Not a Piece of Cake

 JULY 7

MATTHEW 6:17_and wash thy face.

Maybe Jesus added this instruction just in case you did pour that bucket of oil on your head! More likely He added it as a way of saying, “Get up and prepare for the day just as you would any day.”

Food is the source of the body’s energy. When that source is denied energy begins to deplete. When you feel tired and lack energy, the sad, disfigured face could come naturally. Whether it is natural or not, Jesus does not want you to draw attention to your fast. He wants you up and at it. Jesus wants you to receive the blessing He has in store during this time of self-denial. 

Self-denial is not easy for whatever reason you are denying yourself, and certainly denying the body of its food source is no piece of cake. Hmm, probably not the best wording when discussing fasting. If the purpose of your fast is to be spiritually strengthened, trust that will happen. Once the fast is over, you may glean from your spiritual benefits for months to come.

Transformation is progressive. Some parts are instantaneous (like your love for Jesus), some come short term, and some transformations are a long term process. Only the One who loves and wants your very best will re-create you – so your spirit, not physical, controls your actions.

PRAYER

Loving Jesus, Please give me the strength when I need to deny myself. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ denied Himself—He did it to love me!

A Specific Purpose

JULY 6

MATTHEW 6:17_But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head…

Jesus’ reference is not to a priestly anointing – it is more like a personal anointing. I don’t know if oil is used in this anointing. I see set-apartness with Jesus as the issue here.

When oil is used, it is used sparingly and discretely so as not to attract attention. After all, if you pour a bucket of oil on your head and walk around in public, people want to know what is going on. Be careful not to fall into the hypocrite category. 

When Jesus tells you to anoint your head, He is saying, “Get serious about your spiritual life if you are fasting.” There needs to be a specific purpose for this fast. It needs to be about increasing your relationship with Jesus.

Spiritual fasts are not some extreme crash diet in order to lose weight. That is not a good idea even if the fast is not spiritual. Again, this is an adult thing. Children and youth are growing bodies. Seldom will the Holy Spirit lead them to fast.

Fasting has nothing to do with causing you to be saved, or not. Don’t worry about such things. Trust your faith to grow, and the truth of the Bible to free you.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, I trust You to grow my faith and to lead me to freedom. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ calls me to be set-apart for Him—I will!

What’s Important Is …

JULY 5

MATTHEW 6:17_But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head…

Count on Jesus to teach the truth! He will not leave you dangling with a question mark. Once again, He has taught what is the wrong way, now He will teach the right way.

Anointing may sound a little unusual but it is all through the Bible. Anointing, performed with oil, was generally performed by priests. The purpose was to set-apart, or consecrate, or designate someone or something to/for God. 

I am going to stray from fasting and hypocrites just for today. This is a good place to discuss another viewpoint of anointing. I view baptism as a type of anointing. Baptism is all about set-apartness, designation, and consecration. It is a way to seal a contract of belonging to God. Baptism should be viewed as a serious act – as serious as your dedication to becoming a disciple of Jesus. 

Baptism can be another sad case of church bickering – how it is performed and at what age. Jesus was thirty years old before He was baptized. What’s important is baptism goes with belonging to God. Count on the Holy Spirit to direct you to be baptized, or to apply your new faith to an old baptism. Or if you feel so led – have a re-do.

Trust and obey – don’t bicker and argue.      

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, I want an anointing in my life as a way of belonging to You. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ was baptized—It is part of discipleship!

Top of the Totem Pole

JULY 4

MATTHEW 6:16_Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

Hypocrisy develops in stages. The more you succumb to it, the firmer its stronghold. Hypocrisy strongholds are motivated by life is more about my looking good than God receiving glory. Truth destroys strongholds – any stronghold. When truth fills your heart— there is no room for deception.

The disfigured face of the fasting hypocrite is designed to draw personal attention. As in a theatrical production, make-up and costumes are an essential part. The more authentic the make-up the more believable the character. If the character wants to evoke compassion for great self-sacrifice, the make-up and costume are as important as acting ability. Jesus’ disfigured face descript is about understanding this is not a time for drawing attention. 

More than for strengthening the spirit, fasting to the hypocrite is a time for moving up the spiritual ladder – to the top of the totem pole. Any time God is not at the top of your totem pole – “something is rotten in the state of Denmark!” (check your Shakespeare—Hamlet).

When being the head of your Christian group is more important to you than serving God in the lives of His people, be careful – you already have your reward.

PRAYER

Magnificent God, I don’t want my life to be about me, I want it to be about You. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ should be the head—He is head of my life!

Well, Do Declare!

JULY 3

MATTHEW 6:16_for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast…

Any way you look at it, fasting shows up in the Bible. It appears in the Old and New Testaments as a part of the religious routine. Fasting was a normal part of worship. 

There is something else which shows up. Jesus has a way of spotlighting it – hypocrisy. Hypocrites are always around. They show up in high governmental offices, on sports teams, on the stage, and unfortunately, they show up in churches. 

You’ve already learned how the hypocrites’ giving alms and praying came from a heart of pride, not worship.  Well, do declare, if that isn’t the same motive for their fasting!

Jesus points out they disfigure their faces when they fast. This is not for repentance or somberness of the occasion, but for exhibition. As always when He speaks of hypocrites, Jesus says not to be like them. 

Religious hypocrites are great actors, and their stage is in the midst of the Christian community. They know how to manipulate the emotions of their audience. Their disfigured faces when fasting is more than feeling weak from hunger. It is to show to their audience they are making a great sacrifice for God.   

PRAYER

Father God, I never want to be a hypocrite. I want You to be my audience. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ looks for hearts of worship—I will worship Him!