April 21, 2021 · Bob Gass
“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen?” Isaiah 58:5 NIV
God never commanded you to examine your emotions, experiences, or sins. What He did say is, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NAS). Victory over sin comes from focusing on Christ—not beating yourself up! In the Old Testament, the Israelites reached a place of despair. They had fasted and “afflicted” their souls, yet God ignored their efforts. They sought spiritual restoration in their own self-directed way, and God rejected it, saying, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen…for people to humble themselves…bowing one’s head like a reed…in sackcloth and ashes? Is that…acceptable to the Lord?” Clearly, God is not pleased with the misery that comes from self-focus! He has a more effective way to liberate us. Rather than have us weighed down with remorse, He said, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…set the oppressed free…break every yoke…share your food with the hungry…provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not…turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7 NIV). God’s way eliminates the “paralysis of self-analysis” by commanding you to forget about yourself completely; to stop dwelling on your imperfections and get involved in the lives and needs of others. This is His four-point plan for overcoming your flesh: (1) Acknowledge His grace and see yourself as “righteous” in Christ. (2) Fix your eyes on Jesus. (3) Shun obsessive self-focus. (4) Serve God by serving others. When you do all these things, “Your light will rise in the darkness…The Lord will guide…and…strengthen [you]” (vv. 10-11 NIV).