The Rest of Our Life – Sabbath and Fasting

We continued our series The Rest of Our Life at Gateway Church in Austin.

Sabbath & fasting are the answers to the problems of business and misdirection.

Digging Deeper

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Message Video:

Message Audio:

Message Notes from Haley Carter:

Just the other day on Juneteenth I was lamenting the fact that for two years people were legally free but didn’t know it because no one had announced it to them! How tragic! As I sat there remembering and lamenting their physical hardship and pain, God drew my attention to a spiritual reality. As Christian’s we have been set free because of Christs life, death, resurrection and ascension, and yet many of us continue to live in bondage, as if freedom isn’t ours! And spiritually this freedom has been announced to us!  Week after week we come to church or listen to podcasts where teachers and pastors are announcing that freedom to us, but we continue on in bondage. 

Now I’m not belittling the oppression of millions of people who are made in gods image or saying this is the exact same. 

But I think when God tapped on my shoulder on Wednesday He was just asking me to notice spiritual oppression along side physical.

In this series, through these practices God is announcing freedom, life, and rest. Will we take it? Will you Grab on and live different because true life and freedom, are available to you if you do.

So, let me ask you something: When you see someone you know here at church, at the grocery store, or at an event around town and they ask you, “How have you been?”, what is your response? Maybe its a good day, maybe it’s been a hard season. But many of us tag onto the comment about how your lifes going, this phrase – “I’m just so busy! Or Life is NUTS!” Do you know how common that is? Just stop and think about your last few interactions with people, how many times have you heard that phrase or something like it repeated? As a society we are busy people! 

Life is full – beautiful and wonderful yes – but full. So, prioritizing space for me to just be, and reconnect with God and myself is important. When I don’t make space to stop-  I find myself busy, worn out, and distracted. 

Where do you feel over extended? Where are you over scheduled? Where are you distracted or stressed out? Are you ready to say yes to a change? 

We all fill our lives – consuming social media, being on the go all the time with activities and entertainment – We ALL need time away from the hustle, from the constant hum of activity, from the consumption that fills our lives..

So, what is the solution? How do we make space to recharge and reconnect to the one who made us? And what do we even do in that space? 

In this series we are looking at formational practices that lead us to relationally connect to God with our whole being. Today we are going to be looking at two ancient practices that are just as relevant today as the day that God introduced them, but they are ones that many of you may not have any experience with at all – Sabbath & Fasting. 

Today if you are here and you are just exploring faith, know that these two practices are designed for those who follow Jesus. Your next step may not be to start a Sabbath or do a fast, but, listen in, because there is a lot you will learn about the kind of God it is we follow

So, take a deep breath with me (in – out) and get into a posture to receive, be challenged, and learn something that IF applied will fight the busyness and distraction that the world sucks us into and reconnect us to the source or LIFE and REST!

 What makes you, you? 

Its easy in our faith to focus on the spiritual parts, and overlook the importance of our bodies, but our faith is intended to include our physical AND Spiritual being.

Talking about our bodies, Pauls says in Romans 6:12–14  “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”

We are to offer our bodies to God to be instruments of righteousness! What does that mean? Righteousness is a word that sums up the result of Jesus work of redemption, of making us right with God. So now, we can respond to that gift by living faithfully with our whole selves. Be honest, do you consider your whole self, body, mind and spirit as an instrument for righteousness? No, you don’t – neither do I, there is much for us to learn and God has created practices for us to engage in that help! 

How do we follow God with our whole being? Keep this question in mind as we talk about our two ancient practices for today. 

SABBATH

One of the gifts that God has given us to engage our whole selves is the Sabbath.

First, What is the Sabbath? The Sabbath is a practice that originated in creation. Each day of creation in the bible ends with this phrase, and there was evening and there was morning-  the 1st, 2nd, etc day. This pattern is repeated until we get to Genesis 2:1-3. Let’s pick up there: Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

What’s missing? Do you see it? The phrase there was evening and there was morning the 7th day! Its not there! Why? Is it a mistake? No, its not. Its intentional. 

The seventh day God rested, but that was a creation work in and of itself.  He didn’t rest because he was tired, and needed to veg out and watch Netflix. It was because the work of creation was complete and so the rest was an act of stopping and delighting in the completed work. He created rest on that day, AND he set a rhythm of work and rest to be followed.  Due to the fact that it wasn’t closed with the phrase, “there was evening and morning” scholars believe is an open invitation to all creation going forward to enter into this type of rest. God was saying, this is how to live – working and resting. This is a foretaste for us of the eternal rest to come in eternity.

BUT – This beautiful design of work and rest was shattered by humanity when we chose to go our own way and do things on our own terms. 

But God knew that the state of chaos that humanity entered after the fall of creation wasn’t going to lead to flourishing. So, as the story unfolded God gathered a people and gave them instructions (called the law in the scriptures) for how to be. These laws directed the people to live in a way that reflected the nature of God to the world around them. Taking one day a week to  Sabbath (where the people would stop, rest, delight, and worship). Was a part of those laws.

