By Chris Layton
“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”
It’s interesting to see that John the Baptists disciples fasted while Jesus’ disciples did not. Christ here equates fasting with mourning and this mourning comes with the taking away of the bridegroom. For us we experienced the very same thing with Joseph being taken from our midst as the sacrificial lamb for his people’s sins.
Jesus said in the Book of John that “I am the bread of life, He who eats this bread will live forever”
The disciples of Christ got into trouble with the Pharisees even for threshing corn on the sabbath and eating food before ritually washing their hands. In fact, it seems they were always breaking with tradition which didn’t sit well with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. This is why Christ said that it was by their traditions that they broke the law.
How Do We Fast?
Isaiah says of the fast:
“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (Is. 58:5)
In other words he is essentially asking “is the purpose of the fast is to make ourselves miserable, to put on long faces?”
Isaiah answers his own question in verse 6 by defining what the fast truly is:
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free and that ye break every yoke?”
It is the traditions of men. That is the yoke that binds us down. The “I’ve got to do this and I’ve got to do that and my kids have to be involved in this and my kids have to do that and enroll in this program” As a consequence you are wound up so tight in Babylon’s programming that you entirely forget God. At the end of the day you are so exhausted, your wife is so exhausted, you flip on the TV or the computer, fall asleep, go to bed and repeat endlessly all for your paltry portion you are allowed to keep. That isn’t living. Rather it’s a modern form of servitude or slavery.
Isaiah again defines the fast in verse 7:
“Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?”
What bread? If Christ says that the bread and water man gives you leaves you still hungry and thirsty, then it isn’t the type of bread he was talking about:
“….and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”
Who are the poor and the cast out and how do we minister to them?
Alma gives the answer in Alma 32 starting in verse 12
“I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble.
And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.
And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?
Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.”
Apparently Alma wasn’t too concerned about not having everything laid out on a silver platter for them. Sometimes it is good for people to be financially crushed to take away the bravery of their bells and whistles and cauls and muffs and tinkling jewels.
He wasn’t mocking them by saying that it was just as well that they were stripped of their earthly goods and expelled from the church, so that they can be made humble and teachable.
In this way, they were now in a position of being made ready to receive the kind of bread Christ was talking about to teach them with the nourishing word of God.
That is the true meaning of fasting which is to set at liberty the captives. Does it eliminate times of going without food in remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice? Absolutely not. But why?
Doesn’t nature teach us that there are times of feasting and times of famine? It does. Are our bodies able to adapt to this sort of life? Yes, they actually are.
Are there times of spiritual awakening as well as spiritual darkening in America now present? Yes. Lines have been drawn and the forces of opposition are becoming bolder and more threatening. Spirituality in America is failing and physically we are becoming sicker and weaker. Spiritual health and physical health go hand-in-hand.
We have a growing statistic of obesity and all the physicians can do is prescribe you a sack full of pills from the big pharma pill pushers who line their pockets from your addictions. Those are the conspiring men spoken of in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The pastors are feeding their flocks sugar coated flattery in an effort to keep them satiated so is it a wonder that in these last days men’s hearts would fail them and their children are fleeing their anemic churches in droves? Then on top of that you’ve got people like Denver Snuffer’s scattered hosts infiltrating your churches with anti Brigham “let’s change or delete the scriptures” false doctrine while the bishops and their counselors are fast asleep at the wheel.
Wake up to your awful situation!
From 2nd Thessalonians we learn that the mystery of iniquity is already at work until our Lord who is his restrainer comes and destroys him.
We have been infiltrated and we continue to be infiltrated by these opposing forces of evil. What can we do?
Shall we rely on our bishop or the brethren or the stake president for our spiritual welfare?
Christ taught us in Mark that we alone are responsible for our own spiritual welfare. 10:44-47
“Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another. Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive. And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
This is why you cannot rely on your brethren for your spiritual welfare. You are responsible for your own self. When you go before the judgment bar of God, you stand there alone with God to answer Him. You cannot at that day say, “I was just following orders.”
Is organized religion a bad thing?
Absolutely not. It is required.
God’s house is a house of order and he gathers his children as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings. All who will come must come and be gathered in one place that they might be prepared in all things for the coming of the Lord. How else would you receive the ordinances required for your entrance into the kingdom of heaven unless there were prophets, apostles, preachers, teachers, & etc who are each a valuable part of the body of Christ? The law of the gathering of the body of Christ is clearly defined as this:
“And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts; Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.” (D&C 29: 7-8)
God gathers and Satan scatters. It is that simple.
So then what do we do when we see those appointed to watch over us transgressing?
“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)
What is the appropriate way to rebuke?
By reading to him the scriptures. Show him in simplicity and humility the patterns shown in the scriptures. Don’t tell him he is an evil person and pronounce judgment on him because God is still his only judge.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”(2 Tim 3:16-17)
If you are lead by the Holy Spirit eventually, even if what you say makes him angry because the holy spirit convicts him, some day he is more likely to repent. If he does, you will have freed him from sin (purpose of the fast) gained a more powerful friend and advocate before the Father of light and truth. That is our reward that Christ was speaking of when he said:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans do the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48)
And that leads us right back to the purpose of the fast which is to set at liberty the captives (slaves to sin) that by our merciful act we may be the children of our Father who is in Heaven. This is the purpose of my fast today.