Matt 6:16-18 Sermon on the Mount con’t
“Fasting helps to discipline the self-indulgent and slothful will which is so reluctant to serve the Lord, and it helps to humiliate and chasten the flesh.”
The life of a devote Christian is one of discipline.
Discipline is a life time practice, not just once in a while.
It’s like someone who competes in the Olympics, they don’t just discipline their bodies one day a week or on holidays, they train daily in order to compete in the Olympics.
We must take on that same mind frame and have rigorousness training in our walks with Christ.
Being a disciple is serious business. We must take it seriously and harness our flesh in order for God to be able to use us fully for His Kingdom.
“…if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ. When the flesh is satisfied it is hard to pray...or to devote oneself to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation.”
But it’s not enough to have an exterior show of discipline in Christ.
Our hearts reveal the true measure of who we are and what we serve.
Bonhoeffer points out that those who truly surrender their will to God are more acutely aware of much further they have to go, how much more they must discipline their body.
They understand they must die daily to self. They must train 24/7 because our spirits are willing but our flesh is weak. We must “Watch and pray” (Matt 26:41). This takes effort, more than most want to do.
“The spirit knows the right way, and desires to follow it, but the flesh lacks courage and finds it too hard, too hazardous and wearisome, and so it stifles the voice of the spirit.”
One way the flesh resists discipline is by claiming “liberty” and excusing our “self-indulgence and irregularity in prayer, in mediation and in our bodily life…We forget that discipleship means estrangement from the world.”
How can we be estranged from the world if we don’t ACTIVELY work out our faith?
Faith alone won’t keep us from the world. Jesus tells us to “WATCH AND PRAY”. Those are action words!
“…the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”
The words from Ephesians 6:12 NIV come to mind when I read Bonhoeffers words. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Spiritual warfare is real. Our spirits long to please God but our flesh wars with our spirit and often the flesh wins out.
Going against our flesh is like swimming upstream- not easy. It takes training to be able to swim against the currents of our society.
“How is it possible to live the life of faith when we grow weary of prayer, when we lose our taste for reading the Bible, and when sleep, food and sensuality deprive us of the joy of communion with God?”
Yes, the life of a disciple takes work, but the benefits are great! The fruit of the Spirit is one example.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25 NIV
Another way our flesh resists discipline is in being pious. Taking upon ourselves the work Christ accomplished on the cross in order for all to see our good works.
“Such publicity gives it the reward it seeks.”
If you struggle to understand why Christians fast and what the benefits are of fasting, I encourage you to read: “Awakening: A new approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom” by Stovall Weems.
1. What are other ways our flesh resists discipline?
2. How do you guard against the desires of the flesh?