Fasting: The Paradigm of the Disciplines

Dallas Willard Part 3 of 11

Dallas Willard teaches through a variety of disciplines at the church where he, as he later admitted, got his start as a Christian teacher.

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Dallas: . . . come to you. We are glad to know that the Spirit of truth is near to us. We are glad to have been touched by Him and to know that so many in this room have come into a living contact with you and are born of the Spirit and know what it is like to be moved and prompted by the Holy Ghost.

We pray that this evening that you will see us through the blood of your Son, the Lord Jesus, that you will treat us as those that are brought to life from the dead by your power; that you will inspire us in the literal sense of the term. Breathe into us your Spirit, clear our minds and direct our ways that we might clearly see how to walk in the path of your Son, the Lord Jesus our Lord. We ask that on His behalf, counting on Him for assistance. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. [00:53]

Now, I really want to begin with what I left off from last time. This is an important connection in our study and I would like to go right back to the 7th chapter of Romans for a few moments and lead over in the course of about fifteen minutes into a discussion in fasting.

So, if you will, please turn to the 7th chapter of Romans with me and we will begin reading with verse 17, and this is the statement that is so crucial for us understanding the literal sense of Paul’s admonition to “put off the old man” and to “put on the new man.” And as I say again, it’s so important for us to understand that the experiences that are talked about in the Bible are the very kinds of experiences, which we are supposed to have. They make psychological sense and when Paul tells us to put off, to change the language, “the old woman” and put on “the new woman,” “the old man” and put on “the new man,” he’s telling us there is something very definite for us to do.

If someone were to say, “Tie your shoe,” you wouldn’t think of combing your hair because tying your shoe is a very definite kind of thing, isn’t it? And it takes us a while to come to the place to where we could believe possibly that when Paul says, “Put off the old man and put on the new,” he is telling us something that’s very definite and what I am saying to you is that in this absolutely central verse—Romans 7:17—“Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” You are seeing the expression of that resolve, which constitutes putting on the new man and putting off the old: you disowning the old man. You are saying, “That’s not me. That’s sin.” [3:17]

Now, I mentioned last time and I want to reiterate, we are so tempted to read this verse as if somehow it would make a nice excuse for doing what we wanted to do, but you’ve got to understand that Paul is talking in a context where you are not concerned to do what you want to do. You’ve had your fill of sin. He’s sick of it.

You read the 7th chapter of Romans and you will see the realization of what sin does. Oh, he says, the things I would do, I can’t do and the things that I would not do, that I do. (“For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”—Romans 7:19) In plain English, that’s a mess. You don’t want to live like that. You’ve had it with sin.

One of the things you have to get over is the idea that somehow sin would be nice if we could just get away with it. You see that’s a terrible mistake. It would be just awful if you can’t get away with it. It wouldn’t be nice if you could get away with it and to disown it and to come to the place to where we cry out, “Oh, God, that is not me” is an act of faith. [4:30]

You see if you’d read this trying to get some doctrine of justification and who’s saved when out of it, it will totally confuse you. You can read 35 commentaries that weigh a ton a piece on this and one of the main ways of spending, if not wasting time in a lot of theological courses is trying to figure out, was Paul was saved in the 7th chapter of Romans? Or did he get saved when he slipped over there to the 8th chapter, right? [5:00]

This is not talking about a theological doctrine of justification. This is talking about a course of experience in which people become conformed to the image of Christ and if you haven’t heard it up to now, please hear it now. Experience and doctrine are not the same thing. You can have your head filled full of doctrine and no experience and you can also have a lot of experience and no doctrine. I’ll tell you, either one of them when you take them by their selves are not much good. You’ve got to have both of them.

