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The Work of the Faith

Discussing faith and works together has become a difficult, anxiety-inducing exercise for most of the Body of Christ. This is not so much due to an identifiable point of disagreement as to the subconscious suspicion that what the other believes may be different and/or challenging to something we have been told. This again is a ploy of our carnal minds – to protect closely held convictions and opinions; to maintain control and comfort.

Rigid mindsets are generally dangerous things, built on arrogance and fear. There is nothing wrong with strong convictions – as long as those convictions are constructed on the diligent and humble study of God’s word.

Sadly, most of us lack the time required for diligent study, having given said time over to worldly pursuits. Consequently, we are left with someone else’s word as the final word for the doctrine of Jesus Christ (2John 1:9). This is particularly troublesome in regards to the foundational subjects of grace, faith and works.

At a minimum, every disciple of Jesus Christ should recognize and accept that there is more truth than they have yet learned. At the same time, they should be prepared to humbly offer what they have come to understand. And so, with a desire to learn more, I offer here my humble understanding of the work of faith – taken mostly from Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:14-26, and other noted NKJV passages).

Grace, faith and works cannot be understood apart from each other. Our faith – which is a gift of God – appropriates the grace of God. The grace of God manifests itself in His good works. His good works perfect (i.e., complete) our faith, as we walk in them. Faith without these works is dead (i.e., without effect). Because these works are His, we have no claim of credit for them. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC_0731There was a time when fasting was a part of my Christian walk. Though profitable for a time, it became a religious thing; so I put it down for a season – until I could find God’s heart in it. Recently, the Lord put it back on my mind and stirred the desire in my heart for the fast that pleases Him.

The following is a brief summary of what I have come to understand about “The True Fast” of Isaiah 58. I hope you will use it as a launching point for your own exploration. To help in your discovery, keep in mind that the precepts of the Old Covenant are often examples of the New. In this case, the true fast is a foreshadowing of the fasted lifestyle.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

“The fasted lifestyle is about desire and wholeheartedness, about setting aside our physical hunger for things, as we commit wholeheartedly to grow in intimacy with Jesus.” Mike Bickle; Director of the International House of Prayer, Kansas City

The True Fast

Begin this study by reading Isaiah 58, in full. Then, consider the following thoughts as you reread each verse:

Verse 1: This is an important message. Give it your full attention. It is about the sins of God’s people.

Verse 2: Seeking to know God’s ways – even daily – is not enough. Righteousness and obedience are required. Jesus said much the same thing at the conclusion of His Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. Matthew 5:24-27

Verse 3 – 5: God is saying to His people, “What are you complaining about? What have you done for others; for the least of these? The fast I have chosen is not about you – what you do for, or to, yourself. Your fasting produces something that I will not bear.”

The issue of the fast is not the fast itself, but what the fast produces. This is an important paradigm shift. Fasting for self is not what God is after. There are more important things at stake. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowMoreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 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.  Matthew 6:16-18

It is interesting, revelatory and (at least for me) convicting that Jesus speaks of fasting in the same way He spoke of doing good and praying. In doing so, He is making it clear for us that fasting is to be a very important part of the normal Christian life. Fasting for worldly benefit carries the same consequences: Identification as a hypocrite, and loss of heavenly reward.

My conviction is not for being a hypocrite. It goes much deeper than that. Jesus did not say, “…if you fast”. He assumed that His followers would fast; as much as they would do good and pray.

There was a time in my life when I fasted on a fairly regular basis. Then I stopped. I don’t remember when, but it was some time ago. I had a good reason for laying down this discipline. At the time, it had become a legalistic ritual. My motivations were wrong, so I quit.

I am sure that my plan was to correct my motivations and return to fasting; but it didn’t happen. I believe I know why, and I am not happy about it. Perhaps it will help you to know why I faltered. For me, what follows is a confession that I believe will gain the Father’s forgiveness and His deliverance from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9). It will also make my house stronger.

Having recognized the fault in my motivation for fasting, I began searching the Scriptures for the right one. I learned that many Christians fasted for four primary reasons:

  1. To show humility and repentance;
  2. To seek God’s face more fully;
  3. To know God’s will; and,
  4. To demonstrate sincerity in something we desire from God.

As you can see, there is a strong connection between fasting and prayer. In a sense, fasting is an enabling discipline for the improvement of our prayer life; and, consequently, our relationship with our heavenly Father. Who wouldn’t want that? I was ready to get started.

Being the process-oriented person that I am, I just had to ask God the question, “So then, how would you have me fast?” The Father really likes it when His children ask Him these kinds of questions. His children don’t always like the answer. Read the rest of this entry »

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