"What are you giving up for lent?" my friend asked more than a decade ago. Lent? I wasn't giving up anything at all. It was a foreign concept to me, as was fasting, but the conversation began a journey I never expected.
In studying about fasting (because if I'm going to do something, I want to do it "right") I found Isaiah 58. The people, God said, were attending church services and doing all the right things. They were fasting and expecting God to answer their prayers, but it wasn't happening. (This is, admittedly, the Leanna Paraphrase... you can read it for yourself in your own Bible.)
"What's up with this, God? You aren't doing anything we ask!" they complained.
"You're just fasting to get your own way. You don't want to have a changed heart. You want to continue in your sin. What's humble and repentant about that?" God countered.
If your prayers are not being answered, the Lord spoke through Isaiah, maybe you need to get the sin out of your life. Maybe the fast you need to do is a sin fast.
God described the fast He chooses:
"To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke... to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house... When you see the naked, to cover him... Don't hide yourself from your own flesh..." (Isaiah 58:6-7 nasb)
Ouch. I've been there before, and you probably have, too. I've had a heart full of hurt and anger. I've struggled to connect with God. I've been the one holding to so much sin that I couldn't hear God's voice.
The wonderful thing about Isaiah 58 is it's an IF/THEN chapter. I love this because God makes it so simple.
IF we do what He says, THEN we can be certain He will do what He promises.
IF we live generously and strive for righteousness, if we let go of the anger and bitterness that separates us from our own families, a wonderful thing will happen. Light will flood our lives. Righteous will go before us. The glory of the Lord will be our rear guard.
The best of all, however, is that, when we choose to let go of the sin that binds us up, we can call on God and He will answer us.
"You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am'."
IF we remove a judgmental and critical spirit and replace it with a spirit of generosity and giving, THEN He will continually guide us, satisfy us, strengthen us. He will empower us to make a difference that lasts for a lifetime.
We can't have God's "then" without obeying His "if".
Our anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness, and stubbornness have to go. It's as simple as that. I know, because I've been there. Knowing God, hearing His voice finally became more important than the sin to which I was clinging. Letting go was the best decision I ever made because when I obeyed the IF, God kept the promise of the THEN.
If what we desire this holiday season is to "find" Christmas, to experience it in the way God intended, we will have to "find" it God's way.
It seems hard, but it's not. Simply let go. Give your sin to God. He will do the rest.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10 nasb
In case you missed any of the past week's posts, here are the links: Finding Christmas: Not Forgotten, Finding Christmas: Sustenance for the Weary, Finding Christmas: Remembering the Stripes, Finding Christmas: Look to the Rock, Finding Christmas: The Rear Guard, Finding Christmas: Prosperity and Success, Finding Christmas: Prophecy Fulfilled, and Finding Christmas: The Good Husband.
#Advent #keepChristinChristmas #MerryChristmas #JesusChrist #disciple,#Wordbecameflesh #Repent #sinfast