What Paul is talking about here is working through the process of growth in Christ and he comes to the place to where he says, “I am sick of this stuff that’s in my members. I am so sick of it that I am going to say that’s not me. It will not be me by the grace of God, I will not have it be me.” And again, that’s not theology. That’s a person struggling as they do what Paul said when he said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God that worketh in you both to will and do His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12-13) Work it out! [6:32]

And we have to say, salvation is something that is not OF works but you’ve got to work it out and if you don’t believe that, the New Testament will be a closed book to you and you will have a few nice doctrines and I really hope they manage to get you in the Pearly Gates. I really do. I’d like to see everyone go to Heaven and if it’s left up to me, I won’t keep anyone out, okay? But you’ve got to realize that there is a lot more to it than that and that the substance of life in Christ is what Paul is talking about. [7:09]

Now, watch how he goes on. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Romans 7:18) What did Jesus say to Peter? Anyone remember when Peter was asleep? “ . . . the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. . . .” “ . . . the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak . . . ” (Matthew 26:41)

And, again we have to understand that that is a diagnosis of Peter’s condition; that’s not a way of crushing him by saying, “You dirty dog, Peter, why’d you let me down?” Jesus is just analyzing his condition. “Peter, you’ve got a willing Spirit, too bad about your flesh.” That’s what Paul is saying here; in my flesh dwells no good thing because I’ve got a will that’s present with me, but how to perform. (Romans 7:18) [8:04]

I wish you would circle in your Bible those little words—how to perform. How do you do that? How to perform; and I’ll tell you, in order to do that, you’ve got to have your members transformed and then of course, you have to ask, “How do you do that?”—And that’s what this course is all about and by the time you get done, you’ll know. OK? We are even going to start talking about it in more detail tonight.

“For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:19) Now again, he repeats it. “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law . . . ”—here’s the summary—I find a principle, a regular sequence of events—“ . . . that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7:20-21) [8:55]

Have you found that law? Did you ever find that? When I would do good, evil is present, isn’t it? Hmmm? “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:22-23) Is where? “. . . in my members . . .” and you better believe that when Paul says that he means to say something literally true. He is talking about something that is in your members. It’s in your body. It’s right there. “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God . . .” [Romans 7:24-25) and he goes on to say how it will be done. [9:44]

Now, if you talk to a person who is addicted to heroin and you talk to them about what happens when they don’t get their dosage, you will find that they suffer immense pain and disease in their members and it is in their members. If you talk to a person who is troubled with alcohol or who is incapable of controlling their sexual feelings and actions, a person who can’t keep from stealing, you will find that in all of these cases, they involve feelings that are in the members. The problem is how to get it from the inward man, Paul says, “thy inward man delights in the law.”—how to get it from the inward man to the body. How do you get it there? That’s our problem.

Now, I want to address one response to this, which I think it’s awfully important to talk about because in a sense, it’s true and in a sense, it’s false. A person who is overwhelmed with fear or guilt or drug addiction or any of the millions of other kinds of addictions that become a part of us is apt to say when they have met Christ and have made a confession of faith, they are apt to say things like “Well, all I need to do is trust God.” Well, that’s true; IF they could trust God, that would be all right but it’s false because to know that it would be all right if you could trust God is not all the same as trusting God. And the question is how do you get to where you trust God? [11:39]

Now, how do you get to where you trust God not just in the inner man? How do you get to where you trust God in your feet? And in your hands and in your stomach? In the backs of your shoulders and your neck? How do you get to where you trust God and your trust is something that so flows through your mind and body that you are like a kitten that has never been kicked: you just really trust God. How do you get there? So it is important to say that it is both true and false to say that all I need to do is trust God. It is true if you could do it. But, it is false because the question remains, how do you come to the place to where you trust God?

Now, the general answer to that is you come to that place by a course of experience in which you learn how to trust God. You have learned how to mistrust God. The whole world system has taught you how to do that. You breathed it in as a little child. You learned how to mistrust God; you learned how to mistrust practically everyone. Isn’t that true? The hardest thing, possibly in the world is to trust. And of course, one of the reasons why it is so hard to trust is in the world we live in, we have every reason to mistrust. That poignant passage in Isaiah 59, I believe it is where he’s describing the condition of Israel at that time and then he says, “He that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey.” (Isaiah 59:15) [13:31]

In other words, you are just asking to get it in the neck. How many people have I talked to in all walks of life who will say to me, “If I don’t lie a little, if I don’t do this, if I don’t do this, I am at a terrible disadvantage.” Hmmm? You know what I am talking about. You KNOW what I am saying. “If I don’t cut the corners here, if I don’t disobey a little bit there, I am at a terrible disadvantage.” This is true for young people. “If I don’t just live a little loosely with sex, I’m going to be left out.” At all walks and all levels of life, the temptation comes.

