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Politically Correct: Prayer, Fasting, and Communion

David LeventhalNov 1, 2020

In This Series (4)
Politically Correct: Prayer, Fasting, and Communion
David LeventhalNov 1, 2020
Politically Correct: A Biblical Overview of Abortion, Healthcare, and Immigration
Jeff Ward, Bruce Kendrick, Christy Chermak, Jermaine HarrisonOct 25, 2020
Politically Correct: The Roles of Family, Government, and The Church
Blake HolmesOct 18, 2020
Politically Correct: Citizens of Heaven
David LeventhalOct 11, 2020

This message is a part of a special morning centered around prayer, fasting, and communion. Find the Election Prayer and Fasting guide and follow along at watermark.org/pray.

Summary

What is fasting and why is it important in the life of a believer? In the final message in our series, Politically Correct: A Biblical Perspective on God & Government, David Leventhal shares biblical insights about fasting and calls Watermark Members to a time of collective fasting and prayer.

Key Takeaways

  • It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of praying for our families, government, and church.
  • Generally, fasting is the deliberate, temporary abstaining from food. At its core, it’s the voluntarily giving up of something to focus on something else.
  • In the Bible, fasting frequently occurs around times of mourning, repentance, and major decisions.
  • There is almost an undeniable assumption that fasting, prayer, and giving would be a part of a life of discipleship (Matthew 6:16-18; Mark 2:18-20).
  • Fasting is not a lucky rabbit’s foot to make God be at your beck & call.
  • Fasting is not a way to make God love you more.
  • God loves you perfectly. You are fully known and, if you have trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, you are fully accepted.
  • Fasting is about centering our hearts on God. It should be God-focused, prayer-filled, and Scripture infused.
  • Fasting reveals things in our lives that control and enslave us.
  • Fasting remains us that we can be sustained by the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).
  • Some of us may have some work to do relationally if there have been some hurts and conflicts over topics around this election cycle.
  • When you fast, before you get out of the bed, commit the day to the Lord. Acknowledge in prayer what is always true—you are dependent on Him for every step of your day. Ask the Lord to give you the grace to be mindful of Him all day long.
  • When you feel your stomach ache or your head hurt from lack of caffeine, don’t run from those feelings. Allow the uncomfortableness of it all to remind you of your desperate need for Jesus. Let that drive you back into God’s Word and into prayer.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • What is your prior experience with fasting?
  • Do you have a plan for fasting and prayer in times of mourning, repentance, or major decisions? If not, what might that plan look like in the future?

Mentioned or Recommended Resources

Good morning, Watermark. It is great to be with you again. Some of you may be confused because you're like, "I could have sworn I heard last week we were going to be done with our Politically Correct God and Government series." You did hear that last week, but we've decided to give you some free bonus content. This is just for those in the room.

As we talked amongst the leadership team, we decided that rather than jump back this week into our 1 Timothy series, which we're calling Focus (we'll do that next week), it would be prudent to spend one more week sort of putting a bow on our God and Government series. We spent three weeks hopefully providing some helpful content on how you can think biblically about candidates and issues.

I know the election is Tuesday. I think we all know that. There are still, I'm sure, some folks who are coming in here feeling a little bit anxious, a little bit uncertain. Maybe the backpack we all kind of walk through life with feels a little heavier right now. So we thought there is no better way to spend this Sunday than to spend some time in prayer and worship together.

What we're going to do this morning is going to be a little different. We're going to have three movements this morning where we're going to go back through the institutions Blake Holmes taught on week two of family, government, and church, and we're going to pray specifically for each one of those institutions.

We're going to do a congregational reading. We've selected some Scripture passages for each one of those, and we'll read them together. This won't be me reading to you. This will be us reading these sections of Scripture together. Then we will move into a time where we'll spend a few minutes praying individually or with the people you came with. Maybe you're with family or your Community Group, so you could huddle up together if they're right next to you and pray with each other. If you're here alone, just pray by yourself.

