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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Fasting, A Spiritual Weapon

Allen Jackson - Fasting, A Spiritual Weapon

Allen Jackson - Fasting, A Spiritual Weapon
TOPICS: Fasting, Spiritual warfare

It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is fasting as a spiritual weapon. You know, there is a spiritual conflict that has engulfed our world. It's not just your community or our nation. It's taking place all over the world, and the church has a vital role to play in this. Our assignment is more than simply to file into a building on the weekend and celebrate a 90-minute worship service. We've been asked to take a place in the eternal kingdom of God to be difference-makers in this generation. To do that, we're gonna need to understand the tools that have been put at our disposal. We've been focused too long on a personal salvation. I believe in that, but that's not the whole story. We've been brought into the kingdom of God to make a difference with our journey through time. Well, we're gonna explore some of those principals in this session, and hopefully give you an invitation to be a difference-maker in your own family system. God bless you. Enjoy the lesson.

You know, methods change, from season to season and time to time and age to age. Principles never do. Principles don't change, and we need to understand the principle of sacrifice. I tell you that because when I talk to you about fasting, I wanna acknowledge on the front end, fasting is a sacrifice. This is not easy, it's not convenient, it doesn't feel good, it's not gonna be driven by carnal satisfaction or pleasure or happiness. I'm asking you to consider a decision that will go against all of those things, we don't make many of those decisions these days. We're not asked to make, we don't even ask our children to make them or our grandchildren. We want somebody else to make the sacrifice and give us the benefit. And if our decisions cause us to end up in a place that's difficult, we would rather somebody else make the sacrifice to get us out of the difficulty that our decisions caused. And until we change that fundamental deviation from truth, we're stuck.

Are we willing to make a sacrifice to get to a better place? It's an important question. It's a very important question. So fasting is a sacrifice to the Lord. We're gonna focus on Daniel. Daniel led a life of sacrifice in so many, many ways. Many of you know his story, Daniel spent his life as a slave in Babylon. He is an Israelite, but the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC. And the Babylonians had a habit, they would take some of the brightest and best young people from the conquered nations and take them back to serve as courtiers in the service of the king. And Daniel and some of his friends were recruited into that group. Now, that sounds like a unique opportunity, but there's a little nugget of ancient near eastern history that would perhaps be helpful. If you're gonna be in the service of the king, the men were typically required to become eunuchs. It was a prerequisite for service.

So when we meet Daniel in the opening chapters of the book that bears his name, he has suffered not only the humiliation of the destruction of his nation and his capital city and the destruction of the temple, he has suffered physically. I think it's an important idea for us right now. Gender alteration's not a new thing, folks. The struggle that we're watching take place in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our medical community and amongst us, this is not a new thing. It's been a part of the human civilization and the story for a long, long time, but throughout history, gender alteration has been understood as a punishment, a form of mutilation.

Now sometimes with a purpose, but it was understood in those terms. My father was a veterinarian, I grew up around animals. When animals are neutered, its generally for two reasons. One; to prohibit reproduction, or to reduce their aggression. Men and women are created with unique abilities and designed for unique contributions. Our children are being subjected to propaganda, which leads them to confusion and frustration, and it's not coming from the Spirit of God. There are some powerful voices in our public education system, that have the arrogance to declare that parents don't need to be notified as their children are being influenced to make these kind of decisions. That's insane. It's inappropriate. We have to use our voices and our influence to protect the children, not just our children, but to protect the children.

I have tremendous compassion on anyone who is confused at something as fundamental as that issue. I don't mean to make light of it. And for the families, and there are many families in our churches that are struggling with it, because the children are being immersed in it on a daily basis. It doesn't emerge just from psychology, and our scientific community can't with a clear conscience sign off on that, it's not good data. But the church has been more silent than anybody. So before we're agitated about anybody else, we're gonna have to help one another. We're afraid to say that our children are having those struggles because we're not sure it's safe within the Christian community to talk about it. We've hidden immorality and ungodliness, and we haven't held biblical standards of human sexuality, so when those issues emerge, we stand with our guilt and our shame silently. We've got to humble ourselves.