Now, I want to say that, in general there are many, many parts of our experience, which we cannot choose, okay? In other words, as we go through the process of experience which moves us toward the place where the flesh is willing and the Spirit is strong. That’s where we want to go now. Where the flesh is willing and the Spirit is strong. As we move in that direction, there are many, many, many things which happen over which we have no choice—our jobs, our families, what our loved ones do—millions of things—the earthquakes that hit, the wars and so on. We have no choice over those. So, that has to be very clear and how we respond to those and how God’s working in our lives and God’s own initiative as He comes to us, these are things over which we have no control. [15:33]

Now, the second thing I want to say in conjunction with that is this. You had better believe, dear friends that all of it is not like that and that if you do not take control of your life within some significant measure, you will miss out on the spiritual growth that will bring you to the place to where you have the “how to perform.”

Now, that’s true in every avenue of life. No one is going to pick you up and make a mathematician out of you. No one is going to pick you up and make you a first class cook. No one is going to pick you up and make you an automobile mechanic, and no one is going to pick you up and make you a star player in the NBA. It won’t happen. There is not a single activity in human life; not one where you can just let it happen to you. YOU have to choose among the possible activities in which you engage in order to arrive where you want to go. There is no exception to that whatsoever. None and that is true of the spiritual life as well.

No one is going to pick you up and make you into a great saint. There will be all sorts of opportunities but unless YOU decide to enter and engage yourself in certain types of activities, you will never become. You will never become like Christ. Never! You have to decide. You have to choose. It’s up to YOU! [17:15]

Many people are willing to devote ten years of their lives to becoming a PhD in Chemistry but they have not devoted two weeks to learning how to be patient and often, that is not based upon any rebellion on their part at all. Often, it is based on the simple fact that they have never been told that if you wish to grow in the spiritual life, you must look at the kinds of activities, which lead in that direction and engage yourself in them. Do it! And until you do that, the “how to perform” will just never get there. It just won’t happen.  Now, you’ll go to Heaven? Sure! And you’ll have a lot to be sorry about because you didn’t engage in the way of Christ here in the way that made sense. [18:10]

  1. Now we come to some of the details. What are the activities, which we have a choice about, which we can engage in? What are those activities? On the list of studies, which I have outlined for you, you will see a number of things mentioned and I think we might take a moment to glance over them a minute before turning to our main subject for the evening and that is fasting.

Beginning on the third lesson, you will see fasting, which I have described as the paradigm of the disciplines and we will be talking about that! Fourth is solitude, silence and the tongue. One of the disciplines, which you can engage in as a way of meeting and growing in the grace of Christ is the ability to be alone and to be silent.

Betty was talking this evening about reading the verse, I think last Sunday in your lessons or something of that sort that the person who can control their tongue is perfect—perfect. You see, the tongue, like the stomach goes to the heart of the matter. Tonight we are talking about the stomach. Next week, we will talk about the tongue and the ear—silence is not just something you bring about by stopping your tongue. It is something you bring about by stopping your ears. Silence and solitude—these are activities. [20:06]

Simplicity, frugality and poverty; celibacy, chastity and purity; study in mediation, service and “sacrifice,” prayer, fellowship and submission, celebration and worship. Now, if you look at all of these, you will see that they are activities, which you have a choice about. These are things you can choose. They go far beyond regular church attendance, giving of your money, witnessing, reading your Bible and praying in a devotional time. They go far beyond this, you see because what we are talking about here is the whole life. We are talking about a whole life that is conformed to the image of Christ and we are talking about activities, which will lead into that.

One of the things you might do since the focus is on the following of Christ. As you go through these studies, you might—and I’ve tried to give you verses that would help you in some measure—but you might want to think about Jesus in connection with each one of them. This evening, for example, we are going to spend most of our time talking about Jesus’ experience of fasting and His teaching about fasting and what it means. Do the same thing with solitude; observe when Jesus is silent. Observe when He is alone. [21:47]

One of the things that struck me early in my life in trying to understand was I noticed how often Jesus tries to get away from people and that was totally contrary to the whole conception of ministry that I had because it was, “Go get ‘em boys! Got get ‘em! Sic ‘em. Jump on ‘em. Chase ‘em! Run ‘em down the road!” And, I didn’t see Jesus doing any of that. Jesus was running. Jesus was hiding. Jesus was avoiding. Jesus was trying to train a little group of people. Watch Him as He does that. Simplicity, frugality, poverty—look at what it meant in His life. Study in meditation and so on. So, take Him as your model now as we go through the lessons that we are looking at.