Then we'll move into a worship song that'll lead us out of that and into the next movement. We'll do that for family, church, and government, and then we'll get a little bit of teaching time, and then we're going to take the Lord's Supper together today, which we've not done corporately in a while, which I'm really excited about. We're going to start this morning by focusing on the family. We have a section of Scripture. We have Psalm 127 that we're going to read together.

By the way, as we pray, we're going to have on these screens some bullet points of things you can specifically pray for relevant to each topic, but if you will go to watermark.org/pray, you will see a much longer list with more details. As you're praying, if you want to use the stuff up on the screen, that's great. If you want some more information, watermark.org/pray will have all of that stuff there as well. So, let's get going. We're going to read Psalm 127 together, and then we'll move into a couple minutes of prayer. Join me in the public reading of God's Word.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord , the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

Now let's spend a couple of minutes praying for our families at this church. There will be some stuff on the screen.

[Prayer and worship]

You'll remember in week two Blake Holmes taught us that the family's job is to provide and the government's job is to protect. We want to spend some time now thinking about and praying for our government, for its leadership, and for its impact. We have Psalm 47 that I'd like us to read together.

"Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord , the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord *with the sound of a trumpet. *

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted!"

Let's spend the next couple of minutes praying for our government leaders. Pray for them by name…our president, vice president, Supreme Court, local leaders in government.

[Prayer and worship]

As we transition into this third movement where we're going to pray for the church, I want to remind you that if we expect revival to come to this land, it has to start in this room. It has to start in the chair I sit in, in the chair you sit in, so we're going to spend some time praying for the church, both our local expression of the bride of Christ called Watermark Community Church and the larger church in America, that God would create and stir in us revival.

We've selected for the Scripture to read together Romans 12, and I want to remind you that this section of Scripture was written to a people group, a church in Rome. It wasn't written individually for David Leventhal. It was written for the church as a part of the body of Christ, and when the church behaves, conducts themselves, lives and loves the way God calls us to in Romans 12, it is transformative in the city in which we live. Join me in reading Romans 12:9-21.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Let's spend the next couple of minutes praying for our church here at Watermark and for the broader church in America.

[Prayer and worship]

It would be hard for me to overstate how important what we just did was, to stand down and to come before the Lord in prayer for our families, for our government, and for our church. There is just about no better way we could spend our time, and that helps us center our hearts on God. But there are other ways we can also center our hearts on God, and I want to talk this morning about one we don't talk about very much, which is the discipline of fasting. I want to spend a little bit of time this morning teaching on the topic of fasting.

First, what is fasting, just so we can define the playing field? To put it simply, fasting is the deliberate, temporary abstaining of food. There are a lot of reasons folks fast…for health reasons, for spiritual reasons, and other reasons. But at its core, it is the giving up of food or giving up of something for something greater. For our purposes this morning, I want to focus on the topic of fasting as a mechanism for spiritual growth. So, that's what it is.

Now, what you should be asking, hopefully, if you've been here awhile, is "Hey, is fasting biblical?" Every topic we discuss, we want to know, "What does God's Word say about that topic?" Scripture speaks a lot about the topic of fasting. I don't have time to unpack all that it says, but here's what I want you to know: in the Scripture, fasting frequently occurs around times of mourning, repentance, and major decisions.

As you were to read Scripture, you would see that a lot of the guys and gals we hold up as heroes of the faith fasted. In fact, the entire nation of Israel fasted every year for the Day of Atonement. Moses fasted. King David fasted. Elijah the prophet fasted. Queen Esther fasted. Daniel fasted. Anna the prophetess fasted. John the Baptist fasted. The apostle Paul fasted. And let's not forget our Savior, Jesus Christ, who spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting in the midst of temptation. Hopefully that little bit will serve to you as saying, "Yes, this is a biblical topic. It is all throughout Scripture."

We have not only that, but we also have Jesus who himself taught specifically on the topic. I want to touch on two sections of Scripture where Jesus specifically dealt with this topic. The first is in Matthew 6. This is in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. If you recall, if you were here, we spent the whole summer of 2019 teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, and in the middle of that is Matthew 6. Let me read you the passage and let me highlight a couple of observations. Jesus, to his disciples, those who were listening:

"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

When we look at these words, let me just highlight three things. First, this section on fasting comes right in the middle of Jesus also teaching about prayer and about giving. So, you have giving, prayer, and fasting. It sure seems like Jesus assumes that part of the life of discipleship would include prayer, giving, and fasting. That seems like the idea he's communicating there. Secondly, Jesus says "When you fast…" which certainly implies that those who are following Jesus would participate in fasting.

