be said about the ins and outs of this, but to me, one of the most interesting parts of the story was the name of the group. And if you've been following the story, you may know it, but even if you've been following the story, you may not know the name of the group. The name of the group that they invited, disinvited and then re-invited is The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I want you just to take in that phrase right there, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. And obviously, it's meant to be sort of a mockery to Catholic nuns. But just that phrase right there, it made me pause and say, anybody, even if you knew nothing else about the group, it might be striking to say, we want to honor a group that celebrates the idea of perpetual indulgence. And if you don't know what indulgence means, to indulge, something basically means to say yes to yourself. So you're hungry and you indulge that appetite, that impulse, that instinct through giving yourself food. And you're angry and you indulge that through just going off on somebody. And you're lazy and you indulge that just by laying around all day. And you have lust, and you indulge that through pornography or through sex. The idea of indulgence is saying yes to yourself, and this idea is not just occasional indulgence, but perpetual indulgence, all the time indulge your whims.

Dan Franklin: [00:06:21] And in many ways, when I pause to think about it, I said we could be upset, but maybe in many ways this is the tagline of our culture right now. Maybe this is in some way appropriate that we're saying this actually is a reflection of where we're at as a culture, that we prize the idea of perpetual indulgence. Not just as something that's okay, but something where if you're not doing it, you're probably repressing something and there's probably something wrong. We don't place a high value on self-restraint or self-control, we place a much higher value on perpetual indulgence. And it's in that context that today we reach a passage where Jesus is talking about fasting.

Dan Franklin: [00:07:07] So this is quite a contrast, Jesus is talking about something that is all tied up in the idea of self-restraint and self-denial into a culture where we are prizing the idea of perpetual indulgence. And so here's the really important thing that we get to get into when we get into this today, we get to not only get into what it would mean for us to be a people who practice the kind of fasting that Jesus talks about here, but for us to be the kind of people who would understand why fasting is even a thing. I mean, in fact, let me do a survey real quick and I promise I'm not trying to trick you by doing this. But in a second I'm going to ask you to raise your hand and I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if at any point in the last 12 months, if at any point in the last year, you have done a fast, not like a health fast, but just, you know, you've denied yourself food for a certain amount of time in order to sort of draw near to Jesus? Any time in the last 12 months, raise your hand if you've done this. Okay, I've got some scattered hands around. some of you are like, you won't trick me, I heard the passage, I'm not supposed to tell you. I'm not tricking you; I'll explain later on why that's okay for you to raise your hand. But, you know, let's say, I don't have the hard evidence, but let's say somewhere between 10 and 15% raised our hands, that even just once in the last year, we've done this. And part of why I bring that up is because when it comes to these three acts of righteousness Jesus talks about in this section, when it comes to giving, many of us would say, all right, I'm not giving probably as much as I should, but a good percentage of us are giving, we're giving something to our church or something to charity. When it comes to praying, most of us are going to say, I don't pray as much as I should, but almost all of us are at least praying once within the last year. But a massive number of us haven't, even within the last year, fasted one time.

Dan Franklin: [00:08:14] And so before we even get to the idea of are we fasting in the way that Jesus is calling us to fast, we need to spend some time saying, why would we even do this in the first place? Because this is not something that for many of us is a part of our habits. So what I want to do, Jesus has these three verses on fasting, we will walk through those. But before, I think that there are three really important questions that we need to ask just to get our minds around this subject, and the three questions are. What is fasting? And then the second question is what is the purpose of fasting? And then the third question is, should Christians fast? Should we as Christians do this? So let's just walk through these questions one by one.

Dan Franklin: [00:09:50] What is fasting? Now, if you don't understand, fasting is when you choose to give up food for a certain set amount of time. It's something that the Jewish people practiced on the Day of Atonement, it was a day where all Israelites fasted, and there were also other occasions when they fasted. In Jesus' day, there's some indication that really observant Jews fasted twice a week, so it's something that they would do. I know today some of you are really into health stuff and there's like intermittent fasting going on, that's fine, if you find that that helps, that's fine, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about choosing to give up food specifically in order to set yourself up to draw near to God.

