In our quest for truth and our efforts to come around full circle to the church that God would have us to be, there will be times we may have to look deep within and evaluate ourselves honestly with assistance of Holy Spirit Who knows all things and will teach us all things (1st John 2:20, 27). Like anyone else, I love the promises of God and I love teaching on mountains being removed and the authority that believers have in the name of Jesus. These principles are necessary exhortations to the Body of Christ. At the same time, if a believer has only a steady diet of promises and provisions without a plateful of examination and evaluation, it is quite possible we can become spiritually fat and sassy. Paul said he wanted to know Christ, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. We are like an automotive battery. It is necessary to have the positive connection of power and provision, but it is necessary as well to be grounded in truth. Without one or the other, there will be no movement of current. So if you are willing to check your ground connection, let us move on.
To prepare your heart for the meat of this devotional, you can read Mark 9:14-29. Though there are many lessons learned in this account, I would simply like to point out that the disciples prayed for the son and there was no change in him. After Jesus had prayed for the boy and he received his healing, the disciples privately came to Jesus and asked Him why nothing happened when they prayed. His answer was, “This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting.”
It would be an easy step to begin a theological dispensation on the vital necessities of prayer and of fasting to our lives as believers, and it could very well be an advantage to us spiritually, but I would like for you to go back in time with me a few days from the moment Jesus spoke those words to the disciples.
You will find the same account recorded in Luke 9:37-43. Luke’s description was not as detailed as Mark’s, but nevertheless it is the same account of what took place. Now look at the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” These words were spoken to the disciples eight days before their encounter with the son that needed a healing and they prayed and nothing happened. (Verse 28 points out it was eight days.) When Jesus said the issue was prayer and fasting, He was referring to the instructions He gave them eight days earlier. One commentary that I read recently pointed out that the reference to prayer and fasting was a reference to “a fasted life unto Christ.”
Now let’s get really real for a moment and say that our flesh abhors Scriptures like Luke 9:23 and 24. We will pass over them, ignore them, dilute them, and quickly move to the positive side of the battery to the promises and provisions. It is our nature to do that, but usually it is our fleshly nature. The disciples were commissioned for the positives in Matthew 10:1, 7-8 that they would exhibit authority and power that Jesus’ name provided. They had already done mighty miracles and seen lives changed. Now suddenly they pray for a young man and nothing happens. Jesus used this moment as a tool in their spiritual lives to check their ground connection. Yes, the positive side was connected and power was evident, but were they forgetting that the grounded, fasted life was necessary as well?
Let me briefly break down Luke 9:23 with prayer that Holy Spirit will teach you individually what He desires to teach you.
#1) “If any man will come after Me”
Notice the word “will.” Can it be removed from that sentence and still make sense? Sure it can. But it is there for a reason. That word “will” refers to “choice.” It is a choice to come after Christ and to follow hard after Him. Every one of us has that choice. No one else can make it for us. Have you made that choice to come after Him?
#2) “Let him deny himself.”
This is the point that you may be tempted to lay this devotional down and find something else to do. We would rather clean the oven than think about denying ourselves. Once again, I could expound on how nasty our flesh is and how selfish we can be, but let’s allow Holy Spirit to do His work and honestly evaluate where we are in denying self. My objective is not to focus on the negative side, but allow Holy Spirit to strengthen our connections that will keep the power flowing without any problem with corrosion. In fact, it would probably be easier if I would write my thoughts and opinions then to let Holy Spirit Himself do His work. A good start is not to ask, “What is the best thing for me?”, but “What is God’s best for me?” Is the “self” part of me hindering me in any way of living a fasted life unto Christ?
#3) “And take up his cross daily”
This is where the surrender becomes active. Our surrender to Christ is not a passive surrender, but an active one. Taking up our cross daily can be explained as denying ourself and nailing our flesh to the cross with Christ (Romans 6:3-14). It can also be described as holding high the standard of the cross of Jesus Christ in victory over sin and spiritual death. It can be a reference to the fellowship of suffering that Christ experienced for us and we experience in our flesh with Him, but it points as well to the power of resurrection in our life here on Earth and the promise of eternal life is found only in Him (Galatians 2:20). Note that it is a daily commitment to take up our cross. There is no need for Christ to be crucified on the cross again. There is no need for me to be crucified on the cross. I am already crucified with Christ , thus I take up the cross of Christ daily and that is my proclamation of victory over sin and the flesh.
#4) “And follow Me.”
The concept of following someone is not complicated. My grandson and I have enacted this concept often. It means “to move behind in the same direction.” When Jesus began His ministry on Earth, He asked each of the disciples to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22, 25). After His resurrection, He again asked Peter to follow Him (John 21:15-22). And today His words still ring true to those who will to come after Him. “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).
So if the disciples had fulfilled all these instructions would they have been able to pray for the boy and see him delivered? It most certainly is a possibility, but whether it is the case or not, we recognize that these are instructions for life, a fasted life, from Jesus Himself and it would be to our benefit to strive to fulfill these conditions ourselves. Easy ? No. But we have Holy Spirit within us to lead and empower us to strive to live a life pleasing to our Lord.
The Fasted Life. Do we ever fully attain it? Can we possibly live it perfectly? Paul said it well in Philippians 3:12-14 NLT, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.”
Do we have a cost that we pay today in living a genuine Christian life? How does that cost compare to the price Jesus paid? Paul said, “What things were gain to me these I counted loss for Christ. Yes, doubtless, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7, 8).
Let us say a heartfelt “Amen” to the words of Paul. Let us choose to strive in living the fasted life unto Christ.
Pressing On With You,