No other culture at the time practiced anything like this. There is no evidence that any other culture prior to the Israelites kept a sabbath. This rhythm of rest truly was a revolutionary idea.

So, Why should we Sabbath? Isn’t the Sabbath an “old rule” that we don’t need anymore? I’m going to give you two reasons that will help cast vision for what is possible if you were willing to take up a sabbath practice.
1) Sabbath is a way to reflect (image) God – He rested

  1. Exodus 20:8-11 – “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
    1. This is the first grouping of the 10 commandments we find in the OT. The 10 commandments were the ways that God was calling his covenant people to live – AND IT WAS RADICALLY DIFFERENT THAN other peoples. By obeying these 10 instructions they would show what God is like to the world around them.
    2. He was calling them back to how humans were designed to flourish (set up in Creation) – The Law was meant to be like a lighthouse leading us home to God.
    3. This was/is a commandment. This is probably the most overlooked commandment.
      1. But why this? Why a day set apart to rest, stop, Delight? Because it is what God did. Because in creating rest and entering into it, He declare the work of creation complete and now He operates from a state of rest! Because, this is how God moves? In Rest and Rhythm, unhurried, in joy and refreshment.
        1. How about you? Would you say your life reflects this?
      2. But, we need to be aware – For us to join in with God’s rhythm it will require us to TRUST that God’s ways are best, & that God will provide time for all things, when we choose to live in his established rhythms.
  2. This instruction on how to live from a place of rest lead the Isrealites to fully enjoying God & his creation
    1. God’s intention in setting apart a people who reflected his image and matched his pace wasn’t for them alone. It was so they would be a blessing to the whole world and reflect this good God to the world, inviting those far away into relationship with Him.
    2. When we start a relationship with Jesus, we are invited into a new way to be too. In fact we are made new!
      1. You are no longer who you were.  God didn’t want the Israelites and He doesn’t want us to adopt the anti-formational ways of the world that leave us exhausted. He invites us into the rest that He established from the creation of the world. 

2.)  Sabbath is resistance (against the influence of the world that would lead us into slavery.) 

  1. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
    1. This is the 2nd of the 2 accounts of the 10 commandments in scripture and in this telling of the sabbath command a very important WHY is added: 
    2. He says, in verse 15, “Remember that you were slaves… and God brought you out!”
      1. For those who don’t know the story, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and God rescued them from their oppressors. He doesn’t want them going back to a slavery mentality- work without rest.
      2. We wear our busyness like a badge of honor, so regular rest in today’s hustle culture feels like weakness or laziness. And it couldn’t be further from the truth
      3. He wants ALL creation to adopt healthy rhythms. Even servants and foreigners are to be given a Sabbath day weekly! – this was CRAZY! Foreigners and servants in this culture had no rights, but God says, in my economy, in my kingdom they do.
      4. In modern times this looks like constant busyness! We can become a slave to our jobs, success, maintaining our social media profiles. Set up a Sabbath as an act of resistance against that busyness! 

Do you find yourself falling into a pattern of working without rest (answering work emails on your vacation, or on the weekend, at dinner with friends/family)? Does your way of operating look like the world or more like Christ? Do you have healthy rhythms? I’m going to guess that, if you’re honest, your rhythms, like mine, are looking more like the pace of the world.

So, How do you keep a Sabbath

  1. 24 hour period where we prioritize stopping, ceasing from work, resting, delighting in God, creation, his people. For many people Sundays make the most sense
  2. For some because of work you have to be flexible on which day each week that might be
    1. Start small, maybe with a few hours once a week where you don’t do work of any kind.
  3. There are 4 helpful things to do within a sabbath: 

a.) Stop- ANYTHING that feels like work isn’t allowed – let it go (trust God with it)

b.) Rest – what replenishes you? Take a nap, read a book, go slow (do thinks not for the sake of productivity, but for enjoyment). ALSO rest from knowing (turn off technology)

c.) Delight – What fills you with JOY – Do that on the sabbath! 

d.) Worship – As you Stop, Rest, Delight – you will allow your heart space that will lead you back to the Lord in Worship of Him. 

  1. Don’t do this alone – do this in community!

3.) Helpful tools- Journal. Pray. Have fun, don’t be a consumer, notice

I’m still in process on this one. I know the beauty of taking a Sabbath, but I get sucked in the whirlwind too often and believe that I don’t have time to take a WHOLE 24 hours to stop, rest, delight, and worship. I don’t trust that everything can still work if, I stop.  But if I’m honest – I do, I just need to do a little work to set up my week to make space for a Sabbath Day. If God set up a day of rest as the healthy rhythm for work, then I should believe that it is and lean in!

And Sabbath is really a FAST from work. A fast from the frenetic pace. A fast from self-suffiency. And a deliberate act of trust in God that the world won’t end if I take a day of rest- I am not God after all. This leads perfectly into our other practice for today.