Dan Franklin: [00:10:32] And I know in our day, I'll talk more about this later on also, in our day, sometimes we broaden it out to things other than food. We'll say, I'm taking a fast from social media, or I'm taking a fast from watching Netflix, or I'm taking a fast from coffee if you're really brave, you know, I'm taking a fast from alcohol, or from chocolate, or something like that. And here's what's really important, if we are going to broaden it out, which I think it's okay to broaden it out, if we're going to broaden it out, what we need to recognize is that a fast, in the way that it's being talked about here, is not when you choose to give up something that you should already be working to give up. Like sometimes we encourage we're like, hey, nobody has to do Lent, like it's not a biblical requirement, but the 40 days leading up to Easter, we often encourage our congregation to practice giving something up during this time. And if you're like, great during Lent, I'll give up swearing, or I'll give up angry and appropriate outbursts online, or I'll give up Internet pornography, it's like that needs to be a fight all the time. That's not just like for 40 days, I'll decide to do this. What we're doing during those 40 days, or what we're doing anytime we fast, is we're choosing to give something up that's actually a good gift from God. It's not sinful, it's not wrong, it's a good thing that God has given us, but we choose to give it up because we want to be more focused on God.

Dan Franklin: [00:11:53] And that leads to the second question, which is, what is the purpose of fasting? And when we get into the Old Testament and the New Testament, there are really two words that go along with the idea of fasting, or two sort of internal realities. The first internal reality is grief and fasting often had to do with grief or mourning. And so that could be if you read the Old Testament, sometimes there was a fast because somebody had died and so the close family members were fasting in response to that because they were in grief. Or sometimes the fast had to do with national grief because there had been sin and repentance was needed. So grief was a part of fasting. And then the other side, longing was the other part of it, and they kind of go together. And if we're going to sum up the idea behind fasting was that you're recognizing things aren't as they should be and you're longing for them to be that way, that's at the heart of fasting. In a way, it's a sense of where we come to God and we say, I want you more than this thing that I'm giving up.

Dan Franklin: [00:13:05] Now, the third question for all of us is, should Christians fast? This is a thing that basically all religions do, we see it through the Old Testament, but is it something for us, or is it something that because Jesus has come and changed things that we don't need to do? And what I want to be clear on going into this is that there is nothing in the New Testament that gives us a specific day or a specific pattern in how we should fast, but I'm going to make the case it is assumed that this would be a part of our lives. I'll go to a couple passages.

Dan Franklin: [00:13:40] One is the words of Jesus. So we're in Matthew, later on in Matthew 9, Jesus has an interaction about fasting. And so in Matthew 9:14, it says, "Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” So this is John the Baptist's disciples, and maybe they're doing the twice-a-week thing that's normally done by the Jews and they're like, hey, we fast twice a week, the Pharisees fast twice a week, but Jesus, were noticing that your disciples don't fast. So what's up with that, what's going on? And in verse 15, "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." And you see that Jesus is tying in fasting with mourning, the idea of grief and longing. Here's why I love this statement by Jesus so much because you can miss it, this is, if Jesus is not the Son of God, this may be the most arrogant thing anybody has ever said. I mean, this is amazingly audacious, what Jesus says here. Here's in essence what he's saying. Jesus is saying, when you fast, it's because you're longing for great things to happen, it's because the world is not right and you're longing for it to be fixed, you're longing for joy and wholeness in life. And he's saying, why would they fast, I'm here, I've come, everything that they have been longing for is now here, so why in the world would they fast? Who in the world does this guy think he is? He thinks he's the King. One of you got it, all right, good. We're going to retrain ourselves, whenever I say, who does this guy think he is? He is the King. He is like, I am the king and I've come, why would they be in grief? I'm right here. But then he says, a time is coming when I'm going to be taken from them and then they will fast. And there are some people that think, well, that's just talking about the three days he was in the grave. I don't think so, I think this is talking about the fact that even though we have great joy, even though we're living in the reality that Jesus has come and he's brought us forgiveness and he's brought us union with God and he sent the Holy Spirit and we're living in a new age, I think he still is setting up for the idea that we are longing for him to be here in flesh and blood, and so that's why we still fast.

Dan Franklin: [00:15:39] And in the New Testament, the early church at least shows some signs that they were still fasting. Acts Chapter 13, verses 2 and 3, so the early church, it says, "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." And then one chapter later in chapter 14, verse 23, it says, "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." So their longing, and here's the longing, they are longing for God to give His divine leading and guidance on a tricky matter of who is supposed to go out and do certain tasks, and so they fast because they're longing for God's guidance.