Only one further general remark I would like to make about the list. I don’t have any idea that this is all of them. OK? I don’t know what “all of them” amounts to. I don’t know what would count as a discipline in any complete list. Remember, the general description of a discipline, which I gave you before is a purposively chosen activity in which we learn to live by the power of God, in the character of God. We learn in those activities. [23:22]

All right; now we are done with the general talk and we are going to come to fasting. Fasting! One of the most remarkably constant disciplines in the Christian church has been the discipline of fasting. You may not hear much about it today. It has not been as popular in this century in American religion as it was for many, many years but my own grandparents for example; my grandfather was a Methodist circuit-rider and his wife was a very saintly woman and they still practiced on many occasions the half day fasts that were common among the Methodists on Wednesdays and Fridays. They practiced half-day fasts. They would not eat breakfast and sometimes they would not eat lunch and they did that twice a week.

Those of you who are reading the little book by Richard Foster will note that Wesley (John Wesley, the founder of Methodism) purposively tried to revive the early Christian teaching derived from a book which is sometimes called The de Dochy, which is just a kind of early manual of Christian behavior that was perhaps the early part of the second century in which it was prescribed that they fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Fasting was a regular exercise. Fasting, by the way is very simple when you start in with it. It becomes more complex as you go along. [25:00]

What is a fast? What is a fast? It turns out that there are many, many kinds of fasts. Basically, fasting is simply doing without food but that doesn’t tell you how much food or for how long and so on. So, there are many, many ways. For example, there is a fast, which simply doesn’t have any meat or dessert. You remember that the Catholics used to eat fish on Friday. That was a hangover from a time when you had a Friday fast and it was a fast, only in you did not eat meat. Daniel, in the book of Daniel about the 9th or 10th chapter—I think I asked you to read that in the scriptures I have listed by tonight, talks about not eating any pleasant bread. He didn’t have any strawberry shortcake. Apparently, he ate other food but not that. That’s a fast. [26:00]

Fast, by the way, the word itself is interesting. A fast just means fixed, unmovable, unyielding; that’s all it means. You have a fastener on your shirt possibly. What does that mean? Well, that means if fixes your shirt. The fastener—fast—is just fixed, solid, settled and the person who is fasting is the person who is settled in their resolve. They are unmoved. Hmm? You know, the Psalm about the person who is like a tree that is planted by the waters. It shall not be moved. It will not be moved—fixed. So to be fast is to be constant and now this then it comes to apply to abstention from food.

I’m not going to talk a lot about the practical details of fasting. I do encourage you to look at Foster’s book. It’s very useful for purposes of getting an understanding of the kinds of things that might be useful as you begin to fast and you do want to recognize that you are going to have some unusual experiences. You don’t know yourself unless you have fasted. You really don’t know yourself. There is a whole dimension of your personality which you will have to come to grips with if you begin to fast. [27:45]

You see, the human self is built in such a way that it has to have a certain amount of satisfaction and the truth of the matter is we gain huge amounts of satisfaction from eating and when you take that satisfaction away, you are putting a strain on the old air ship there, you know? You are suddenly casting weights around in all sorts of directions that it has not been before. So, there will be practical considerations and I do urge you to be sure and look at what Richard has said about this in his book if you begin to undertake it. Now, there are other helpful books, also. He mentions a couple of them in there, but the practical things I want to leave aside. [28:33]

Maybe just this one other practical word—as you begin it, I would urge you not to discuss it. You don’t need to discuss it and if you do discuss it, it will create a lot of problems, okay? You can easily load yourself up with a lot of guilt. For example, if you say you are going to fast and all of a sudden you find that you are not fasting then you have to explain it. Almost as bad as if you say you fast and you make it—then you become unbearable.  [Laughter] In either case, it is generally better just to not say anything about it. And by the way, I think that is one of the things we need to learn as we grow in the inward life. There is a time for sharing but by in large, it’s

okay if we just deal with the Lord about these things. We will see Jesus’ teaching on this also. [29:37]

I used to know a man back in the south and Midwest—a very powerful minister—but the one thing he could not do was when he decided to go on a 40 day fast, he could not keep it a secret. Soon, the word got out across his radio program and in his newspaper and everywhere else. Now, you see, there was no need for that and we have to understand that if we go that route, it will create different kinds of problems for us and so I would urge you—just don’t discuss it. You don’t need to discuss it. Just let it be between you and the Lord.

