A New Life

Friday, August 22, 2014, 3:18 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Songs in the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 2:18-22 (NIV).

Why fast?

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

People fast for many different reasons. Recently I had some medical examinations which required fasting, i.e. abstaining from food and drink (except water) for a specified period of time. Some people fast during times of mourning. Others fast during times when they want to entreat the Lord in prayer concerning a specific need or urgent request. As well, fasting can involve the temporary abstaining from many different things in this world in order to focus our attention solely on our Lord, and as a means of drawing closer to him.

Fasting was a customary religious practice under the Old Covenant for the purpose of mourning, repentance, calling upon the Lord in prayer, entreating the Lord, and in order to hear from the Lord. Yet, it was possible for the people to fast merely as a religious ritual, but with no true heart for God at all. Isaiah 58 speaks to this issue when Isaiah was called upon by God to speak to his people concerning their rebellion. They were fasting, and they gave the appearance of people who were seeking God, eager to know his ways, as though they were a people who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and as though they had not forsaken his ways. During their fast they asked God for just decisions, and seemed eager for God to come near them, but it was all for show; mere formality.

The people were going through the ritual of fasting, yet their religious practice made no real impact on their lives. They still did whatever they pleased – exploiting people, quarreling, and fighting with others. And God was not pleased. So, he let them know the kind of fasting he approved of. He wanted them to set the oppressed free from yokes and chains of bondage, oppression and injustice. His desire for them was that they would feed the hungry and give shelter to the poor wanderer; to clothe those in need of clothing, and to care for their own flesh and blood. Yet, this is not to say that fasting is a bad thing, especially if it is sincere, and if it is producing good spiritual fruit. Yet, we must be careful here lest we think that religious practice alone of any kind gets God’s approval absent of true heart change.

Close to You

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

Jesus was speaking of himself here as the bridegroom, and of his followers as his guests (NIV/ESV). Literally this should read, “Sons of the bride-chamber,” not “guests of the bridegroom.” A chamber is a room. It could be a private room, such as a bedroom. The bride-chamber contained the bridal bed and/or it was the room in which marriage ceremonies were held. A son is a descendent. We are all “sons” of God through faith in Jesus Christ. A son is an heir. We are heirs of God through faith in Christ (See: Ro. 8:17). We are born into God’s family through faith in Christ (i.e. via the marriage bed; the marriage ceremony), so I believe this is speaking of the disciples as sons of God through their faith in Jesus Christ. [Ref: http://biblehub.com/interlinear/mark/2-19.htm.]

Jesus’ disciples (his followers) had their bridegroom right there with them, alive and in person, so there was no reason for them to mourn. Yet, a time was coming when he would be taken from them, and then would be the time to mourn. A time was coming when he would be arrested, falsely accused, given a mock trial, beaten, spat upon, mocked and then hung on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong. Yet, he would not remain in the grave. He would rise again, as he told his disciples on numerous occasions.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he took upon himself the sins of the entire world. He crucified and buried our sins with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he conquered death, hell, Satan and sin. Amen! Then, he ascended back to heaven, and he sent his Holy Spirit, as promised, to indwell the lives of his followers (the sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ). When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are crucified with Christ to the sins which once enslaved us, we are reborn spiritually into God’s family, and we are given new lives in Christ Jesus our Lord to be lived out in the power and working of the Spirit within us, with us walking daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness.

As I was considering this idea of fasting as abstaining from many different things in this world in order to focus our attention solely on our Lord, and as a means of drawing closer to him, the thought came to mind that this is what our relationship with our Lord should be like all the time, not just temporarily. So, in a sense, when Jesus Christ was with his disciples in the flesh, they were close to him, because they followed him everywhere. Yet, with him now in heaven, and even though we have his Spirit within us, it is easy for us to get distracted or drawn into the things of this world and for us to lose that closeness with our Lord. So we must daily have a spiritual fast in which we lay aside or throw off those things which hinder our walks with the Lord so that we can draw near to him.

Old and New

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

I am no seamstress and I have no knowledge of wineskins, so I will not attempt here to explain these things. Yet, I do believe God has given me an understanding of what is meant here by these two illustrations, and I believe it is two-fold:

First of all, the question was asked as to why, if the Pharisees and John’s disciples fasted, Jesus’ disciples did not fast. I believe this fasting represented the old system, which the Pharisees thought Jesus and his disciples should follow. Yet, Jesus was bringing in the new system, i.e. he was the fulfillment of their prophecies of old concerning the promised Messiah of the people. He was the embodiment of the kingdom of heaven, and he had arrived. He was bringing in the new way of the cross, and the new way of God’s grace and redemption through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for our sins. I believe he was telling them that he was not an addition (like the patch of un-shrunk cloth) to the old system, but he was a new way all by itself (new wine in new wineskins). It is not the law plus Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. By faith in him alone we have salvation from sin.

Secondly, I believe the old garment and the old wineskins not only represent the Old Covenant and/or the Law, but I believe they also represent our old lives of sin. We cannot put Jesus Christ, in the person of his Spirit, into our old sinful lives. He is not an add-on. He is a replacement for our old lives of living for self and sin. That is why he died. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him (See 2 Co. 5:15). When we become Christians by faith in Jesus Christ, he doesn’t just clean up our old lives a little at a time, as many would like to believe, but he radically transforms (via metamorphosis) our lives. He delivers us from slavery to our old lives of living for self and sin, and he sets us free to walk in his Spirit, living lives given over to God in submission to his will, and living to please him.

So, I believe there is a caution here to make sure we have not just added Jesus on to our old lives, because if we have, the two will eventually separate, such as in the parable of the sower where the second heart response to the Word was to receive it with joy, but it never took root, and so when persecution came, the person jumped ship. I also believe there is a caution here against following religious systems and practices which we think are going to make us more spiritual, but then for us to still end up living our lives for ourselves, doing what we want. What good is it to fast (deny yourself food) for a short period of time so you can pray and draw near to God if, once the fast is over, you go right back to business as usual? God doesn’t want that kind of fasting. He wants the kind that is there all the time, and that doesn’t just add him on to our old lives, but which allows him to put our sins to death (our old lives of living for sin) so that we can live new lives by faith in him.

Songs in the Night / An Original Work / December 18, 2013

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
And the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84

Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.

I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!

Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.

I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!

Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.

Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!