Dan Franklin: [00:17:02] And while this isn't in the New Testament, there's an early church document called the Didache that sort of walks through the practices of the early church. And it's funny because I mentioned before the Pharisees, they fasted twice a week, they fasted on Mondays and on Thursdays. And in the Didache, it says, for Christians it says, hey, the Pharisees fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but we're different than them, we're believers in Jesus, so we're going to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Which in a way is kind of funny because you're like, well, you just switched the days. But I think what they were doing was they were saying, we're still fasting, that's still a part of our lives, but our fasting now is different. We know the one that we're longing for because Jesus has come, but we're not done longing for him to do everything that He's promised to do.

Dan Franklin: [00:17:50] So as we get into this, here's what I want you to have in mind, I want you to have in mind that when Jesus in our passage says twice when you fast, he's assuming this is going to be something that we do. And the fact that he's calling us to do it isn't because he is trying to deaden our desires, but because he's looking to enliven our desires.

Dan Franklin: [00:18:16] Quick sidetrack on this. There are two, during the 20th century, there were two dystopian novels that were written that became highly celebrated, there's 1984 and there's Brave New World. Who's read 1984? All right, a bunch of you. Who's read Brave New World? All right, probably some of the same people. And people debate sort of whose vision was the most chilling? Because both of these books are sort of about different ways that in a dystopian future, the government is controlling our lives, which I know is a stretch for you to imagine that something like that would ever happen. but just suspend your disbelief and go with me that that's what's happening in these books.

Dan Franklin: [00:18:52] So in 1984, kind of the vision for how this would happen is that the government is controlling people by forcing them to repress their desires. You don't get to indulge in anything, and you don't get to say yes to yourself. But in Brave New World, which I think ended up being much more prophetic, the way that the government is controlling people is by pressuring them to indulge every whim that they have, to constantly say yes to themselves. And there's a conversation towards the end of the book that I want to read you a part of because I found it so incredible. The main character is talking to one of the guys who's a government official that's really in charge of organizing society, and the main character is advocating for if you really want to control people, maybe you should not eliminate God from the equation. So here's how the conversation goes, the main character says, "What about self-denial then, if you had God, you would have a reason for self-denial." And the response from the government official is that he says, "But industrial civilization is only possible when there's no self-denial. Self-indulgence, up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics, otherwise, the wheels stop turning." So then the main character turns to another argument, and he says, "You'd have a reason for chastity if you had God." And the response by the government official is, "But chastity means passion, and passion means instability, and instability means the end of civilization. You can't have a lasting civilization without plenty of pleasant vices." And here's why that's so powerful to me. He's exposing a lie that we sometimes buy into. Like, let's say you were talking to a guy and the guy was saying, I'm never getting married because I am too passionate about women. Like I'm so passionate about women, I'm never getting married because I couldn't limit myself, I'm too passionate about women. That is not a man who's too passionate, if he was really passionate about one woman, he would forsake all other women for that one woman. And if we're looking at fasting and we're like, Dan, I don't think you get it, I am so passionate about food, I could never do this. You're not too passionate, you're not passionate enough about God. Because if God is not so prized in your soul that you can imagine yourself saying, you know what, for a set amount of time, I'm going to give up food to build my passion for him, then your problem is not too much passion, it's not enough passion.

Dan Franklin: [00:21:34] So with that said, let's look at the words of Jesus here. He's going to follow the same pattern that he gave with giving and with praying, and that pattern is he's going to tell us the wrong way to do this and then the right way to do it. So he says, all right, I'm going to give you the wrong way to fast. Once again, he says, when you fast, not if, but "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do." And to be somber just means to be gloomy. It says, don't be the kind of person, and we all know you've all experienced this person at school or at work, when you go past them and they're just sort of moping wherever they are, they look bummed out, they're sighing loudly. they're giving off every indication that they're bummed out. And then you go up to them and you say, hey, what's wrong? And what do they say? Yeah, nothing. And you're just like, really, nothing? Your whole body is sending off the signal that something's wrong. Jesus is saying, don't do that, don't set yourself up in a situation where somebody's like, what's wrong with you? And you're like, oh, nothing, I'm just fasting for God. It's like, give me a break, don't look somber as the hypocrites do.