FASTING

Our second practice is Fasting. What is it? 

  1. In the Bible it is to voluntarily reduce or eliminate your consumption of food for a set period of time. (ONLY in modern times has a fast become the elimination of something besides food, in Biblical times it referred to food)
  2. It was a core practice of the church until the enlightenment.
    1. It was a weekly practice – Wednesdays and Fridays (to remember the days of Jesus arrest and death)
  3. Fasting was a common practice among many cultures, not just Isrealites. 

Why do we need to fast? We need this because our world has become disembodied, so we need practices that get our bodies in touch with God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says,  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Since our bodies are the temple of God this practice gets our bodies back in touch with God. When we take the time we would spend prepping food, or eating food and use it to focus our attention on God – it exponentially multiplies our awareness of God’s presence and voice!

“Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true.” 

– Dr. Scot McKnight
  1. Do you feel like you don’t hear from God
  2. Do you feel like you aren’t even sure what youre thinking/feeling?
    1. Fasting can help quiet distractions by getting your body involved in pursuing God.

There are 3 reason to Fast I want to take us through: 

  1. In Fasting we offer ourselves to God
    1. Matthew 6:16-18:16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
      1. Jesus assumption here is that we WILL fast! 
      2. Its not for others – but can be WITH others
      3. There is reward as we offer ourselves to God
        1. Connection to him – As westerners we are in a perpetual state of feasting. Our culture says things like, if it feels good do it, You do you, You deserve that, Or like my son’s favorite show Parks and Rec says, “Treat yo Self!”. Fasting is self denial and in that denial we turn our attention to our dependence on God. 
        2. Enjoy food is good, but our culture lives in a constant state of over indulgence. When we stop the overindulgence (even for just a day), It helps our body and soul to notice and realign with what God says is Good (correcting where we’ve gone off on our own path). 
  1. In Fasting we Grow in Holiness
    1. As we stop our 24/7 mentality of take what you want, we make space for God to show us where we need to return to him – this happens through Repentance & Confession
      1. 1 John 1:8-9 – If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
      2. Remember at the beginning how we talked about offering our bodies as instruments of righteousness? (Romans 6:14). Confessing is the act of us admitting that we have become instruments of Sin and we need God to redirect our hearts back to our design (the way we were made to be). . 
      3. The feeling of being hungry will surface the things in our hearts are really craving -this is the ugly stuff- Think about when you are hangry what comes out. We can let those ugly thing arise and then bring them to God in repentance.
  2. In fasting we Amplify our Prayers
    1. Fasting allows us to combat our sinful nature by combating the most basic human need/desire of food. It spiritually sharpens us and in some cases accelerates the work of God when our hearts are aligned with His will. How?
      1. Jesus was with some of his friends in their house and Martha was busy with preparations to welcome Him and Mary chose to just sit at his feet and listen to everything he said. Let’s pick this up in  Luke 10:41-42 Jesus says, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Being with Jesus is the one thing that is needed – So fasting can help:

  1. Removes distraction & Makes space for God. Not making food, eating food, thinking about food – opens a lot of time.

So, how could you get your body involved in your faith by trying out a fast? 

  1. Start small – maybe begin by skipping 1 meal and instead using that time to connect with God, Ask him to show you where you’ve gone your own way and forgotten him, or intercede for the poor, those around you, or our world. Maybe go for it and plan a whole day, sun up to sun down and turn your attention to God in your hunger.
  2. If you have issues with Food & eating – then try an abstinence approach instead. Instead of removing food – set aside time without devices or social media and use thet space that creates to connect with God. 

So…How is your connection to God? Do you find yourself wanting to know and follow God only to wake up in the morning, jump into your day, take care of all your responsibilities, eat a few meals, go to bed then rinse and repeat the next day? 

These ancient practices were given to us by God for us to connect to him in relationship. From the beginning of time God’s desire for us was that we would be in a loving relationship with Him BUT we’ve become deformed and we’ve forgotten who He is and as a result we aren’t free and fully alive.

As we wrap up, I want you to think about what is possible. What could be true of you if you were to allow yourself to develop new practices this summer. 

What kind of person would you become? 
Where would you get unstuck? 
How might you reconnect and rediscover God and yourself? 

Look at the digging deeper- you’ll find two guides that will lead you to a great resource that will help you incorporate these practices into your life. 
AND join in with students in fasting on monday for camp!

If youre exploring God, your next step might not be to fast or Sabbath, but to really take steps to investigate this God who has invited us into a relationship with Him based on rest! If that’s you, fill out the connect card and let us know your exploring and like to talk with someone.

As we close out our time with a song I invite you to Ask yourself this question: What would hold me back from trying out Fasting or taking a Sabbath Day? Be honest with yourself. Then invite God into the conversation and ask Him to give you a new vision for what might be possible.  

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