Many have grown discouraged and have fled from the faith because human ministers over the centuries have made My easy yoke hard to bear and My light burden grievous. Even today, in this era of self-indulgence and lax apostasy, I disapprove of well-meaning, but Pharasaical preachers complexifying My simple Way to Life.
This will shock many of you but the term “spiritual disciplines” appears nowhere in My Word. Nor is compulsory fasting, the MAIN “spiritual discipline” taught as doctrine in any of the New Testament Epistles. Although the Day of Atonement was the ONLY compulsory regular day of fasting in the Bible, religious scholars thought they’d “clarify” what I REALLY meant by adding many extra fast days to the Jewish calendar. By the time of Christ all good Jews were expected to fast twice a week. If they did not, the self-righteous Pharisees called their love for Me into question. While He was on earth and before the Cross, Jesus did not abolish the authority religious leaders exercised over His God-fearing listeners. Jesus even told His Jewish listeners that since the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat of authority, they were to practice the religious ordinances taught them by those Pharisees but not to imitate their works of hypocrisy (see Matt.23:3).
Before the Cross ushered in the New Covenant, Jesus’ listeners were bound to submit to the assumed authority of those very religious leaders Christ so loudly rebuked in that very same chapter. Those Pharisees expected their JEWISH followers and converts to JUDAISM to fast twice a week like they did. But NOWHERE does any NT apostle ever bind fasting on believers. The Gentile converts never had been under the authority of those doctors of the Law who were presumptuous enough to add their OWN extra requirements to My Holy commandments written in Scripture!
Repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus and Him alone is the ONLY way to obtain justification in the sight of a Holy God. Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal.5:16) and: He who walks in love has fulfilled the requirements of the Law (Rom.13:8). What makes you think you can add anything of merit to this SIMPLE way of salvation and following Christ? It only ministers to human pride to complexify the Christian life. Acts chapter 15 plainly teaches that so long as you are led by the Spirit and keep just FOUR simple, easy prohibitions that is enough in My sight.
Many have been broken beneath the heavy yoke of unscriptural tithing regulations imposed by church tradition. Many have suffered with needless guilt pangs over failure to fast like others in the church who want to be seen as more spiritual than the rest. Many automatically deny themselves food just because Monday or Thursday rolls around and they fear I’ll punish them if they eat something. That’s legalism and coming under the bondage of observing days (Gal.4:10) and denying yourself legitimate things I created for your enjoyment (I Tim.6:17). Touch not, taste not, handle not is of LAW, not grace (Col.2:21). The only fasting which really pleases Me is to fast from bad attitudes and sins of the flesh. Now, THAT’S the kind of discipline that’s really important, and even then you must avoid the pitfall of depending on YOURSELF to discipline your way of life before Me and others. It takes much more discipline to keep your mouth shut while others are yakking about the pastor than it does to fast from chocolate ice cream on a hot summer’s day. And instead of focusing on NOT saying anything bad, you should ask yourself: Is it ENOUGH to say nothing while everyone else is bad-mouthing the pastor (or some other individual)? Silence can be golden, but passivity in the face of evil is cowardice. Ask yourself in such a situation: Could it be that the Lord wants me to exhort these other Christians to be more charitable, or even to say something POSITIVE and edifying about the pastor (or other person being devoured behind their back)?
Instead of focusing on literal fasting and taking satisfaction from the empty feeling it brings, there should be a FULLNESS of joy in your life (Psalms 16:11; Phil.4:4). Instead of worrying about some “death walk in the spirit”, there should be an outflow of love, joy and peace resulting from your LIFE in the Spirit (Rom.14:17). These things are not generated by difficult self-effort where you struggle to swim upstream against your baser nature. Yes, you MUST resist the devil, but only in the Spirit and in the power of My might (Eph.6:10). This won’t minister to your human pride, but standing in Me is a GIFT, not wages for “keeping the spiritual disciplines”. You receive My grace and My power to endure through faith in Christ alone (Eph.2:8)j. Either I carry you Myself or you just won’t get very far in your walk of faith.
Far better to close your ears to carnal gossip and refrain from biting and devouring one another like dogs (Gal.5:15) than to worry about fasting from a hamburger one or two days per week. The kind of fasting you NEED to do must be done seven days a week: Fast from evil, unkind words and unclean conversation which does not edify, but rather tears down someone else spiritually. Unless your eating would hinder an intense time of prayer, that’s ALL the fasting I ask of you! A potato chip accidentally eaten during a season of prayer doesn’t defile you inwardly and turn you into a second-class citizen of heaven. It doesn’t even make Me less likely to answer your prayers! But cruel, angry, unkind comments directed at your prayer partner would certainly mar your prayer time and be a hindrance to your prayers (see Matt.15:11; I Pet.3:7)
Others worry that they aren’t memorizing enough Scripture verses to keep up with what others are accomplishing in that area. Do hide My Word in your heart because in this life you’ll need it to resist satan. But stop comparing yourself with some other imperfect Christian who has time to study lots of Scripture and seems to have an easier time digesting it. Comparing yourself with some other human being isn’t spiritual, it’s sensual, carnal, prideful and self-centered (2 Cor.10:12).
Still others boast they’re “disciplined” because they always rise for prayer by five or thereabouts. But they’re cranky all day because they’re tired and then they end up snapping at someone. Unless I impress upon a Christian to do it, it could do far more spiritual harm than good to deliberately be harsh on the body through fasting or very early rising. It’s prideful to boast that you rise earlier than anyone else to pray. Some people nod off and I hear more snores out of them than prayers, although I do weigh their motives. Are they rising before dawn to please others, in an effort to conform to the crowd? Or are they doing it because they sincerely believe I’m leading them to do it to offer up urgent prayer for others out of love for me? Even if their flesh is weak these Christians still love Me and I still love them, and I’m just as willing to answer a prayer prayed at six p.m. as one prayed at six a.m.
Some people are ill or they must work weird hours. New parents may feel shattered through and through. Not everyone can “storm the gates of heaven in the wee hours. Where “spiritual disciplines” are concerned, some practices, in and of themselves, are of doubtful spiritual value in gaining mastery over the flesh and may even minister pride in a DELUSIONAL false humility (Col.2:23). Even in the matter of seeking Me early, there is plenty of room for understanding and compassion. Even Jesus took a nap in the middle of a storm, a time when many would say He should have been wide awake and on the lookout for satan.
Whenever liberty is abandoned and “the leadership” imposes harsh “disciplines” on Christians, that’s contrary to My will and always leads to resentment and spiritual slavery. I came to deliver My people from the old Pharaoh of legalism, to lead them forth into the Promised Land of liberty in Christ.
No matter how “spiritual” some “spiritual discipline” or church tradition seems, fight with a vengeance to hang onto your liberty in Christ. Once you start depending on so-called good works to endear yourself to Me or to “stay on God’s good side”, you cease to rely on Jesus alone to BE ALL your Righteousness before a just and righteous God.
This doctrine of “going deeper” can mean just that: falling into a deep pit of satanic oppression, false guilt and discouragement through the beguiling entanglement of legalism.
Rightly divide My Word, My precious children. Things changed dramatically after the Cross. Peace with God ceased to be about what YOU could do for Me and changed to what I can do for you and in you through the merits and sacrifice of My dear Son the Lord Jesus.