And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”
Have you ever fasted before? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.
Fasting from food, drink, or any substance or activity connected to your temporal comfort enables an emotive understanding of your heart’s current climate. You’ll be able to see yourself for how you truly are.
Well, I’ll use myself as an example. This month, our church is undergoing a 21-day fast to kick off 2019. During prayer and preparation, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to give up both a substance and an activity: coffee and watching Netflix.
I’m about halfway through – and boy, has it been a journey.
While people may not be defiled by what goes into our mouths, withholding those things from our mouths will surely cause our defilement to arise. In my instance, fasting from coffee has caused notably convicting words to escape my lips.
Early on, I sputtered a few concerning sayings at work early in the morning.
“Sorry if I’m grumpy, I’m fasting from coffee.”
While that may not be too far-fetched in a society that celebrates caffeine addiction, it is still cause for concern – that a beverage, or lack thereof, could alter my mood so much that I need to state a disclaimer before I speak an unkind, sarcastic smirk.
That’s not very Christlike.
But, to be fair, after those words ejected from my mouth, I caught them mid-air with a concerned frown.
That shouldn’t be. I didn’t say them again; and I tried harder to be patient with those around me.
But the words and thoughts expressed most often in my coffee-deprived state have been, “Sorry if I’m being a little slow this morning. I’m fasting from coffee.”
In other words, I don’t want you to think that my performance is lacking because I’m dumb. I want to be very clear about this. If I am not exceeding your expectations continuously, it’s because I’m fasting from coffee – not because I’m not capable of blowing your mind.
Oh, Lord. Give me a break!
Do I really place that much pride in my own abilities?
See, it wasn’t always like this. We’ve all been through seasons of struggle. Seasons where nothing seems to click. Seasons where we come to doubt our purpose and our understanding of ourselves and others; until we finally surrender to the Spirit’s work in our lives.
Then, little by little, God empowers us. We see glimpses of being fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. We surround ourselves with people that we aspire to be like; and we begin to change for the better. We grow confident.
However, if we’re not careful and prayerful, confidence can very easily conform to pride.
During this fast, the Lord is revealing just how much of the fissures of my heartstrings are connected to my dependence on myself. I inflate when I’m complimented, I deflate if I do not impress. And in my own limited understanding, I cannot even fathom a freedom from this way of thinking.
But He who began a good work in me will carry it through to completion.
Though pride may whisper that it’s too late, the Lord will deliver me from myself. Though pride may hyperbolize my abilities, there’s one thing I know that I cannot do on my own – free myself from my own pride.
For that, I need a savior. I need a savior to remind me that He gave His life for me, so that I could give my life for His glory – and that I cannot desire both greater measures of His glory while desperately clinging to my own.
There is freedom for me.
Freedom to receive a compliment or a criticism with equal measures of peace. Freedom to fail. Freedom to hope in the Lord, not in myself. Because I will always let myself down.
But those who hope in the Lord will never be put to shame.