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Freedom through Fasting

If you accept the invitation, Lent can be so much more than a countdown to Easter. It is a season steeped in rich tradition.

Fasting is one way to observe Jesus’ walk to the cross. But this tradition goes beyond depriving yourself of food or alcohol.

Specifically, for you, as you journey to sexual integrity, fasting can be a powerful way to grow in self-control. What initially feels like denying yourself can become, with diligence and dedication, a chance to free yourself.

In this episode, we’ll turn to the Gospel to hear how Matthew gives voice to our hunger and how Jesus gives voice to our satisfaction.

Highlights:

Fasting helps you grow in self-control. Strengthens you to say ‘no’ to what you don’t need.

Matthew 9:9 “As Jesus walked on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me and be my disciple.’ And Matthew got up and followed him.”

In this verse, as the author, Matthew is acknowledging he is sick. He identifies himself as the one Jesus came to seek and to save.

Our hunger is not the problem, it is part of the solution. Once we recognize that we are hungry for something more than food, more than sin, more than likes, more than distraction and comfort – then we’ll be able to recognize who we are and whose we are. And we, like Matthew, can stand up and say, that’s me. I’m one of the hungry ones and I need the bridegroom.

Homework:

As you practice Fasting, when you feel the lack, pray these defiant words “Lord, I feel hunger in my body, but I am more hungry and more thirsty for you.”


If you want to learn more, check out Josh’s latest musing on this topic at, If You Want Freedom from Lust, Then Practice Fasting