Dan Franklin: [00:22:51] And then he goes even further when he says, "For they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting." And so I don't know if this was a matter of certain kinds of makeup or, you know, like, I'm just going to like, go unshaven, whatever it is, they would specifically set themselves up. And I think this ties into the word hypocrite, because some of you know that originally the word hypocrite referred to what? Some of you just said, actors. It referred to actors who are putting on a show.

Dan Franklin: [00:23:21] Which, by the way, quick, important side rant, sometimes there are people who are not Christians who will say, hey, the church is full of hypocrites. And too many times we as Christians say, well, they're right, we are all hypocrites. No, we are not, a hypocrite is not somebody who fails, a Hypocrite is somebody who fakes. If you're like, well, I'm a hypocrite because I don't always live up to what I believe. No one does except Jesus. You're not a hypocrite if you're like, well, I sometimes fail and then I repent and I apologize and I try to make things right. That's not a hypocrite, that's a Christian. You're a hypocrite if you're a faker. So, when people say that, when non-Christians are like the church is full of hypocrites, they are not saying the church is full of people who sometimes fail. I think they can deal with people who sometimes fail, but if the church is full of hypocrites, we’ve got a problem and we’ve got to solve that.

Dan Franklin: [00:24:21] So side rant done, back to the main point. He says they're hypocrites because they're putting on a show, they're acting, they're looking to draw attention to themselves. And that's why he ends by saying, "Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." And you know what their reward was? Their reward was the applause and approval of other people who were like, look how spiritual he is, he's fasting for God. Look at how sacrificial she is, fasting for God, and always making sure we know when it's happening. Jesus says, don't do this so that other people notice you, do it for God because if you do it for other people, their applause, their approval, that's the only reward you get.

Dan Franklin: [00:25:18] And then he moves on to the right way to do this. He says, here's how you should fast, "But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting." And when he says, put oil on your head and wash your face, he's not talking about special measures to dress yourself up, he's referring to normal hygiene for Jews in the first century. It's like, this is what you would just do in the morning, he's saying, take a shower, just make yourself look presentable, give off the idea that it's just a normal day. And this is also important, what Jesus isn't saying is that the worst thing that could happen is that somebody would find out that you're fasting, so go into ultra-deceptive spy mode, and trick everybody. Like when you show up to lunch with everybody else, have empty wrappers that you're throwing in the trash, just kind of trick them.

Dan Franklin: [00:26:15] Earlier this week, it was funny, I had a conversation with Garrett, who's our Communications Director, and he was telling me a funny story about years ago there was something that he was fasting about, and he wasn't letting anybody know because of passages like this. And his mentor at the time asked him that day, that he was fasting, to play racquetball. And he was sort of like, well, I'm not supposed to tell anybody I'm fasting, I can't think of any excuse to say no, other than telling him. So he went and played racquetball with his mentor. How do you think he did? Yeah, not so well. His mentor was like, you kind of stink today, like, you're usually pretty good. Why are not playing very well? And he was like, yeah, don't know, I don't know what to tell you. And Garrett was just saying, I should have just told him. I should have just been like, hey, actually I'm fasting today because Stacy and I are praying about this decision that we're making. And you know what the mentor would have done? He always said, gosh, let me pray alongside you.

Dan Franklin: [00:27:08] That is not the kind of thing Jesus is warning against here, he's not saying you can never let anybody else know that you're doing this. What he's saying is don't do it for the attention, don't do it in order to get other people to notice how spiritual you are, it says, do it instead for the Lord. He says, "Don't do it so it will be obvious to others, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." And this word reward, this came up when we talked about giving, it'll come up when we talk about praying, this is a big deal to Jesus. The big deal to Jesus is that we would be looking to God for our reward.

