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Humility Through Bodily Means

Summary of the Message
Fasting is a spiritual discipline characterized by self-denial and serious God-centered devotion. When seeking God, it is either 1) used to cultivate humility or 2) performed organically out of an inner state of lowliness and/or godly sorrow. It is, all at once, a tool, a response, and a sign, that reinforces our ongoing reliance on God.
Key Sermon Points
1. Fasting is a form of serious and intentional devotion to God
Consider the following passages: Zechariah 7:3-6; Isaiah 58; Matthew 6:16-18
Often times the religious practices we take part in are mere rituals and not truly spiritual. God is not moved by empty religious practices. We see this in the principle that obedience is better than making animal sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22). Fasting that is acceptable to God is characterized by serious and intentional devotion to God and his will for our lives, not our own vices, pleasures, or the praise/acceptance of others.
2. Fasting humbles the soul by afflicting the body
Consider the following passages: Deuteronomy 8:1-3; Leviticus 23:26-28; Ezra 8:21-23; Lamentations 3:19-20; Psalm 199:67, 71, 75
God, in his faithfulness, often uses affliction to get his people back on the right track. There are times when he calls on his people to fast, a form of self-denial/affliction, in times where godly sorrow and humility must be cultivated. Sometimes affliction is needed to turn our pride/arrogance into lowliness and humble us into understanding and submission. Fasting can only be used by his people to humble themselves.
3. Fasting is a type of sign
Consider the following passages: Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Leviticus 23:26-28; Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:1-4
God often uses signs to remind us of promises, covenants, or what he does/has done for us. God has called for fasts and we've also seen him use hunger to remind his people that their reliance should be on him and his word. It is possible that the hunger experienced during fasting is meant to be a sign for us, a reminder, that although basic necessities are important, we don't live of those things alone.
4. God draws near to those who submit to him and humble themselves before him
Consider this passage: James 4:6-10
Discussion Questions
  1. Do you practice biblical fasting? If so, how intentional are you about devoting yourself to God and separating/abstaining from earthly pleasures (food, entertainment, sin). If not, what has hindered you from practicing it?
  2. Fasting can help to cultivate humility through bodily means (by using the body). But without serious and intentional devotion to God, fasting can turn into a mere ritual. Are there religious practices you take part in that have become more like rituals? If so, what can you do to make these practices go from mere ritual to truly spiritual? If not, what are some ways that you have ensured their genuine spirituality?
  3. Have you ever intentionally considered or sought out ways to humble yourself? If so, what has that looked like? If not, what could that look like?
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