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Brothers and sisters, we are in the season of Lent, it is Lent. And I gotta tell you lent is one of my favorite seasons of the year, if not my favorite season of the year. It is such a beautiful time preparing for Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. It’s just rich. And one of the traditions of the church, historic Christian church during this time of year is, is practicing fasting. So three traditional kind of things to lift up during Lent and to practice during Lent, fasting, alms-giving, and prayer. But I want to talk about fasting a little bit. And I usually do in this podcast and in this in my blog during this time of year, because it’s been so profoundly helpful for me. And I know for so many other people. Fasting actually helps us develop and grow in integrity. And so many people come to regeneration comm because they’re wrestling with issues of relational integrity. They don’t like who they are in the relationships that feels inconsistent. They’re in relationship to their the relationship of God and who they know themselves to be or know that they’re supposed to be. But also in the area of sexual integrity, people who are doing things sexually, that they know God has forbidden. And they’ve promised themselves 1000 times they wouldn’t read continue those behaviors and 1001 times they’ve continued that certainly my story. Fasting is actually something that helps us to grow in integrity. Well, how does how does it do that? I want to actually just, I suppose that there are mysterious ways that it helps us grow their spiritual ways, things that happen in the spiritual realm. And that happen deep deep down inside of us that maybe we can’t articulate. And I think it’ll become clearer as I talk more about fasting. But on a basic level, so much of what we indulge in with our sins, so much will indulge in is just us grasping, for something that God has said no to. And a lot of us lack self control, to say yes to God and no to sin, when we are tempted. And it’s not just in that in directly sinful areas. Sometimes it’s just we lack self control in areas that just aren’t helpful for us. We know it’s not helpful, we know it’s not our best for us. But we still we grasp we reach out for it. So whether it’s you know, lust and pornography or hooking up with somebody, sexually, or it’s something you know, less overtly sinful, but that we were nonetheless grasping for whether it’s, you know, media or indulging in food, or sleeping too much, or you name it. A lot of us lack self control. And fasting is a way to grow in self control. It’s a way to practice denying the flesh, saying no to the flesh, not mistreating the flesh, not telling our flesh, you’re bad for having hungers. That’s not what fasting is about. But rather, it’s about saying like, look, body desires. You can wait, you can wait. I know you’re screaming for attention right now. I know you think you need to be filled right now. You’re acting like a two year old. You can wait. I know you’re gonna be okay. So traditionally, a lot of people like us this season to fast from a variety of things I do myself as well. I’ll be fasting from some some technology over this Lent. But, but traditionally, fasting is fasting from food. And why I think that’s significant is because when we fast from something like technology, or maybe you fast from, I don’t know, no driving over the speed limit or something like that. Those are those are all have have merit. And I’m not trying to disparage those in any ways. Like I said, I’m doing that. But when we fret fast from food, we’re actually fasting from something that we legitimately need. I mean, food is not an option if you want to be healthy if you want to be alive. And when you fast from food, depending on how long you fast, you actually feel the effects in your body. If you fast for a day or more, your body will actually begin to you’ll feel it I mean, you’ll lose energy you’ll, you’ll feel the lack of, of vibrancy in your body. And again, just just to clarify here, like, get some medical advice if you need it. Don’t go crazy, you never fasted before, it’s probably good to look up how you can fast in a healthy way. That’s not what this podcast about. But I just plainly recommend to you that you fast from some type of food, or for some duration of time, during Lent, maybe multiple times during Lent. Both because of the the deep, deep, mysterious ways that fasting can impact your life, or Jesus will meet you. And also just as a matter of fact, it helps you did grow and self control. You can say no to something that you legitimately need. You’ll be able to it’ll strengthen you to say no to those things that are that you don’t actually need. You know you don’t you don’t need to look at porn. You don’t need to hook up someone sexually. You don’t, you don’t need to overeat. You don’t need to drink alcohol. So let me let me hone in on a verse here on a passage that I think highlights some of this and and I’ll unpack it a little bit why I think it’s so helpful to two passages really, but they’re back to back in Matthew’s Gospel. And by the way, it’s maybe helpful to know that Matthew, nowhere in Matthew’s Gospel does Matthew claim authorship. But the early patristic, fathers, all without question, believe that Matthew was written by the disciple, Matthew. And we’ve never there’s never been another author proposed that had anywhere near the weight or the, the backing of the early church fathers as, as Matthew as the author. So And I mentioned that here, because in verse nine of chapter nine, it reads this as Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew, so presumably the author of this gospel, as Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth. And Jesus said to him, Follow me. And he rose and followed him. Now, just like the calling of Peter, and John and James, and we don’t have a whole lot of background about what went on with those guys, we don’t get much background for any of the disciples like why they got up and followed. Nonetheless, they did. And we read that Matthew did. And then the next verse says, is Jesus reclined at table in the house? Behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and reclining with Jesus and his disciples. What house what table? We don’t know. But the context could leave us to assume that it might even Matthew’s house might have been Matthew’s table. The other dinner guests also might give us a clue this, these might be Matthews, tax collector, tax collector buddies, you know, in other centers who he was used to spending time with. And now Jesus was spending time with these, these people. And the Pharisees somehow found out about this, and they came to Jesus disciples, and they’re like, Hey, why is your master eating with tax collectors and sinners? Now, what’s their problem with this? Well, in Jesus’s day, to eat with to sup with enter the house of people in and eat with them, was it an act of fellowship was like extending the right hand of fellowship to people, it was, in essence, saying, like, I was assumed to be saying, I approve of you, you and I are of the same kind with, you know, the way you live is good, you know, we belong together. Now Jesus flips this upside down, that Pharisees are like, What are you doing? Like, are you approving of their lifestyle of their, how they’re, they’re robbing people of money, how they’re manipulating how they’re getting drunk, and