I think you ought to as you grow in your spiritual life build up the idea that there are just a lot of things that are between you and the Lord. Now . . . [Goes silent at 30:23 until 30:35] . . . the idea that it’s kind of punishment and that somehow if we could just fast until we looked like we were just about to fall over that this would just be a very impressive thing for God. [30:46]

I wanted to read you a statement from one of the church fathers—Saint Basil. He says that, “the paleness and meagerness of visage which is consequent to the daily fast of great mortifiers is really the mark in the forehead which the angel observed when he signed the saints in Ezekiel 9:4 in the forehead to escape the wrath of God.”

You will remember that in the 9th chapter of Ezekiel, Ezekiel has a vision of God sending an angel to Jerusalem to set a mark on the forehead of all of those who sigh and cry for the transgressions of Israel. And St. Basil here decides that what the angel looked for was this meagerness of visage—this readiness to fall over at the slightest breeze and this is what marked this person. And here I quote him, “The soul that is greatly vexed which goeth stooping and feeble and the eyes that fail and the hungry soul shall give Thee praise and righteousness, Oh Lord.”  Now, I just want to say, that is a terrible mistake. This is a terrible mistake and if you want to see how big a mistake it is, well, just stay tuned, okay? Because we are going to read what Jesus said in the 6th chapter of Matthew about this. And Jesus’ idea was a person who is fasting—you’d never know it. You’d never know it. [32:20]

But, you see, there was the old monastic, aesthetic idea that if we torture ourselves, somehow this is good. It has nothing to do specifically with Christianity. What is known in the traditions of western religion as the Discipline of the Lash—the Discipline of the Lash. It was practiced in ancient Egypt and probably you most recently saw it practiced on one of the Muslim holy days when they had some people dressed up in white robes and whips and they were going around hitting themselves? Do you remember those news programs? There were those holy days—the flagellants—and self-flagellation is the Discipline of the Lash. It was somewhat engaged in the Middle Ages and the idea being that somehow if we just make ourselves suffer. [33:23]

Now, look here, what we have here is something very simple. It is hatred of the body and that is no part, no part of Christian discipline to hate the body. None whatsoever. But there is a lot of it in your culture and in mine. Do you ever ask yourselves why is it that people want to look thin? Hmmm? Now, I am not talking about health because you know and I know that if you try to do it on health grounds, you won’t get very far but you haven’t seen any advertising scenes for Jordache jeans recently with 300-pound women. [Laughter]

You see, you just have to be starved to perfection—just starved to perfection, right? And then you are beautiful. You know, that is in part nothing but a hatred of the body, a hatred of flesh. We do much better with babies. We like them fat. We don’t want a thin, skinny, scrawny little kid, right? But somehow, as they stop being babies and grow up, that flesh becomes abhorrent and I want to tell you, there is a lot of body hatred in your culture and it is no part—it is not part of the Christian Gospel. The Christian Gospel is opposed to it. It is opposed to it. The Christian Gospel honors the body. The body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and when Jesus came into the womb of the virgin, He was in a splendor as great as if He were seated at the apex of the Cosmos. Matter is magnificent, dear friends. It is God’s creation and when God made it, He said, “It is good. It is good.” So, put on a few extra pounds. [Laughter] I am joking with you because I want you to remember it, okay? [35:50]

Remember, the purpose of fasting is not to punish the body. The body is wonderful. It is not to earn anything. It is not to prove anything. It is not to manipulate God. We can’t prove anything to God He doesn’t already know. He doesn’t need to be manipulated and we can’t earn. In an area where we don’t even have life to give, we can’t earn it. We just have to accept it.

