Galatians 5:16–17 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
There is a war going on every day of your life. Scripture regards it as the battle that determines the course of your life. On one side is the “flesh.” The inner person you were born with. Yes, born with. No one taught you to be greedy, selfish, vain, idolatrous and uncooperative. That came naturally. As you grow older, you can curb those chaotic internal systems through discipline and cultural norms impressed onto you but ultimately most people end up playing the game of “mess management” whereby the darker shade of their nature is stowed away in the corners of their lives where no one can see. This is why you will regularly see the most “normal” people do the most destructive things to themselves and others. Instead of asking “How could they?” the more scripturally informed response would be, “Of course humans are capable of such things.”
On the other side is the Spirit. This is not YOUR spirit or your better nature. This is the Holy Spirit and therefore reserved for those who have confessed their sins and received God’s forgiveness through faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Now the Holy Spirit does in your life what He led the people of Israel to do in the Promised Land – little by little – drive out the occupying forces that are set in their ways and bent on destruction (see Exodus 23:30). The conquest of Canaan for ancient Israel is a type of our progress in Christian character formation. The key for us, as it was for Israel (which they failed to do – see Judges 2:1-5), is to keep fighting the spiritual battles before us.
1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV) I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Herein lies an important reason to fast. In fasting, we deny that part of our lives which often rules our determinations. Without thinking, the body places its regular and repeated demands upon us to be fed. Fasting tells the body it is not in charge. Now fasting brings pain. If you don’t feel them yet, you soon will. But as with all living things, the more they are denied what they demand, the more they grumble and complain. Do not give in. You are at war with the most destructive force on the planet – mankind’s internal nature.
That is what Paul says here in Galatians 5. He calls upon us to: “walk by the Spirit, and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What we eat will affect how we think, behave and live. Scientific studies have found out there are hundreds of millions of neurons in our digestive system which affect our mood and overall health. What God’s word says proves true again and again. You are what you eat in more ways than you realize.
Fasting gives the Holy Spirit far more effective influence over your life and will produce what you want. Notice that Paul says just that! In describing the internal battle, the flesh and Spirit war, “to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Fasting is for you, helping you restrain what is natural and inborn inside you so that the real you – the “you” that is presently hidden with Christ in God (see Colossians 3:3) will come through.
I hope this helps you stay strong in our Church’s corporate fast. Remember, we have prayer times tonight and tomorrow (6pm-8pm) in the sanctuary and then First Wednesday to celebrate God’s presence and anticipate God’s power for 2019.
If you lost or forgot or don’t have the Fasting bulletin and schedule, click here.