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New Year’s Training

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however,

it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace
for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

Five days ago I likened Jesus to a sensei, training his students in the gospel tao. But as it says above, such training seldom feels natural. Which is a problem for soft Westerners like ourselves, conditioned as we are to expect everything to come easy. Thankfully however, our Sensei has given us an exercise to help steel our character with the virtues befitting to his students. And the name of that exercise? Fasting.

When you fast, comb your hair and wash your face.

––Matthew 6:17

 

Funny how he just assumes we’ll be doing this. When you fast, not if. But what he’s assuming of us is something he himself has done. Fasting is a discipline that Jesus engaged in as he was directed by God’s Spirit into the wilderness for a period of forty days (Matthew 4:1-2). The voluntary self-deprivation of food and drink––it’s just about the most unnatural activity you could think of. Which is why it’s so fitting for disciples enslaved to the pleasant.

But what is the significance of fasting? It’s about making a statement to yourself and to God, that your hunger for righteousness, your thirst for his presence, is of a higher order than your animal appetite for food. And it’s a statement God honours.

He honoured it in Anna, that old woman who saw the infant Lord in the temple (Luke 2:37). He honoured it in the early Christians, who received specific direction from the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2). And he honoured it in his son, who was fortified against temptation and prepared for great deeds.

So in the week following the first Sunday of 2016, I invite you to join me in a voluntary fast. How long or how often is for you to decide, but please, if you consider yourself a part of Awaken, join your spirit to ours in making this statement. We want an eruption of God’s Spirit, and we want it more than food.

Now if you should choose to join us, some instruction as to the how is in order…

According to Jesus, when we fast, we shouldn’t be divas about it and find little ways to tip the world off, like moaning from the couch about hungry we are; instead we should do it in secret. Why? Because fasting, like the disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and giving money are between you and the one who rewards what is done in secret.

When you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

––Matthew 6:17-18

I’ll say more about this on Sunday, but for now, consider how you might join us next week in this secret training between us and our sensei.

Pastor Daren Redekopp

p.s. Have you or a friend ever wondered how to interpret Genesis 1? Have you been troubled by a supposed conflict between science and Scripture? On this first Sunday of 2016, we’ll go deep into the first chapter of Genesis, to discover the meaning of the seven days of creation. Who could you invite along?