All right now, very quickly. Having set those things aside, let me say that in order to appreciate what fasting really is we have to understand that it has two dimensions—two dimensions. One is withdrawal and the other is appropriation—withdrawal and appropriation. Never take part one without part two. Any fast, which is merely a withdrawal is not a fast in the way of Christ. If it’s merely a withdrawal, it’s not it. It is a turning from one thing to another. [37:20]

Now, let’s look at Matthew 4—Matthew the 4th chapter, we have the story of Jesus’ 40 day fast before He entered into His public ministry. By the way, it’s good to point out that He was baptized in the Spirit before He fasted. He came into His baptism at the hands of John and afterwards immediately after, you will notice in the 16th verse of the 3rd chapter (of Matthew), “ And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water. . . “ Right? John baptized him, He walked out of the water up on the bank “ . . .  and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (have bestowed all my favor).” (Matthew 4:16-17)

And then immediately, He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil—led of the Spirit into a time of fasting. He did not decide to work something up and fasting is a discipline of the Spirit. It is not something you do simply because you think it’s a good idea. You are lead into it by the teaching that you receive and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1) [38:54]

Now, He wasn’t tempted of the devil immediately. He was tempted after forty days of fasting. And one of the things you will meet as you fast is you will meet temptation as you have never met it before. One of the reasons is that you have put your self on a different level of the battleground. I hope as I go through these verses that I am going to refer you to, you will understand why that is. He was led into fasting by the Spirit and when He was in His fasting, He was met by the devil. And the devil said to Him, “ . . . if thou be the Son God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

Now, the next verse is the single most important passage on fasting. He was abstaining from bread in order to appropriate something else. Now look at the next verse. “And He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) You know that these words are taken from the Old Testament. They are taken from the 8th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 3rd verse and I would like for you to glance briefly with me at that because this fills out the context for the understanding of the statement. And you will remember that the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness ate manna. They ate manna. [40:43]

Verse 2 of Deuteronomy 8 says, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee . . .” Verse 3 says, “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not . . .” In other words, it was something you had no idea about. Your fathers didn’t know it. You didn’t know it. It was something totally different—something totally new.

Now, why did he do that? Just because they needed food? No! He could have produced rabbits to feed them—all kinds of things God could have fed them with. Did you ever think about that? I mean, if the cattle on a thousand hills belong to the Lord, He could have had a few of them flown in. He had quails flown in, didn’t He? No, He didn’t do that. He fed them with manna; something that they did not have an explanation for.

If He had fed them with rabbits, they would have said, “My it’s a good year for rabbits out here in the desert.” Right? But, “. . . that He might make thee know that man doeth not live by bread only . . .” Now, you might expect Him to go on but by steak and Wheaties and milk. See, He jumps a whole category and now this is the whole point—man does not live by normal food alone, but by a direct connection of Spirit with God, “ . . .  but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (of the Lord) . . .” (Matthew 4:3) [42:35]

That’s the appropriation part. Do you believe God enough to believe that He can actually nourish you and give you energy without natural food?  You can learn in fasting that it is indeed so. If you believe man lives by bread alone, you just keep on living that way but if you want to meet God in a new dimension and learn by experience what it is like to live by the word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, you can do that too. You don’t have to. [43:17]

There is no command in the Bible that says, “Fast.” There is no command in the Bible that says, “Eat strawberry milkshakes.” I sure love them. There is no command in the Bible that says, “Drive an automobile.” You don’t have to fast but wouldn’t you like to know what it’s like to not live by bread alone? Wouldn’t you like to know that? Hmmm? All right: you can find out about that. You can’t do it tomorrow. You want to learn about this, give yourself a couple of years. You’ve got a lot of mistakes to make and a lot of things to learn. If it would take you two or three months to work in shape to play a basketball game, it might at least take you a month to get where you can fast. Hmmmm? After all, the fasting dimension is much deeper than the basketball dimension, wouldn’t you say? [44:20]

Now, my final verse for tonight and there are many that I would like to get into—the outcome. Paul—1 Corinthians 6:12. Now, Paul of course knew what it was to fast, fasted regularly—“in fastings often,” he said. (2 Corinthians 11:17) See, one of the reasons why you don’t find a lot of talk about fasting in the Bible was because it was just assumed, right? They don’t talk much about eating breakfast in the Bible either.