these kinds of things. And Jesus says, look, it is not the healthy, who need a physician. It is the sick, it is not the healthy who need a physician, it is the sick. Those who are healthy, don’t go to the doctor, and the doctor doesn’t go to them. But those who aren’t healthy, those who are sick. They’re the ones the doctor is here for. And then he says, Go and learn what this means I desire mercy, not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous but sinners. Alright, so a lot, we can unpack there. But let me just hone in on this. Matthew is the writer of this gospel. And he identifies himself as being called right here right now as a tax collector. And then Jesus, when asked why he’s eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus says, in essence, because they’re sick, and I’m a doctor, because they’re not righteous. And they’re the ones that came to call, I came for sinners, and sick. So what am I getting out here? Well, Matthew, the apostle Matthew, the author of this gospel, is raising his hand and stepping forward and saying, I am sick. I am unhealthy. I am a sinner, or at least I was. This is who I am. And I’m identifying myself as the one that Jesus came to seek and to save. He’s a doctor, I believe it. He is the the great physician, I believe it. He is the righteous one, I believe it. And he came for the sick and the sinner. And that is or at least was me. Why does this matter for our conversation about fasting and integrity? Well, because part of what we do when we fast is is we proclaim that we are actually hungrier than we typically believe in by day by day. Best advice I ever got about fasting came from a high school buddy. I never fasted before and I was getting ready to do it. And I was talking to a high school friend who fasted on a somewhat regular basis. Not the most, not the guy would look to for most Christian spiritual advice back then. But best advice ever got. He said, he said, here’s what you do, Josh, you don’t eat. And when you feel hungry, and you want to eat, you pray, and this is how you pray. You say God, I am hungry and thirsty for you. It was kind of this defiant prayer. I feel hunger in my body. My body’s crying out right now for bread for some kind of food. But I’m telling you, Lord, what I’m really hungry for what I’m actually hungry for when I’m more hungry for is you, I’m hungry and thirsty for you. Beautiful, beautiful prayer and a beautiful way to fast. Because so often the things that we grasp for the sins that we grasp for whether it’s pornography or hooking up sexually with somebody else, or just lusting after people in the streets, or you name it, if it maybe it’s not sexual for you, maybe it’s alcohol drugs. Or maybe it’s it’s not overtly sinful, like I mentioned, but it’s screens or, or food or something else. When we grasp for those other things, what we do is we take our, our deepest hungers that we always carry with us. And we stuff and full of temporary things we stuffing food full with, with sinful things, so that we don’t notice how hungry we are anymore. But when we fast, we can’t help and notice how our hungers. So I mentioned it’d be fasting from some technology, I’m going to feel it, I’m going to feel it. There are times I’ve gotten used to just turn on the TV or opening up my social media. I want to feel hunger in those places. Why? Because I think that’s why I’m turning the TV on. That’s why I’m flipping open my social media because I’m actually hungry for something. And honestly, those places aren’t satisfying. I mean, it’s nice to unplug. Sometimes it’s nice to distract myself. But distraction is not the same as being filled. Why? Why fast from food? Because our sins so often demand, they come to us with the manly voices saying you need this, you can’t live without this, you’re going to fall apart, you’re gonna die unless you indulge here. You can’t do it. And we say we can. We can there’s one thing that I need. And that’s God. That’s one, there’s one thing I’m really hungry for, and it’s God, there’s one thing I’m really thirsty for, and it’s God. In the very next passage, Jesus actually gets a question directly about fasting. So he’s just got a question about why are you eating and drinking with sinners? The very next passage, he gets a question from John’s disciples. And John’s disciples, interestingly, align themselves here with the Pharisees. They say, hey, the Pharisees are fasting, we’re fasting. How come your disciples aren’t fasting? I don’t know what the spirit of their question was. Maybe they’re just curious, but maybe they were kinda like, it’s hard to fast. How come they’re not fasting? Like what’s going on here? And Jesus’s response to them is, it’s not right, that the attendants would mourn when they’re with the bridegroom. Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom’s with them? He says, he’s like, now they they’re gonna fast. And they’re going to mourn when I’m taken away. But right now I’m with them. So what’s my point here? Well, if if Matthew is stepping forward in the previous passage and saying, sinner, sick, that’s me. In this passage, Jesus is stepping forward, he’s saying, the bread that satisfies the food that really satisfies, that’s me, the bridegroom, that this whole story is about the one you’ve been waiting for the culmination of the age, it’s me, it’s me. And even though this isn’t the end of the story, there, I’m gonna be taken from them. And they’re gonna hunger and thirst, they’re gonna mourn, they’re going to suffer. Romans eight, we grown and we long for the redemption of sons of men. All creation does, in fact, in fact, but here, Jesus is saying, they’re not going to fast, I’m not going to ask them to fast, because I am here with them. And I want everyone to know that I am actually the one who satisfies. So brothers and sisters, as you and I go through Lent, and we hunger and thirst, whether it’s for our sins that we’re trying to give up. So we can be people of sexual integrity and relational integrity. Or it’s the benign little addictions that aren’t so benign after all, or whatever it might be. The deepest longing of our heart, the deepest need of our heart that we actually cannot live without, is God Himself is Jesus. And He invites us to remember during this Lenten season that he is the one we are hungry for. He is the one we are thirsty for an every other hunger is a small h on your at best for the absolute hunger, capital H hunger that we have, that God has designed us with and for and our hunger is not the problem. It’s actually part of the solution. Because once we recognize that we are hungry for something more than food, something for more than sin, something for more than likes something for more than distraction and comfort, then would be To recognize who we actually are, and who’s we are. And we then like Matthew can stand up and say, That’s me. That’s me. I’m one of the hungry ones. And I need this bridegroom. I’m throwing my lot in with Jesus. And I’m going to do in a physical way this Lent. Jesus we are hungry and thirsty. May or hungers, and our thirsts, remind us it’s true. So that we can be people who stop trying to satisfy ourselves with lesser things, and become people, Lord, who always turned to you for our satisfaction and our feeling, or we pray it for our sake, pray for the sake of the world. We pray for Your glory, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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