When one considers the discipline of fasting, food comes to mind almost immediately. I have found in practical application that fasting is far more than about giving up food. In fact I have found the hosts of other practices to give up are a much more effective means to long term spiritual formation to Christlikeness. Most food fast involves a desire to move the hands of God to meet a specific need we may have. Now before I go on this type of fast is necessary and should not be forsaken but here we are dealing with means that lead to a default position in life of taking on the character of Christ. For our purposes denial of self is the key to spiritual formation to Christ and it must be for life not two weeks or forty days, etc. So what am I talking about? In this culture today one of the greatest distraction to knowing and living in God’s Kingdom or will I see and have experienced is what I call the gods of the culture: media, electronic devices, sports and entertainment which takes in a host of sub gods such as on demand, cable news, movies, texts etc. Now here as well let me be clear there is no legalism in these apprentices’ bones. I loathe legalism! Embrace all of these as you wish and you will not go to hell. OK? OK! But you’re inside life your soul, mind and heart will be so much less alive and diminished than what Jesus intends for you.
So the use of abstinence and fasting to move forward as an apprentice of Christ for me involves a very wise and discerning use of the gods of the culture. Let’s look at how I apply these in my life.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT
It is very difficult for me to attend a movie at a public theater. My issue is what fills my mind and comes before my eyes prior to the movie that I have chosen to see. Previews filled with gratuitous sex, language and violence. No I am not goody too shoes but just as we should be wise and discerning about the foods we eat we must be wise about the images that go before our eyes and fill our minds. Again if you wish to go to movies filled with sex, language and violence do it BUT do not expect those experiences to move you towards a person with a mind and heart like Christ. If we truly desire to be that person then we simply do not willfully sit before such images. So my movie going is pretty sparse for a host of reasons. Hollywood gives an apprentice of Christ a poultry number of movies to pick from. Just think if there were more people who call themselves Christians whose posture was that of an apprentice of Christ when attending movies what movies would be coming out of Hollywood. Sadly Christians and non-Christians movie going behavior is not much different. The thoughts above pertain to your TV as well with pay-per-view and ON DEMAND including Sports, etc.
Then there is cable news, current events, politics, disasters, mass shootings, etc. In regard to these all we need is basic information not a feast of letting these events soak up in our mind and steal our peace, joy, and hope. Get the information then as an apprentice of Christ get on your knees. Paul writes in Phil 4:8 “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Doing this brings us the peace, joy and hope as the reality and desire for our lives that Jesus came to Earth to show us and give us. So turn off the TV! I learned long ago when you tell someone not to do something you must give them an alternative. When you turn off your TV read an uplifting book, memorize a verse of scripture that will help you take on the character of Christ, be still do nothing and know that He is present, play with your kids, talk to your family (how novel), go serve the marginalized in your community, eat dinner at the table with your family (again how novel), etc. Again you can freely sit and listen to the story of the man who just wiped out a classroom of kids for hours on end and have your soul greatly diminished and your hope stolen or you can understand what happened in a matter of a few minutes then abstain and pray and do other activities in line with Phil. 4. Just getting the information will be hurtful enough to soak in it is disastrous for our soul, mind and heart.
I hope by now you clearly see and understand that we are telling you to abstain from the culture for real abundant life not to avoid hell. IPhones, iPads in an apprentice’s life are wonderful devices for a limited purpose, not for what we actually see around us. Just watching families in restaurants, malls and even in church makes me so sad, the entire time eating, shopping and worshipping the eyes are attending to and the fingers are hitting the device. From a natural point of view this is just plain rude. From a spiritual view living as Christ would live this is relational ruination.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “The first service one owes to others in the community (both our biological and church family) involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them. We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them, so often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people seek a sympathetic ear and do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking even when they should be listening. But Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God.”
Need I say more? People desire people to be fully present when they are with one another. So put down the phone and do a novel thing talk to one another at meals, in the evening, etc.
To do otherwise is a distraction from hearing God and hearing one another. It is an activity that says all I care about is me, and it shows contempt for those we are with and moves us away from being Christ like to those around us.
The apprentice of Christ desires to hear from the Holy Spirit through a constant, intimate relationship. A life obsessed with culture will not keep you from heaven but will keep you from knowing and living for Christ which leads to a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. If people who call themselves Christian would be intentional about their transformation to Christlikeness there would be more people wanting to know Christ in this culture, than the next big thing in the culture, for Christ would truly be THE BIG THING!
Adapted from GRACE IS NOT OPPOSED TO EFFORT by George Ackron available on Amazon.com KINDLE & PAPERBACK.