1 Corinthians 6:12—look at this! All things are lawful to me but I don’t have to have any of them, hmmm? I don’t have to have any of them.  “ . . . All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them . . .” The battle is not the belly nor is it meats; the issue is our life before God and fasting is a paradigm of discipline because it hits us right where we—most of us—live. [45:56]

We are living by bread alone and you take the bread out of people’s mouths and listen to them holler. “Where’s my dinner?” “How could God do this to me? Why should my stomach hurt?” Why shouldn’t it? Why shouldn’t your stomach hurt, hmmm? Why should you have your way? Why should you get what you want? You see we’ve got that in our muscles and in our bones, “I should get what I want.” “I want to drive in this lane. I should be able to drive in this lane. What is that guy doing making me cut him off” or whatever? Why not? Why shouldn’t he? Huh? “I want food.” Why should you have food? Do you mean that’s what this is all about is you getting what you want? Is that why God made the Heavens and the earth, so I can have what I want? Is that what life is about? Getting what I want? The truth of the matter is, it is for most people and it is to a distressing degree among those of us who are in the church and you see, fasting is that first line of tangible activity where we can just all of a sudden confront the issue of getting what we want and practice not getting not what we want. [47:22]

Now, the muscles of your soul will respond to that just like the muscles of your leg will respond to jogging and you can rise to a different level of how to perform if you will do that and you will find suddenly that if you learn to function free of having to get what you want at the level of food, you can do it in many other areas too. If I get my leg muscles in shape by jogging, that is to some extent transferable to other activities. Not wholly but to some extent and it’s the same way in the economy of the Spirit.

Now, Jesus said, “He that saveth his life shall lose it but he that loseth his life for my sake and the Gospel shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25) He is simply talking about that spontaneous bent of getting one’s own way. He is saying if you are set in that, you will lose your life. If you can set that aside and follow me, you will receive it. Well, the Lord bless this to us now. [48:38]

I would like to stop. We have just a few moments. If there may be questions that you would like to ask, both about the immediate topic or about other things we’ve discussed—or comments; they don’t have to be questions. You may just want to say something.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: I think probably it will be some time. I think probably realistically, we are talking here about a period of at least several weeks; at least that long, perhaps longer of practicing. You see, when you start to fast, you are going to be so caught up in the new experience that you are not going to be thinking about much of anything else to tell you the truth. It will be a new experience and it will cause all sorts of things to happen to you. You will have feelings. You will have thoughts. You will have images. You will have bodily states, which you don’t remember having probably or haven’t had. It will be very different and so it takes us awhile to get used to those things. So, it will be some time but then as you grow in it, you will notice your capacity precisely to not have to have your way growing. You will notice your capacity to concentrate, to pray, to believe, to have faith. [50:03]

You see, if you learn to appropriate life by the Word of God, you are operating in an altogether different realm but it does take time. You see Jesus took at least two and a half years to train His own disciples while He was present in His bodily form. I would imagine it will take us awhile to begin to enter into that same thing and even there, you know, they still ran at the end of 2 ½ years, they split; they ran, right? They all said, “No, No, we are going to die for you.” But, whew…..so! It will—you have to understand this is not something that will happen in a week. It will take awhile and you need to study it and think about it and grow by your experience. Please don’t get in a hurry with it. Don’t try to rush it. Let God take you through it, but you will certainly know. [50:59]

This gentlemen way back here had his hand up next, I think.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: Sure! Right! That’s right! That’s very good. The most important thing to understand—that’s why I have taken great trouble in describing what a discipline is—as a purposive activity in which we learn to live BY the power of God IN the character OF God, right?

So, now the great difference is this. If you go the route of transcendental mediation or elide things, what you are told essentially is that your mind has a certain character; in fact, it turns out that your mind—you are God. You are told that your mind has a certain natural character and if you will just do these things, they will come along in the process of as it were natural law, right?

Whereas, the way of Christ is a way of encounter in which you meet another person in a way, which you do not know now and learn to walk and live by and in them through a course of experiences. And the effect of that is that that other person comes to live in you, in your very members so that as Paul says, “It is Christ in you that is the hope of glory.” Nonetheless, you are there so there is never a disappearance of you and that is a great difference, you see. The perseveration of individuality—the development of a unique personality in union with Christ and the gift of righteousness is still a gift. It is not something you just work up on your own. It is something you receive from an interchange with Christ as you engage in the activities of the Christian way. [53:07]

Oh, excuse me, all right.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas:  Well, if you give your life to God, you are going to have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do now. Right? But, most of those things you will want to do then. [53:57]

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: Then it just isn’t true. I mean, everything, no, it won’t be that way. I mean, there are just many things but there are a lot of things and on the other hand, you see, you have to grow beyond the view of God as just someone you know, trying to pour vinegar in your drink, okay? Just make you bitter and sour and turn your soda pop into vinegar. He’s not going to do that and much of our suspicions about God keep us from trusting Him.