If we will repent for our own ungodliness and receive the forgiveness, we can walk with one another as we face these challenges, but we cannot surrender our children to this horrific thing. We simply cannot. So in Daniel chapter 1, we're gonna begin to understand what this sacrifice of fasting means, and the impact it can have. You're gonna have to listen quickly. I'm not gonna read all of those verses to you. In Daniel 1 and verse 8 it says, "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way". Daniel, as a good observant Jewish man, understood that a part of his honoring the Lord had to do with his diet. Today we would call it keeping kosher, but there's a whole set of dietary rules that the observant Jewish people kept then and they keep until today.

If you visit Jerusalem today, it's a Kosher city. If you stay in a Jewish hotel or eat in a Jewish restaurant, you'll have to observe the Kosher rules, and they'll have to observe those rules in their kitchen. You can't cook meat and dairy in the same utensils, you can't serve them on the same plates, and the Rabbis inspect the kitchens and the restaurants. So we find Daniel in Babylon, his heart has to be torn into all kinds of pieces. His city's been destroyed, his people humiliated, the temple's gone, he has suffered physically, and now he's standing being prepared to serve this pagan king. He has every right reason, every imagined right to be angry at God, to be resentful, to be embittered, to be a skeptic, to question his faith, and he doesn't make any of those choices. He could have indulged himself on the lavish food of the Babylonians, and the alcohol that would've come with it, and he said, "I choose not to do that. May I have permission to eat a plain diet, a simple diet".

Now, the man's permission he needs, his life will be, he'll be executed if the people in his charge don't flourish. So he's a little anxious, and he said, "I'll give you a ten day test, and if at the end of 10 days you look as healthy as the rest of the people, then you can persist with your choices around food". So at the end of ten days, there's an inspection, it's in your notes. Verse 15, "At the end of ten days, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and he gave them vegetables instead". Now watch verse 17, "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds".

God responded to them because they chose to make a sacrifice. They didn't choose indulgence, they didn't choose their rights, they didn't feel entitled. "We've suffered so much, our people have suffered so much, let's use pleasure to numb the pain". Folks, we are addicted to the pursuit of pleasure, we all know that. We don't all have chemical addictions, but we've all learned ways to numb the dissatisfaction or unhappiness or displeasure, and Daniel chose to honor God. It's time for the church to make a similar choice. It is. He said, "I'll eat a simple diet". It's come to be known as a Daniel fast, it's not a complete abstinence from food, but it's an abstinence from those foods that are most satisfying, most pleasing to you. "God, I'll make that sacrifice for a period of time, I'll eat a simpler diet".

We're gonna talk about some expressions of fasting in a minute. But Daniel's willingness to sacrifice in seeking the Lord proved to be a part of his preparation. God could give him what he needed him to give for the very next chapter of the story, quite literally. He's included with the wise men, the astrologers, and the enchanters of Babylon. And the king has a dream and he can't remember it, many of you remember the story. And the king said, "Well, if you can't tell me what my dream was and tell me the interpretation, I'm gonna kill you". And his wise-man said, "That's not fair". And he said, "Maybe, but I'm gonna kill you". So they come to tell Daniel he needs to make his preparations, that tomorrow's execution day. And he asks why? And he says, "Well, give me until in the morning and I'll tell the king what his dream was".

Can you imagine? It's in your notes. Daniel accepts the assignment, it's Daniel 2. "Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends". Don't you know they were happy about that? They're sharing it apart, but he rolls back in. There's three of them there, he said, "I got some good news. The king was gonna kill everybody, but I told him we would tell him his dream". Can you imagine the looks, like, "You told him what? You'd said we would do what, exactly? And if we don't"? We need some courage, church. Somebody's told us that we could hide at a church building for a few minutes on a Sunday morning and sit there numbly while we sang our favorite music and then we could go out and live like the devil and God would move heaven and earth to help us, they lied to us. We're gonna have to have the courage to stand up for what's right, even if it costs us something, even if it costs us a profit or an invitation.