Lastly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is largely focused on contrasting the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the day, who had taken God's law and expanded it to such an unhealthy spot and had made it legalistic and were participating in things for show so they could look all big and bowed up… Jesus is contrasting that wicked, sinful behavior with the true intent of God's law.

In the case of fasting, the intent of God's heart was to come before the Father who sees in secret to help center your heart on God, not to be a show, "Look at how spiritual I am." So, those are three things from Matthew 6 that I think are instructive to where we're going. Jesus also talks about it in Mark, chapter 2. Again, I wish I had more time to explain all that's going on here, but let me just read the passage and highlight a couple of things for you.

This is Mark 2:18-20: "Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, 'Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' And Jesus said to them, 'Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?'" Bridegroom is a weird word to me. It's just not one we use. If you're confused about bridegroom, like I was, it just means the groom. I don't know why they call it the bridegroom, but it's just the groom.

"Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day." Let's focus on verse 20 of this passage: "The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away…" In this context, Jesus is the groom. "…and then they will fast in that day."

It's reasonable, based on the entire gospel narrative, that in that day refers to after Jesus died, was resurrected, and then ascended to the Father and brought the Spirit down, that it's after Jesus' removal where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. So, that time for them to fast is after Jesus' ascension. We call that the church age, which is where we are today. It sure seems like Jesus assumes his disciples in the church age would participate in fasting.

Now, what's the point of fasting? I've explained, hopefully, that it's biblical. I've talked about how Jesus talked about it, and it sure seems like it would be something we would participate in, but what's the point of it? Let me first share with you two things that it's not. I think it's helpful to take some things off the table up front so you know whatever fasting is, this is what it's not.

First, it is not a lucky rabbit's foot that is going to somehow make God be at your beck and call. God is not a genie. We don't rub a rabbit's foot or rub a lamp and get three wishes. That's not how God works. Whatever fasting is, it's not having God at your beck and call like a dog. That's not how it works.

Secondly, fasting does not make God love you any more. This is important. Sometimes we can feel, particularly in the circles we run with sometimes, that "If I will just do more, God will somehow love me more or be more impressed or I'll make it to the varsity team." There is no varsity or JV team in the body of Christ. You either know Jesus Christ and are part of the family or you don't. Those are your two options.

As we think about fasting, we need to remember that fasting and prayer and giving and Bible reading… All that stuff is a healthy, necessary part of discipleship to get us to know the Father, but God is not more impressed with you if you fast. "God has demonstrated his love in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." That's what Paul says in Romans.

So, that's what fasting is not. Now let me turn to give you three things that I think are the purpose of fasting. The first one is miles in front of the second one. It's going to be one, two, three, but think about the first one as being so much more important than the second and third.

  1. To center our hearts on God. Fasting should be God-focused, prayer-infused, and Scripture-filled. Fasting is about centering our hearts on the heart of the Father. When we go before God and we say, "Hey, I'm going to go without eating, and the time I would have used to eat and prepare I'm going to spend in purposeful, diligent time to come before you in your Word and pray and get my heart synced up with yours…" That's the primary purpose of fasting: to align our hearts with the Father's.

  2. Fasting reveals things in our lives that control and enslave us. There's nothing like going without food or coffee and feeling the hunger pangs in your stomach to help you reveal you have some imperfections. Sometimes, because of the food we eat and the coffee we drink, or whatever, we don't have a chance to let those things bubble to the surface. When you go without, you'll be surprised at how quickly some of those impurities will bubble to the top. Because God loves you, he wants to help weed out of your life those works of the flesh. He wants to get rid of them. So, fasting helps bring those to the surface.