And what we really do is we hold back and say, “Well, no I just can’t go all the way with you. I just can’t do that.” Well, that has to be helped by the teaching and the ministry of the Word and those around us until the Word of God comes through to us and convinces us of His goodness so that we will say, “Lord, you know, it looks awful to me now in part to think of loving my enemies and blessing those that curse me and so on, but I believe that it will be very good when you bring me into it.” It’s that kind of faith that we have to hope for, expect; and our faith grows as we go along. We come to the place where we realize that it is really much better to love people than to hate them but that again is something that is settled only by the progress that we make in the way. We cannot know that ahead of time. All we can do is hear about it and we can see others who seem to participate in it. [55:32]

This lady here I think was next.

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: Burial as opposed to cremation or so? [Inaudible comment] Oh? I don’t believe that there are any scriptural grounds for supposing that one should be preferred over the other. In both cases, the body as we know it is destroyed. It will be raised just like if a person, for example is burned to death in a building, this is not going to pose any problems at all for God in their resurrection.

I think that what we have to be sensitive to is the people who remain and very often, I think especially in our culture, it is much better to use burial because of that. It allows for a kind of connection and I don’t see anything wrong with saying that this is the way it was done with Christ and we should go the same route. But I would not want to say anything in favor of burial, which would leave the case in any doubt for cremation as if somehow God were not going to raise them or wouldn’t be able to or something of that sort. So, that’s all I would say on that, I think. [57:08]

Yes Mam?

Question: Inaudible

Dallas: Yes! Yes! That’s wrong, yes. (Inaudible Comments) Self interest. (Inaudible Comments)

Well, I wouldn’t quarrel with that at all. I was trying to be a little more specific in picking out some things. Pride is a rather generalized thing. I think it does come to the surface in shame and the attempt to justify oneself and that sort of thing. I certainly wouldn’t quarrel with that. I guess I am just not as use to—there are feelings associated with pride. Yes, there are. There certainly are. [57:57]

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: I am a little uncomfortable with talking about ego that way. Egoism, I think is an expression of pride but ego—many people talk about ego as if it were something bad. I don’t think of it in that way myself.  I think ego is essential. I think ego is the individual. Now, egoism or egotism is bad and stems from pride. [58:20]

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas: It’s used in many ways. I would think one of the best ways of understanding is just refers to the self. It’s the “I.” Now, self interest, self-assertion, self trust—all of that; when it excludes God, then the ego is exalting itself in the position of God in the individual life. Of course, that’s very bad indeed and heading for a smashing. No question about that.

But, on the other hand, I do think that we have to retain the integrity of the individual ego and understand that that is what is to be redeemed.

When Paul says, “It is no more I.”—you see, he shifted his ego. He is saying, “My ego is over here. That stuff is not my ego.” That’s an act of faith—a resolve which is to be fulfilled by the power of God in His life so that he can say as he does in Galatians 2: “It is no more I but Christ that liveth in me, nevertheless I live, yet not I”—see there’s this funny, but that’s where you have the identification of the ego with Christ in such a way that both the individuality is retained and the ego is redeemed and removed from the area of willful engagement in sin. That would—[Inaudible comment] that’s right, which would come out in that way. [59:53]

You were going to say something?

Comment: Inaudible

Dallas:  That’s right. This is the 6th chapter of John where He is speaking about eating my flesh and drinking my blood, yes? Well, this is referring to people who thought that He literally meant that they were going to have to drink His blood and eat His flesh.

Now, what He was referring to there was the substance of His person. He said, “The flesh profiteth nothing; it is the Spirit.” See? It is the Spirit that profiteth. So, what He was really saying to them there is if you don’t literally consume my personality, you don’t have any life.

Now, of course what we are really talking about here is how does one—by what activities does one move more and more into the participation in Christ? How do you do it? [1:00:58]

Listen to all parts in this The Disciple, the Disciplines, the Triumphant Life series