The Fasting of Self

Those who are rich in this world’s goods, having much money and material things, are the ones in the greatest danger of pride and a haughty spirit. So it is also for God’s people who are rich in spiritual things. Those who have gifts of the Spirit and important places in ministry - such as an apostle, prophet, or pastor – are the ones most in danger of becoming prideful and arrogant. It is most difficult for a man who has an important place in the Kingdom and is receiving much revelation to maintain a humble and contrite spirit. Pride and arrogance is inherent within human nature, and, at times, it seems to take on a life of its own. Often it will lie dormant in those who are not progressing in the Lord but will rise up under a cloak of religiosity against the one who is receiving revelations from God. It can be so deceptive that a man may not even recognize it in himself. Our enemy of spiritual pride can be so subtle. Jesus admonished His disciples to be servants. You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:25-28. However, if you find your chest swelling because you’re being such a good servant – spiritual pride has you again!

Isaiah 58:1 Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

Had the Lord only spoken of the house of Jacob, then you might only refer this to the Jews. But since He also said, “Tell My people their transgression,” He is also speaking of Christians, and not just Christians but the “people of Him”; that is, His chosen ones, the ones who have a place of importance in His Kingdom, the ones who have been receiving revelations.

The Lord’s instructions to the prophet are to cry aloud, to spare not, and to lift up his voice like a trumpet in telling His people their transgression. Do not pull them aside and whisper it in their ear but cry aloud their transgression. Sound the trumpet of alarm for spiritual pride and arrogance has deceived them and they are dull of hearing.

Isaiah 58:2 Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God.

These things sound good, don’t they? What is wrong with seeking the Lord daily, delighting to know His ways? What is wrong with delighting to draw near to the Lord? Their desire to know the ways of God was feeding their self-life. I saw an example of this while still a young Christian. I went to a camp meeting at a church in another county. An apostle was ministering there, and I had never seen an apostle. For the first time I heard teachings of the Kingdom and of sonship. I went to every meeting the entire week. The revelations were wonderful. I remember how the people rejoiced over the revelations they were receiving from the Scriptures. They spoke of the work of the cross we must go through, the dying out of self in order to become what God wanted us to be. They were seeking the Lord daily, delighting to know His ways and in drawing near to Him. As time went on, though, the Lord led me in a different direction of learning how to walk with Him. About five years later I went back and revisited the church where I first heard the teachings of the Kingdom of God. I saw the very same thing I had seen five years before. They were still rejoicing over the revelations. They still talked of approaching God and seeking Him daily. There was still the same immature playground excitement, but change had not taken place. There had been no spiritual growth!

Joseph had a many-colored robe because he was favored of his father. He was young, boastful, and proud. His pride and arrogance caused his brothers to hate him. Before Joseph could become what God wanted him to be, that spiritual pride had to be dealt with – thirteen years of hardship followed. Have you had your hardship yet? Has God dealt with your pride and arrogance? How about your revelations? Are you in the playground excitement or in Pharaoh’s dungeon? Joseph was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons. Until the time that his word (his dreams) came to pass, the Word of the Lord tested him. Psalm 105:17-19.

Isaiah 58:3a Why have we fasted, they say, and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?

Have you been there? “Lord, we have fasted and afflicted our souls. We have prayed and done many good works. Why haven’t You responded to us? Why haven’t You delivered us? We have sought you daily. Why haven’t You met our need? Why haven’t You blessed us, Lord?” Guess what? The Lord isn’t going to stroke our flesh. He isn’t going to build up our self-life. He is trying to get us to empty out self. Are you concerned about getting a blessing? That’s the flesh! Stop thinking about receiving and start being a giver. And if you start giving so you can receive, you are still missing it.

Isaiah 58:3b-5 In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure and exploit all your labors.
4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?

“Lord, look how lowly I am. I’m in sackcloth and ashes. See how I am afflicting myself.”

“Yes, I see you. I see how eaten-up with self you are. Stop wallowing in self-pity and start being a blessing.”

Isaiah 58:6-7 Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Notice the fast that the Lord has chosen. It is a fast of self. Anybody can eliminate food for a period of time. In fact, some are very proud of their fasting. But can you eliminate self? How long can you go without becoming self-centered? When you start loosening the bonds of wickedness on someone else, you will suddenly realize that you are being set free, also. When you start feeding those who are hungry for God, you will be fed, too. When it really begins to work, though, is when you are doing it without thinking of how it is going to bless you. Jesus said it this way. When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Matthew 6:3. In other words, do not do good to be seen by others or by yourself. Keep it a secret even from yourself so that you do not say or think, “What a good boy am I.”

Isaiah 58:8-9 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am.

Your blessing will come when you are not thinking of receiving a blessing. Have you read Deuteronomy 28 lately? Moses lists all the blessings that will come upon the one who obeys the voice of the Lord and walks in His ways – that means doing His will without thinking of yourself. In verse 2 he says, “These blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.” You will find that you cannot get ahead of God. You move out doing the will of God, blessing others and ministering to them, and God says, “Hey, I’ve got to catch that man! He is walking in My ways.” The next thing you know the blessings of the Lord have overtaken you! Listen! This is the teachings of Christ! You can’t serve two masters. You can’t serve God and yourself at the same time. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:25-33. The most important fast of all is the fasting of self.

Mark 2:18-19 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?
19 And Jesus said to them, Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

Neither the disciples of John the Baptist nor the Pharisees could understand why the disciples of Jesus did not fast. Speaking of the bridegroom, Jesus was speaking of Himself. As long as He was with the disciples it was not necessary for them to fast. As we shall see, though, the Pharisees were talking about the fasting of food. Jesus, on the other hand, was speaking of the fast that God had chosen in Isaiah 58.

Mark 2:20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.

The fast of Isaiah 58, which God had chosen, was a fasting of self. It is the emptying out of self; and the purpose of the emptying out of self is to prepare a channel for the Lord. The Lord cannot minister through someone who is filled with self. Since Jesus was with His disciples in bodily form He could not minister through them. He was ministering with them.

It is important for us to understand what Jesus meant when He referred to being “taken away” from His disciples. He was only taken away in bodily form. Beginning on the day of Pentecost He would not merely be with them but He would be in them. From that time the ministry of the Lord would be through His disciples. Then it would be necessary for them to fast; then they would need to empty self so they could be channels for the Lord. During the days of His Gospel ministry He ministered with His disciples; now He needs to minister through them.

Mark 2:22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.

The spiritual presence of the Lord is the new wine. Christians still full of self are old wineskins. Christians who have emptied out self are new wineskins and the new wine of the Lord can fill them and flow through them.

The disciples, during the days of Jesus’ Gospel ministry, were still under the influence of the Jewish religion. They were old wineskins. The new wine began pouring into them on the Day of Pentecost, for it was then that Jesus would begin ministering through them.

Why is the ministry of the church today so impotent? Why isn’t the Lord ministering through it as He did in the Early Church? It is because it is filled with self. Do you want to receive the new wine of the Kingdom? Begin emptying out self so that you may become a new wineskin! The teaching of appropriation has been coming for a long time now. Have you had difficulty in getting the principle of appropriation to work? Appropriation works very well with the fasting of self. In fact, as you empty out self the presence of the Lord just seems to come in automatically. This is the fast the Lord has chosen!

Copyright © 2005 by Henry DuBose