  3. Fasting reminds us that we can be sustained by the Word of God. Moses has this thing he says in Deuteronomy 8, and Jesus affirms it in Matthew 4. Remember I said Jesus fasted? He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness and was tempted by the Devil. Now listen. It says Jesus was hungry. Yeah, no kidding. Jesus was tempted by the Devil, and at one point, the Devil comes to him and tempts Jesus, who had been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, with bread.

Remember, Jesus was fully man and fully God. He understood what it felt like to be hungry and to be tired and to feel the energy sap from your body. He has all of that. He has categories for that, because he was fully man. The Devil comes to him and says, "If you'll worship me, I'll turn this rock into bread." Jesus quotes Deuteronomy. When was the last time you quoted Deuteronomy when you were tempted? Jesus did.

He says, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" There is something very real about the fact that when we decide to go without, when we decide to feast on the Word of God and fast from our Chick-fil-A, we are able to be sustained in a way that we would have never experienced without going without food, as we dive into God's Word and discover that it can sustain us through times when we're not eating. So, that's the third purpose of fasting.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "That's super helpful, Lev. What's the point? What's your 'so what'?" Here's my "so what." We are calling our body, our members, to join with leadership tomorrow in a day of fasting for our country, for our families, and for our church. We don't want to send you out without giving you some instruction on why and what. So, that's what we're doing.

Remember, I said earlier that fasting frequently occurs around times of mourning, repentance, and major decisions. And my goodness! If there were ever three things this country needed to do, it's to mourn over our sin, repent of our sin, and center ourselves on what God thinks about elections, government, and presidents. So, we want to jump in tomorrow and pray and fast and go before the Lord to center our hearts on all of those topics. That's what we're calling our members to participate in.

Now, I said earlier that Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about the public/private nature of fasting, and he said, "Don't be like the hypocrite." As we think about this, I would throw this out there for your consideration. It's probably not a great idea to take a picture of an empty cup or an empty bowl with "#fasting" on there for your Instagram account. Don't do that. Then you've received your reward. This is going to be something we're calling our body to do in a private way. Private in our context certainly would include your Community Group.

So, we're going to call you to pray, we're going to call you to do it privately with Community Groups, and I also want to acknowledge that this has been a hard season. I know there are Community Groups in this body that are at a really hard spot because there has been divisiveness. There has not been an outdoing one another at honor. There have been making minor things major things with respect to the election, with respect to COVID responses, and there are some broken relationships in this body.

There is no better way to begin to move back toward one another than with prayer, with Scripture reading, and with fasting. If that's you or somebody in your Community Group, then I'm going to encourage you, we're going to encourage you, God would encourage you, to begin the process of restoration and reconciliation.

So, what should you do? Some of you may have never fasted before. Let me give you some things to think about this afternoon, tonight, and tomorrow. This afternoon, I'd come up with a plan. Have a plan for what tomorrow might look like for you. Discuss with your Community Group. If you've never fasted before, you might consider a light fast. So, sunup to sunset, maybe water and juice only or maybe water, juice, and some vegetables.

Some of you might consider fasting… So, Sunday night would be your last meal until Tuesday morning. You're going to take the full 24-hour period off and just drink water or maybe water and juice. It can look different. There's freedom here. It doesn't have to all look the same. God is honored as we move toward him.

Listen. If it doesn't go the way you think it should go, if you were maybe hoping God would give you some incredible insight or revelatory experience and it doesn't happen or you have this crazy headache all day long, that's okay. The process is good. A heart that moves toward the Father… He always loves that. So don't get hung up on that.

So, that's what I would do this afternoon: develop a plan and recognize there's freedom in what that plan looks like. Tonight, you might skip the Double-Double or the 16-ounce greasy ribeye in favor of something a little bit lighter and cleaner, and then I'd try to get in bed earlier. Then, tomorrow morning when you wake up, before your feet hit the ground from the bed, just pray and give God the day and ask that the whole day would be helped centering your heart on his heart.

Before you even get out of bed, we're going to send you an email first thing in the morning, a special edition of our weekly email called The Current. You have a prayer and fasting guide in your Watermark News. That'll be online. Then the things we prayed for today and some other resources will also be in The Current. You can use that as a tool throughout your day.