That's the truth, this is our season. What's gonna be said of the the church in the 21st century? I pray that the courage of Almighty God fills our hearts. Daniel went home and he told his friends, "Fellas, we probably should pray". "He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men in Babylon". They're eating a simple diet, now they gotta stay up all night. "We're gonna pray all night". "During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision". You were pretty quiet about that. If you're gonna be executed tomorrow and God gave you the mystery in the middle of the night, I bet you'd go, "Praise the Lord". "Oh, hallelujah. God answered my prayer. I was a skeptic and I didn't believe in miracles, but now maybe I will believe". No, I think our response will be a little different, don't you?

Now, watch Daniel's response, it intrigues me. "During the night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven". Listen to his understanding of God. He's speaking to us across several centuries from a very painful place. "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever. Wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and he deposes them". What would happen if we believed what Daniel believed? If we believe that God changes times and seasons, that he raises up leaders, and he puts them down. "He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you've made known to me what we asked of you, you've made known to us the dream of the king".

He spent the night seeking God, God responded with a revelation of the king's dream and its interpretation. It's his expression of thanksgiving that intrigues me. His understanding of the character of God and the nature of God. In spite of the defeat of Jerusalem, in spite of the failure of his people, in spite of being in a very minority position, I'm certain both when he was in the land of Israel and certainly now that he's in the land of Babylon, his confidence in God has remained. Folks, we've been looking for the wrong, we don't have to have a majority, we have to know who we believe in. We got to grow up a little bit.

Now, Daniel presents the dream and in the interpretation, it's so good. I think you need to hear these verses. "They took Daniel to the king at once and said, 'I have found a man among the exiles who can tell the king what his dream". Don't you know they hurried him in there, they're all about to get executed. "We found one chump that'll tell you he thinks he can do this. Hurry him in there. Sure, push him, maybe the king will be mad at him". So in Daniel goes, "The king asked Daniel, 'Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and to interpret it?'" Listen to Daniel's response, this is beautiful. "No wise man, no enchanter, no magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries".

Folks, we gotta believe there's a God in heaven, but it's not enough to believe it, we have to live like it. We have to act like it and order our calendars accordingly and spend our resources accordingly and make our choices accordingly. Daniel said, "There's a God in heaven. And he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Here's your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed". The boldness of Daniel. That king kills people like you pick vegetables. And he stands before him and he said, "None of your wise men can do this, but there is a God in heaven". We've been talking a lot lately about leading with our faith, I think Daniel goes to the head of the line. We would've, you know, "Well, God, I don't wanna be presumptuous or, king, I don't wanna be arrogant or, you know, I'm not exactly sure what I could say, but peace be with you". No, Daniel had a different response. And watch the king's response.

Chapter 2 and verse 45, "The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy". That's Daniel's summary statement. Talk about a little, at that point, he's found his rhythm. God told you what's gonna happen, the dream is true and my interpretation, you can trust it. "King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before the Lord, paid him honor ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. And the king said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.' Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him rule over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men". Benefits emerged from Daniel's choices.

Do you remember where his choices began? With a fast, with a sacrifice, with self-deprivation, and then with a willingness to seek God and a willingness to stand in the public square and say, "I believe there's a God and his way is right". And then the honor of God came to him. Most of us would be happy to be having the parade with the blessings, but we've been a little reluctant to do the things that precede that. It's such an important, such an important idea. I wanna give you the New Testament perspective for just a moment, and I'll give you the shorthand 'cause our time's about up. It's about self-denial. Again, it's a message that we've heard little in the church, we've kind of misplaced it. In Luke chapter 9 and verse 23, Jesus is speaking, and this is repeated in three of the four Gospels. He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". That's Jesus's instruction. "If anybody would follow me, you have to take up your cross, deny yourself daily".

Did you know that self-denial is a part of being a Christ follower? Not self-indulgence. The New Testament warns us about other gospels that will come, there's a lot of self-indulgent messaging. Now, I'm not against good food or nice clothes, I prefer comfortable over inconvenient. I don't try to create opportunities to suffer, enough of those will find you. Having said that, I purposely make choices on a regular basis that require me to say no to that desire for self-gratification. We can't always choose the easy way or the comfortable way or the convenient way, you don't in the pursuit of the things you care about. If your pursuit is some hobby that you have, you'll do things that are uncomfortable in order to pursue the hobby. If your objective is to accumulate resources, you understand you'll have to sacrifice to do that.