Dan Franklin: [00:27:53] In fact, in the passage we'll go through next week, Jesus is going to talk about storing up treasures in heaven, not treasures on Earth. And Jesus doesn't say, hey, don't store up treasures here on Earth, because, after all, you shouldn't be doing it for a reward. He says, do it for God's reward, not your reward. And I think that there are a lot of us that wish Jesus spelled out more clearly what the reward is. We're like, what does this mean? Is this like, I get to heaven, and I get a gold coin for every time I fasted? Is it like I'm a mayor of a city, like, what does this mean that I'm getting a reward? And Jesus doesn't spell it out? In fact, some of you might be thinking, well, if I fast and if the result of the fast is that I'm more in tune with Jesus and experiencing greater joy and together in togetherness with him, isn't that the reward? And the answer is, yeah, that may very well be a huge part of the reward. But Jesus doesn't clarify, he wants us instead to be living in the reality that our trust is in God and we're trusting that every sacrifice we make will be worthwhile in the end.

Dan Franklin: [00:29:07] So this is what I love imagining, to me, it's incredibly life-giving, and for some of you, it may also be incredibly life-giving. I want you to imagine that your life is over, you're before God and he says something like this to you. He says, you know what? There are a lot of times during your life when you were generous and people didn't know you were being generous, but I want you to know, every time you did that, I saw it. And I want you to know that sometimes you turn a blind eye and forgave people when you could have really made their lives difficult, but you overlooked offenses, you bore with them, you forgave them, and I want you to know you didn't always get credit for that, but I saw it every time you did it. And I also want you to know that every time you made a sacrifice to fight against temptation and to engage in the internal battle against anger and against lust and against jealousy, every time you fought that good fight, I saw it. Nobody else could see it, but I saw it. In fact, what I want you to know is that every single act of faith and sacrifice that you ever did during your life, I, as your good father, saw every single one of them, and now I'm going to reward you for every single one of them. I don't know about you, that's good enough for me. I don't need to know, well, how are you going to reward me? He saw it, we talked about this two weeks ago, God sees everything, and that's good news. Jesus says you do it for the way that your Father in heaven will reward you.

Dan Franklin: [00:30:39] Now, here is what I want to do now. I want us to dig in now and say, what are we meant to do about this? How do we respond to Jesus' words here, where twice he says when you fast, and then gives us instructions? And so I've got two points of application that I want to encourage you towards. For some of you, if you're a note-taker, you might take out your notes at this point. If you're going to take notes on your phone, you might want to do that also. But two points of application, one of them is very specifically tied to the kind of fasting that Jesus is talking about here, and one is more broad.

Dan Franklin: [00:31:15] So the more specific one that's tied to fasting is this. I want to encourage you, we're entering into the summer, we're in June. So it's sort of like June, July, and August, some of us still think of that as the summer months, so I'm going to give you a suggested application that goes through June, July, and August. And what I want to encourage you to do is this, choose one day in June, one day in July, and one day in August, you might even later on get in your calendar like Google Calendar and actually put it in there. Be like, this is the day I'm fasting in June, this is the day I'm fasting in July, and this is the day that I'm fasting in August. And you can do this in different ways. For me, when I fast, typically what I do is I get up and I eat breakfast and then I don't eat again until dinner. So it's not a full 24-hour, but it's kind of a most-of-the-day fast. Some people that I know, they do the 24-hour fast where they'll eat dinner and then not eat again till dinner the next day. The point here is not even the very specifics, what I would say is to think it through and be careful about jumping straight into the deep end. If you're like, I have never in my life fasted, be okay with the first fast being like, I'm skipping lunch and I'm fasting from breakfast till dinner. But choose this, and make it clear what you're choosing to do. And then here's what you do during that day, there might be a specific thing that the Lord is putting on your heart to pray through that day or a specific focus to the fast. But at the very least, do this during the time that you would normally eat lunch, use that as a time of prayer. So whether that's going for a walk, whether that's getting by yourself, use the time you would normally be eating just to pray.

Dan Franklin: [00:32:52] And then here's the second thing that you do, the second thing that you do is every time during that day that you feel hungry, which if you're like me, it's going to be a lot of the day. Every time you're like, I want food, what you tell yourself is, but I want God even more. God, I want you even more than food, I want my body and my spirit and my whole self to long for you. God, you are more important to me, I am more desperate for you than I am for food. And it's a way of leaning in, and it's training ourselves to be so passionate for God that when we're practicing self-denial, it's reinforcing that. So that's my application on this that I encourage you to do. Some of you are further along in this, so you're like, Dan, I'm further along, I'm going to do something more, that's fine. But if you haven't done anything, start with that.