When you feel your stomach ache from hunger or maybe your head hurts from a lack of caffeine, don't run from that. Allow that uncomfortableness to drive you back into God's Word and remind you of your frailty and that you do, in fact, need God for every single step of your day. Let it drive you to prayer. Maybe create a playlist of some songs that would encourage you and drive you back to Jesus. Connect with others in your Community Group to pray.

So, that's the recap. We're calling our members to join us in praying and fasting, praying specifically for our families, for our churches, and for our government as we head into this election on Tuesday. That's what we're asking you to do. Let me hit the clutch a little bit and change gears here. We haven't talked about fasting in a while. We also haven't taken Communion corporately in a while, and we're going to do that this morning.

It has been awhile since we've done it, so let me remind folks that when we take Communion, we are remembering the Lord Jesus Christ and thanking him for his broken body and his shed blood on the cross. That's what Communion is. There are a couple of things we want to keep in mind. First, when we take Communion, this is a family event. This is for believers only.

If you are here and you don't know Jesus…maybe you're a guest or you're checking out the faith…we could not be more thrilled that you would allow us a couple hours of your week, but we want you to know this is a family meal. It's only for those who have trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins as a free gift of God that you cannot earn. If you don't know what that means, we would love to talk to you about that.

Secondly, if you're a believer, you need to know it's possible to take the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner, in a way that would bring judgment on you. Paul talks about this. If there is unrepentant sin in your life, if there is unhealthy division amongst a brother or sister in Christ, God wants you to deal with that so you can come to the Table with a clean heart. Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 11. He writes:

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died."

Remember, when Paul wrote this, the church in Corinth wasn't taking a little juice and cracker wafer that were prepackaged in a single unit to be COVID-friendly, like we have. They were having a full meal, and in that meal they would celebrate the Lord's Supper. The church in Corinth was having a really hard time. There was divisiveness. The people who were wealthy were getting full, and the people who didn't have resources weren't eating. There were folks who were showing up drunk.

Paul is correcting them and saying, "Listen. You should do some self-examination before you come to the Table." So, we want to give you guys, as we're going to be passing out the elements, a chance to do some self-reflection. If your heart is not in a good spot if you're a believer, we would simply ask, God would tell you: don't take the Communion. When you're done here, go be reconciled with that brother or sister you're in conflict with or go confess and deal with the sin you've been hiding.

In full transparency, I had an interaction this week with a brother that did not go well, and it was entirely my fault. There was a break in the relationship. I had the thought as I was preparing, "I can't take Communion right now. I need to have some more conversations with this brother." And I did, and we talked through it. I was able to own my part, so we're reconciled now. I am clean before the Lord in that interaction. I don't know if you have that, but if you do, you should go and be reconciled. God takes that very seriously.

So, the team is going to sing a song to help you prepare your heart, folks will come around and pass the elements out, and we'll take it together.

[Communion and worship]

Church, can I remind you that King Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, and he will be on Tuesday, November 3. He is not stressed by this election. All hail King Jesus. It doesn't matter who's in the White House. Jesus is King.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for a chance to be with my friends this morning, and I pray that you would center our hearts on you. I pray that you would help us to remember that nothing is going to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus. I pray that you would help us to remember that you are on your throne. You are not caught off guard by COVID, by elections, by job losses, by suffering, by pain. You are aware of it all, and you sent your Son to come deal with it eternally.

I pray for my friends in this room who are hurting, who are heavy-laden, who are anxious, that the peace of Christ would move into their lives in a very tangible way starting today. Thank you for the privilege of getting to remember the broken body and shed blood of your Son sent to die for my sin. I pray that we would constantly remember him and that our lives would look differently as a result. In Jesus' name, amen.

Church, we live in a lost, struggling, confused, anxious, divisive world, and the task has been given to us to be salt and light, to be a city on a hill in the midst of a dark world. This week, starting today, we get a chance to be God's men and God's women in Dallas County and around the world. Let's go, church. If you don't know Jesus, we would love nothing more than to introduce you to our King. We'll have folks down here as long as we need to stay. For the rest of us, let's have a great week of worship.