Why is it with our faith we've lost this notion? Self-denial has been overlooked in our pursuit of our faith. It's essential for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. Self-control is listed as one of the nine fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness. We say Jesus is all about love, he's also all about self-control. Isn't that a happy assignment? Hmm. Jesus fasted. in Matthew 4, we're told he fasted for 40 days. Jesus anticipated his disciples would fast, in Matthew 6, he said, "When you fast". His assumption is those who followed him would fast, that we would forego food in pursuit of God. The disciples in the early church practiced fasting, it was a part of their corporate behavior, not just their individual behavior.

Now, approaches to fasting are as diverse as we are a group of people, they are as diverse as our fashion sense. There's not a singular way to do this. There's not one way that's more right and one way that's less right. We can talk about fasting in terms of food, that's perhaps the most obvious. That's when we have a restricted or a limited diet in some way. When we were kids at home, we would take summer projects. One summer we fasted, no caffeine, no sugar, we just drank water with our meals for kids, that was a pretty good sacrifice. That's back before water was cool. We didn't sell it in all kinds of funky shaped bottles and swear that it came from the polar ice cap, and it had come from some unpolluted spring in Fiji, we got our water out of the tap, that good ol' Tennessee limestone with a little fluoride thrown in there. Maybe you wanna miss a meal, take a meal that matters to you, don't skip the meal that you don't eat.

Have enough integrity to be honest with yourself and with the Lord, and use the time you'd normally spend around that meal praying, reading your Bible, talking to the Lord. If you do a meal and it's at work, maybe there's a coworker who's a believer and you pull them in to include you. If you have children at home, you can invite your children to participate with you. Now, you can configure this just about any way you can imagine. Maybe you don't eat until after sundown. You do what makes the most sense for your health and your routine, but make a sacrifice.

Now, there's other sacrifices you can make that I think can equally be imagined as a part of a fast, some self-denial in pursuit of God. Maybe no social media for 24 hours. Most of you'd rather give up food. Maybe no TV or internet. Prioritize seeking God before something you enjoy. Say, "I'm gonna put God before the concert I wanted to go to or the weekend at the lake, or", rearrange your priorities. Have an honest conversation with yourself about what a sacrifice for the Lord would look like, and put it into some sort of a time constraint. I'm not talking about forever, but recognize I'm gonna take a season, and make an effort towards the Lord. Make a sacrificial gift of your time, or your energy, or your resources. Not the convenience, not the leftover, not the abundance that doesn't matter.

You know, "I had some extra time, or I got off work a little early, or it's raining and I couldn't go do what I wanted to do". Make a sacrifice, you're not gonna con God. I promise he's at least as smart as we are, or we're in real trouble. So you ask the Lord what that would look like. Maybe talk to your small group or your friend group or talk about it at home. We're gonna have to learn to prioritize God before other things. This is not a natural response, it's not intuitive, it is cultivated. Seeking God is a life-altering discipline. It worked for Daniel and his friends, it'll work for you and for me. It begins with a personal choice to seek the Lord. It results in responses from God which transform lives. The challenge is to develop the discipline of seeking God.

Let's not just celebrate what Daniel did, let's decide to become 21st century versions of the story. Hmm. The pursuit of God can become incorporated into your awareness, as much as any personal hygiene habit, or any choices you're familiar with that bring personal gratification to you. We've just pushed it to the periphery so it seems odd to us or strange to us. It should be built into the routine of our lives. It's the people we are. We live under the sun to be pleasing to the Creator of all things, because one day we will give an account to him, not just for our personal salvation, but the influence of our lives. On our watch, did his kingdom come and was his will done in the earth as it is in heaven? That's what Jesus told us to pray about. You're ready for that? Me too.

Fasting is an expression of a desire to seek God. It's a way to put a tangible face on something you feel in your heart. I wanna pray that the Spirit of God will lead you in how you can seek God in a tangible way for a breakthrough in your life. Let's pray:

Father, thank you that the Holy Spirit is our helper, he's our guide. That you bring the direction we need. I pray for every person listening that you will give them the specific assignment you have for 'em. I thank you that you've empowered us to make a difference in our generation, and I thank you in advance for the outcome, in Jesus's name, amen.

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