THE WORDS OF JESUS
Creative, Causative, Prophetic, Instructional – Part 21
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
The Words of Jesus, Matthew 6:16-18
Here, Jesus is telling us about religion versus true worship of and prayer, to God. Fasting is a mysterious act of worship and prayer. There is no doubt that when entering into the presence of God with worship and prayer, the eternal battle between our flesh and our spirit erupts, pride being the great enemy of our soul. Scriptures tell us that God hates pride and opposes the proud, and that fasting is our remedy for taming and humbling the passions of our flesh and soul when approaching God. The Psalmist (Psalms 35) tells us he humbles his soul (nephesh), the appetites, emotions and passions of his flesh, with fasting.
The Apostle Paul also talks about this struggle between the flesh and the spirit, in Romans 7:21-24, when he says, “So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Jesus instructs us that ”when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.” I admit that I don’t fully understand why ‘praying in secret’ and ‘practicing your righteousness privately’ is necessary to obtain God’s reward, except that it is probable that our fleshly attitudes and passions have a direct effect on our spiritual life. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life”. Another way of saying this is “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
It is as if Jesus is drawing a line for us, separating the spiritual world, where all things originate, from the natural world, where all things are made manifest, showing us where we must live and breathe and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
It is almost like the function of a boiler producing heat. If the boiler has ‘leaks’, the steam and pressure necessary to produce heat is dissipated, and the boiler is only lukewarm and good for little more than vapor. But if the steam and pressure is contained, hidden away, focused on the internal workings of the boiler, the power to produce heat for the entire house is created. The ‘leaks’ are fissures of emotions, pride and self-glorification. The containment is ‘spiritual disciplines’ focused on worshiping, praying and serving God alone. This is how spiritual power is built; this is when the reward is revealed.
Jesus is teaching us a deep and important spiritual truth. It will be found only by a few who remember that we are not of this world (John 17:16), but that we are of His Kingdom. We have been adopted as heirs of heaven by God Himself, and that is where our citizenship is (Titus 3:7). This is where our power lies. This is where our reward resides.
Your Brother and Friend,
NEXT: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part 22, “Laying up treasures…”