Dan Franklin: [00:33:46] Now let me suggest an application that's more broad, because I think the bigger picture of fasting is this, it's the idea that we would willingly give up something that's good because it's become something that's a distraction from us closely following Jesus. So there might be some podcasts or some news show that you listen to or that you watch, it's not wrong, it's not sinful, but you've started to realize every time I'm done watching that, I'm more angry than I started. Hypothetically, for some of you, the issue is not that that is sinful for you to do, but it's become a distraction. It is not helping you in your relationship with God. For some of you, maybe you're drinking alcohol and alcohol is a good gift from God if you're over 21, but you may have got to a point where you're like, all right, if you're sort of on the verge right now, you're like, I'm not sure if I'm drinking too much, I'm not sure if this has become too much a part of my life. If you're not sure, I highly encourage you to do something about it. And maybe it's not that you're doing a hard no, where you're like, I'm never going to drink again. Maybe it's that you just say for the next month, I'm just not going to drink. And even if later on you go back and you're like, all right, I feel like I can reintroduce this and enjoy this good gift from God in an appropriate way, you've at the very least spent a month communicating to God with your actions and with your body and with your spirit, God, you are much more important to me than this, and I'm willing to eliminate it if it becomes a distraction. I'm willing to eliminate coffee. I'm willing to eliminate sweets. I'm willing to eliminate TV. I'm willing to turn off Netflix for an entire month. I'm willing to get rid of social media for an entire month. I'm willing to do this to show you God how serious I am, and to make sure that I am not missing out on a closer walk with God because I'm doing things that he said are okay, but they've turned out to be distractions.

Dan Franklin: [00:35:48] And I'll just say this also, if you decide to do that and I keep saying a month, that's how I sort of work, a month at a time helps me a lot because it's a set amount of time. It's not forever, but I'm like, all right, a month. I think I can hang with that. If you decide to do this, don't make your next action then to go post online about what you're doing. That's not the purpose. Maybe you do talk to a close friend or two to say, hey, I need to let somebody else know I'm doing this because I want some accountability and I want some help and pray for me because I don't know if I can do this, so you may want some partners in it. But don't do it so that the world knows that you're doing it, do it so that you're eliminating a distraction that is keeping you from walking in greater joy and greater closeness with God. And at any time during that month where you're like, wow, I really want to jump on Instagram right now, man, I really want to watch YouTube right now, I really want to drink some coffee right now, I really want to have a sweet right now, every time that happens, that's a chance for you to say, God, I want that, but I want you so much more.

Dan Franklin: [00:36:55] And we talk at this church about cultivating a passionate pursuit for Jesus. And if we're going to cultivate a passionate pursuit for Jesus, we're not going to do that without self-denial. And that doesn't mean that we get legalistic, but it means that we get serious enough to say if fasting is not even a part of our lives, that's a passion problem, and that's a problem that we want to address. And we want to address it not because these other things are bad, but because Jesus is so much better.

Dan Franklin: [00:36:55] Let me pray for us right now. Father, thank you so much that you have given us so many wonderful gifts on this earth, thank you for our friendships, thank you for technology, thank you for food, thank you for desserts, thank you for all of the wonderful gifts that you've given us, and that you say you've given them for our enjoyment. And, Father, thank you for all of those good gifts. Father, keep us from being so consumed with your gifts that you get drowned out. Help us to give thanks to you for those gifts, and then to get them out of the way, if that's what it takes for us to run with you. Father, I pray that you cultivate passion in us, I pray that we would not be satisfied with a casual connection with you, where every so often our hearts connect with you, but that we would be passionately cultivating a relationship with you that removes every obstacle. Father, lead us as we look to take Jesus' word seriously when he says when you fast. Help us to be willing to lean in and do something that's uncomfortable because it's a way that you draw us to yourself. And Father, help us to do it in a way that we are always fully trusting that your reward is more than enough, and the fact that you see it is more than enough. We love you, and we pray for your leading, and we pray for this to be a summer of growth and joy as we draw near to you. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Dan Franklin: [00:39:06] And just as we close the service as usual, you're going to see some folks on either side of the stage. Maybe some of you are like, I need to pray about something specific, maybe it has to do with the sermon, maybe it doesn't have anything to do with it, but people are here to pray with you, so don't miss that opportunity. God bless you all, thank you so much for being here. Have a wonderful rest of your Sunday.



Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848