I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father,~John 14:12.
Today I wanted to talk about spiritual disciplines. We can think going to fellowship with other believers on Sunday is enough to keep us spiritually on point. We are not saved by our works or spiritual disciplines, we are saved by faith. We are, however, blessed and more equipped to resist temptation and fight evil if we do what Jesus did. Jesus spent time alone with the Father on a regular basis. The disciples would look for Him, and He would be away. He prayed. Jesus, God in the flesh, prayed to the Father. Jesus fasted. He refrained from eating food and spent time devoted in prayer and consecration before the Father. Jesus served and gave. He was generous and blessed others. Jesus forgave others. He told His disciples to do the same. See below in Matthew 6:2-15
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others….
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
“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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so 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.
Anytime we see Jesus giving instructions to the disciples, it’s something to take note of. We are His modern day disciples. If Jesus did something and told others to do it, then there is a significant reason for it.
Time Alone with God. We are not super human. We need God. We need Him more than anything or anyone else. When we unplug from the world and make Him a priority we have a better chance of living an abundant life. More than getting something from Him, being with Him is enjoyable. He is quite lovely and the more we get to know Him, the more we fall in love. The more we love Him, the easier it is to obey Him and love others.
Prayer. A prayerless life is a powerless life. Jesus lived a life of prayer, therefore prayer is important. Paul said to pray without ceasing. Our prayers are inviting God into our world. He gave humans dominion on this planet. If we want God’s help, we ask for His help…boy does the world need His help today.
Fasting. I have not heard many people teach on fasting in church. I highly recommend the book Fasting (opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God) by Jentezen Franklin. Fasting is not starving. Fasting is always coupled with prayer. There are several fasts in the Bible. Daniel fasted. Queen Esther fasted. Jesus fasted. I recommend the book mentioned for more information. All biblical fasts were a restriction from food or some form of food. Fasts today people choose to give up TV, Facebook, etc…but the king of our lives is normally our stomach. I recommend praying and asking God about fasting. Also if you have health issues to consult your physician first. Jesus went 40 days with no food, this is not feasible for most people and should be done by those led by the Holy Spirit. If you choose to fast for a certain period of time drink water, dehydration is dangerous.
Forgiving Others. Simple, if we don’t forgive others, we are not forgiven.
Giving. God loves a cheerful giver. If we give to Him out of obligation it’s not what He wants. It is a part of our life as disciples. We are called to give out of love, not obligation.
In the Word. The Bible contains information that builds us up. The word is a weapon that can be used when our minds are bombarded with lies. I heard TD Jakes say, “We cannot have God’s fruit in our lives if we do not have His word in our hearts.” Jesus quoted the words of God to the devil when tempted in the wilderness.
Lastly, I will say none of these disciplines make us more desirable to God. His love for us is not based on what we do or what we fail to do. It isn’t about doing things to win His approval. These disciplines are beneficial for us spiritually. Prayer, forgiving, giving, reading the Bible, spending time with God, and fasting help us. They do not make God love us more. They do not earn us brownie points. We can do all of these things and our hearts be far from God like the Pharisees. The objective is to grow closer to God, not try to earn anything or prove anything.
Father I pray we would have a desire to live the life You called us to live. Help us to abide in You, abide in Your word, to give, to forgive, to pray,… and submit all of who we are to You. Help us to be victorious in this dark world. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.