On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting and some of the other spiritual disciplines.
Today, I want to look at the discipline of study. If we want to pray, meditate, prophecy, encourage others… we must study God’s word. As the alphabet is to writing, so the study of scripture is to serving God and others.
The diligence to which in which study is to be attended is shown in God’s command to His people,
‘Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’ (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)
Study gives us the landscape of the bible story from creation, fall, redemption to recreation. Study gives us knowledge of God. It gives us knowledge of salvation. It gives us knowledge of His will. No one can lead themselves or others without a devotion to bible-study.
This series in the sermon on the Mount has shown us the importance that Jesus placed on teaching. This section of teaching begins,
‘Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.’ (Matthew 5: 1-2)
Study is our purposefully coming to Jesus for Him to teach us. This is not some mystical or easy thing. This is diligently studying the words that He’s given to us in scripture. Paul wrote,
'Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ (Romans 12:2)
We ‘renew’ the mind by studying God’s word. Truth is powerful. Truth ‘sets us free’. When I think about the age that we, in Britain, have lived in for the last century of so, I think that we could summarise it as an attack on conventions. Conventions of faith, marriage, gender, work, morality, respect of authority… are being ripped apart because we are replacing the foundation of the Bible with no foundations. For many, there is no such thing as truth except what one chooses it to be.
This rootless approach to thinking can infect the church. Conventions of Bible study, how to pray, authority, marriage… are often based on our feelings rather than a careful ‘renewal of the mind’ in scripture.
Paul tells us to ‘think’ - to study - the truth,
‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ (Philippians 4:8)
i) Study in community
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ (Acts 2:42)
Firstly, the teaching and study of scripture is a central part of why the church meets together in larger and smaller settings.
ii) Study personally
Secondly, we are to study the Bible personally. Using the blogs that we produce, a study book, a study bible, a good podcast… there are lots of ways to study God’s word.
iii) Study in families
If you are a parent, it’s God’s will that you train and teach your children. This is not always easy, but it deserves our firm, loving tenacity. Simply reading a short piece of scripture together and discussing it is about as good a thing as you could do. However, I suggest that you talk to a Christian leader in the church if you need any advice.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - WHEN YOU FAST
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Do you have any funny stories regarding food?
Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting as it is combined with prayer.
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting when accompanied by prayer.
Fasting, for many, is a mysterious or even a scary subject. The devil wants to discourage us from true prayer and fasting because of the power that it releases.
Please read Matthew 6:5-18
i) When you fast
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus includes fasting alongside giving and prayer. We are to must assume that, like these, fasting is an essential part of the Christian life.
Jesus expects his disciples to fast. Jesus makes it clear that there is a reward if we do it as He directs.
Jesus teaches us how not to fast - for a show. This perversion can easily infect any spiritual practice. I’m told that the Pharisees often had a practice of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. These were market days and so their spiritual devotion would receive greater attention.
Jesus teaches that our fasting is for God alone. We fast so as to focus on Him rather than in order for people to focus on us!
ii) What is fasting?
Fasting, strictly, is going without food for a set about of time in order to pray. Other kinds of fasts from delicacies or distractions can also be also be implemented.
Fasting helps us in two main ways:
Firstly, If you go without food for any time you will quickly realise your weakness and dependence upon God.
Secondly, fasting also frees up the time spent in preparing and eating, for prayer.
There are a number of reasons - ill health, pregnancy… - as to why it would not be wise to fast from food. However, we can fast from entertainment, social media etc. In fact, when you are fasting food, I encourage you to remove these distractions also.
The average person spends around 1 hour 50 minutes on social media and 4 hours watching video on demand each day! That’s a lot of potential prayer time!
iii) It’s time to fast.
Jesus said about the church in this age,
‘…The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.’ (Matthew 9:15)