Photo by blitzkrieg on Morgue File.
I thought I would make another post concerning Lent. One of the traditions of the observance of Lent is to sacrifice something during this time. Some people give up caffeine for Lent. Others give up sugar. Some will give up watching a favorite TV show (but, I think they DVR it, so I’m not sure if that meets the letter of the law or not!).
I know one lady who gives up her Starbucks Mochappiuccino, or whatever it is she orders there every morning!
Our next pericope in Mark is 2. 18-22. It is a passage that deals with the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is one of those disciplines that seems to be neglected by most; at least by those of the evangelical ilk. I am not saying it never happens, but I would venture to say it is quite rare.
However, fasting is an important spiritual discipline. It is one we can practice along with prayer, meditation and scripture reading . . . along with others.
There is a difference of course between simply skipping a meal or two and fasting: that is to say, fasting as a spiritual discipline. Of course, one may have to fast for medical reasons; such as, before tests or the like.
However, what we are speaking of here is fasting as a spiritual discipline. In this case, fasting is more than simply skipping lunch or dinner. It is a sacrifice of eating for the purpose of religious observance and meditation.
That is to say, a person willingly gives up food (or whatever it may be) for a specified amount of time, in order to pray, meditate and seek the Lord. It is an intentional sacrifice, a denial of our base needs physically, for a short time, in order to focus on our spiritual man or woman.
It is very much a practice to heighten a believer’s awareness of God’s presence in them and around them. It lends itself to helping us live out the charge of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4. 16-18:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Co. 4. 16-18, ESV)
Fasting then helps us to focus more on those things which are unseen. Those things which are undetectable by our physical eyes and perception. Such spiritual perception must be practiced and honed through discipline and commitment. Such perception is not natural to us.
As a natural man or woman (i.e. lost and apart from God) we naturally see and focus only on those things that are natural: those things that pertain to this life and world. That is our nature. That is all we know.
However, when one is born again (or, born from above) that person becomes a new creature (or creation) (cf. 2 Co. 5. 17). So then, our perceptions must shift. We must train ourselves, with the help and working of the Holy Spirit, to reorient our priorities, views and perceptions.
We must seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (cf. Ro. 12. 1-2). Be sure, this endeavor is not natural.
And, as someone recently pointed out to me, it is not only a time to sacrifice something; but also, to add something. That is to say, I may sacrifice my morning cup of Joe and fill in its place extra Scripture reading. Or, I may give up my Sportscenter in the evenings and replace it with extra prayer and meditation.
What’s most important, of course, is seeking the Lord and concentrating on him during this season. It is a time that lends (pardon the pun!) itself to weighty theological reflection and meditation. A time to search the Scriptures in reference to Christ and his humility and sacrifice for us.
I pray God will bless you as you seek him and your understanding of his grace and love, through his Son, will grow and mature.