There's only one way to be walking perfectly in the work of God. We see many people who appear to be doing God's work, but the Spirit clearly tells us that God is not in their efforts, that their work is purely from a self manufactured effort. As accounted by Institutionalized Christianity, these people may be considered as having it all together and to be on the right path, and even to be firmly entrenched in the things of God. But only God and ascertain their true motives. So how can we be sure we're on the right path in our service with God? We must understand, know and believe it is not appearances that God judges, it is the heart of man that God ponders.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. (Proverbs 2:2)A lesson from King David: laying in the dirt and fasting The back story of this lesson is that King David has sinned against Bathsheba by lying with her, and he has sinned against her husband (Uriah) by having him killed in battle. Once David had taken Bathsheba as his wife and the child was about to be born, Nathan came to the King and delivered a message from God. We pick up the story once Nathan given the word of God to King David, has left for his house:
And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. (II Samuel 12:15-17)
But when David saw that his officials were whispering to one another, he realized that the child was dead. "Is the child dead?" David asked them. "Yes, he is dead," they answered. So David got up from the ground, bathed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He went into the LORD's house and worshiped. Then he went home and asked for food. They placed food in front of him, and he ate. (II Samuel 12:19-20)
We see King David's life mourning the judgment or ordinance of God against himself, and seeking the face of God in hopes that He might spare the life of the child And if there were any chance of God changing His mind, David showed his agreement with God regarding his sin by symbolically demonstrating the filth of his sin by "laying upon the earth" and "fasting".
Fasting: It's not the Pious thing to Do
Fasting is not something we do in order to show or demonstrate our piety to God and certainly not to others (as seen in other religions). From God's point of view, fasting has an entirely different purpose in mind:
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a 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?This is the typical, secular understanding of fasting. The average person sees a fast simply as a day to hold their heads low and have sorrowful expressions on their faces. It is a day to cover themselves with ashes (Ash Wednesday) so that the world may see that you are penitent. God defines the purpose of a fast quite differently:
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:5-6)
Fasting, according to scripture, has one purpose: it is to loose the bands of wickedness, to unto the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.
To be under the bonds of wickedness and heavy burdens, to be oppressed and yoked is, as simply put as possible, is to be under the burden of sin. Sin is the result of disobeying God's word. As Jesus said, “it is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4) While this may seem a bit out of context with the subjects we are discussing, remember that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and Jesus is saying that life comes through the word of God, therefore, death comes through the absence of the word of God.
Since we know that fasting is simply going without food, and we know that the word of God gives Life, and we know that the wages of sin is death, we can know ascertain (with the help of Isaiah) the spirit behind the fast: fasting can be seen as physical reminder to ourselves that we have chosen our own food over the true bread of life, the word of God. Therefore, fasting is painful and ever present reminder that what we have chosen must be done away with, just has we have omitted food from our lives for a period of time, and that what we must chose in the future is the true bread of life instead of the sin that so easily besets us.
Lying in the dirt: It's a dirty job – Just like sinning
King David fasted and lay all night upon the earth. By laying upon the earth, David was demonstrating his association with sin by covering himself with filth. Clearly, God has associated dirt and filth with sin and impurity:
Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations. (Exodus 30:18-21)
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. (Matthew 27:24)Thus, through laying in the dirt and fasting, we see King David being honest regarding his sin.Pick yourself up: get out of the dirt and return to God
Once the child had died, King David “got up from the ground”. The first thing we must do when faced with sin is to abandon the sin. Disassociate your self with the sin, with that thing, or those people that have lured you into the place or thought life you have found yourself:
If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14)Wash yourself: Receive God's Forgiveness
Next, we must wash ourselves of the sin, just as King David “bathed” to remove the filth from his body. But wait a minute, only God can wash us of our sin, right?. Yes, that is true, but it is our responsibility to initiate the process of God washing us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)Anoint yourself: Be ye filled with the spirit
The next thing King David did was to “anoint himself”. We must then fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit. Again, you're rightly thinking that it is only God that can fill us with His spirit. And of course, that is true. But again, only you can initiate the process:
“And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesian 5:18-21)This passage is more often misused as a condemnation of alcohol that it is used to teach the actual message it contains, which is prescription of how to be filled with the spirit. First, it is reasonable to assume that being drunk is a choice. You have a bottle of wine and you chose to drink from the bottle until you're drunk. Clearly it is a choice to pick up the bottle, fill the glass, and to repeatedly empty the glass in to your gullet. It is the same with being filled by the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit and we must chose to be filled by the Spirit. How then, are we to be filled? By following the prescribed 4 step process:
- speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
- singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
- giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
- submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God
The next thing King David did was “change is clothes” . He put off that which he was previously associated with, and put on something new. He completely changed his mind, his actions and his purpose in life. He did not put on the clothing that he soiled while laying in the dirt. He put the old clothing away, and chose something new, something clean, something that associated him with his new purpose in life.
Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)Worship the Lord: And Praise His Name
The next thing King David did was “to go into the LORD's house and worshiped.”
There are times when we don't feel like drawing close to God, but the Lord does not put a prerequisite upon us that we should only praise and worship Him when we feel like it, or when we consider the time to be customary to worship and praise the Lord. More often than not, we wait until a church service to lift, at best, our hearts and minds to a place of worship and praise.
Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:1-2)
Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:7-9)
I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.(Pslam 7:17)Go home to God: He has what you need
Then “he went home and asked for food. They placed food in front of him, and he ate.”
God has what we need. He's has made provisions for all of our needs through His riches in glory. Going to God for our needs is exactly opposite of taking matters into our own hands and committing sin against God.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:17-24)
Honesty with God: A prerequisite to Service
Behold, thou desires truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6)
Therefore thus says the LORD, If you return, then will I bring you again, that you may stand before me; and if you take forth the precious from the vile, you shall be as my mouth: they shall return to you, but you shall not return to them. (Jeremiah 15:19)In other words, if you forsake your sin, God Himself will bring you into His presence (you don't have to work to get back into His favor), and if you will learn from your mistakes (take the precious from the vile), then He will exalt you with the honor of speaking His words. Those with whom you sinned (or those things with which you sinned), you shall not return to, but those who will come to God, shall join you at your side.