We gather here in the name of Jesus Christ to worship.
We stand amazed at the privilege we have to come into your presence.
Lord, who are we that you should hear our prayers?
You created the universe, we are but a flower which blossoms and then dries up.
You have power and glory, we are but dust in the wind.
You are perfect and have glory, we are neither perfect, nor have any glory.
Indeed, Lord, it is not because of who we are that you open your ear to us and welcome us into your presence. It is because of who You are, the One true God who sent His sons as a ransom for sin.
And by your grace alone, in Christ, we stand before You saved, reconciled, righteous.
But Lord, we are still sinners. This is true every day, but even more today as we contemplate your word. We consider Lord the character of the person who comes into your presence as presented in the sermon on the mount.
Lord, we confess that we want to be appreciated by men more than we want to be appreciated by you. Lord, we fear men and what they can do to us. They can take our reputations, our careers, our children’s opportunities. They can our lives. And because we have a low opinion of You Lord we compromise your glory and trade it for human glory, seeking to protect ourselves and the ones we care for.
Lord, we confess that in our prayers we don’t truly seek your kingdom. Your kingdom appears far off and we think we have time to seek it later. In the meantime we seek other things that appear more attractive. We store treasures on earth Lord in search for security and glory, forgetting that whatever we accomplish with our own hands doesn’t last. Lord, we are double-minded and we set our eyes on conflicting goals.
Lord we confess we don’t forgive. Lord, forgiveness is too painful. Forgiveness creates moral hazard and we are afraid of being taken advantage of. We find ways to avoid the people who hurt us and to rationalize our actions as wisdom. We find lots of reasons why we are better than the other people and why we need to distance ourselves from them. We openly bow our heads in front of you, but secretly harbor bitterness.
Lord, we want to repent from these sins. We want to fear you most. We want to single mindedly seek your kingdom. We want to forgive. Would you please transform our hearts through the Holy Spirit to enable us to obey you. Have mercy on us Lord, transform us from the inside out!
Lord we are grateful for the Engage conference yesterday. Thank you that we could be challenged in our worldview and be pointed to the fact that missions are right in the center of your plan to glorify yourself. We thank you for the ways you have provided for Restoration to serve you among the nations. I pray that we would continue and increase.
Lord, it is quite amazing how you work life out of death. This was publicly portrayed to us when our Lord was crucified. His enemies and death did their best, but you used exactly that to accomplish your plans. And Lord we see glimpses of that today in various places.
We thank you Lord that you use the distress and death in the Middle East to bring people to you. Lord we pray for peace and for the end of death and destruction in that region. We pray for reconciliation. But we are happy to see how you use all that evil to advance the gospel and save people for yourself. Lord, I pray that the Gospel would spread in spite of the work of ISIS to destroy your people. I pray that the gospel would spread like fire in a dry wheat field. And we pray Lord that you protect and empower our brothers and sisters in that region. Give them faith to stand in the face of hunger, pain and death.
We are grateful for the opportunity to worship today unimpeded. We pray that you help us do so to the full.
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and pow’r.
Come, ye thirsty; Come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?
Lo! th’ incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
“I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all.
But whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
“This is the essence of Christian fasting: We ache and yearn – and fast – to know more and more of all that God has for us in Jesus. But only because he has already laid hold of us and is drawing us ever forward and upward into “all the fullness of God.”
“[T]he reason why you have not got contentment in the things of this world is not because you have not gotten enough of them – that is not the reason – but the reason is, because they are not things proportional to that immortal soul of yours which is capable of God himself.”
“Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.”
When you read the Scriptures you see many spiritual purposes linked to fasting:
- To strengthen our prayers (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:13; Acts 13:3)
- To seek God’s guidance in a particular decision (Judges 20:26; Acts 14:23)
- To express grief in the midst of tragedy (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:11-12)
- To express repentance in the midst of sin (Leviticus 23:27; Jonah 3:6-9)
- To seek deliverance from evil and protection from God (1 Chronicles 20:3-4)
- To show concern for the hallowing of God’s name (Nehemiah 1:3-4; Daniel 9:3)
- To minister to the needs of others by giving something up they need (Isaiah 58:3-7)
- To reveal the idols of the heart (Psalm 35:13; 69:10)
- To express love and worship to God (Luke 2:37)
- To remind us we are completely dependent on and sustained by God (Matthew 4:4)
Notice that none of these are about earning God’s favor. Fasting does not make you acceptable to God. Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone makes us acceptable to God. Fasting has no benefit if we have not first come to God by turning from our sins and placing our trust in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As one pastor rightly said, “This is the essence of Christian fasting: We ache and yearn – and fast – to know more and more of all that God has for us in Jesus. But only because he has already laid hold of us and is drawing us ever forward and upward into “all the fullness of God.”
So I would sum up the overarching spiritual purpose of fasting to be this: to express humility before God and deepen hunger for God. Fasting must be radically God-centered or it’s not fasting at all.
So putting it all together here’s my answer to “What is Fasting?” Fasting is voluntarily and temporarily abstaining from something which is good in and of itself to express humility before God and deepen hunger for God. Or to say it another simpler way: Fasting is for feasting.
 John Piper, A Hunger for God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997), 48.
 I get that from the Psalms, where David says, “I humbled myself with fasting” and from Matthew 4 where when Jesus is fasting he says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Gracious Heavenly Father,
Hallowed be your name this morning! O Lord, what a joy it is for us to gather together this morning before your throne, to worship you and exalt Christ, our risen Lord and Savior! Yes, Lord, we rejoice this morning for, by the blood of Christ, we have been reconciled to you and can now come into your presence without being destroyed and can commune with you, the source of our peace and joy! Praise be to Christ! Yes, may all that we do here this morning – from our singing, to our praying, to our giving, to our listening, to our fellowshipping and welcoming of guests – glorify you alone, O Lord. Lord, rid our minds of any desire to be seen by others this morning. Destroy in us, O Lord, the motivation to somehow earn your favor this morning, for your favor, O Lord, has been secured by the death and resurrection of Christ.
Adoration. O great and merciful God, we earnestly seek you this morning; our souls thirst for you; our flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Because your steadfast love is better than life, our lips will praise you. We will bless you as long as we live; in your name we will lift up our hands. Our souls will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and our mouths will praise you with joyful lips, when we remember you upon our bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been our help, and in the shadow of your wings we will sing for joy. Our soul clings to you and your right hand upholds us. (Psalm 63:1-8). Indeed, whom have we in heaven but you, O Lord? And there is nothing on earth that we desire besides you. Our flesh and our hearts may fail, but you are the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26). Yes, Lord, we desire to be in your presence, for in your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11). To you, O Lord, we lift up our souls and in you we trust. (Psalm 25:1-2). Praise be to you, Gracious Lord!
Thanksgiving. And Lord, we give thanks to you for your steadfast love stretches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 57:9-11). We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the many visitors you have drawn to Restoration Church over the last number of months, in particular, we praise you for bringing those who are not yet followers of Christ, that they might hear your Word faithfully proclaimed, repent of their sins, and trust in the only one who can save them, Jesus. May the eyes of their hearts be opened to the salvation found only in Christ! We give thanks, O Lord, for the work you are doing in Columbia Heights, as you prepare the way for the Spanish speaking church plant. We sing praises to your name, Gracious God, for the way you have used Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to pierce to the division of our soul and spirit and discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Lord, we pray by your grace and mercy that the Holy Spirit would continue to reveal hidden areas of sin in our lives, that we might mortify that sin at its very root! We thank you for the hospitality constantly being displayed within Restoration Church, and we pray that such love would continue to abound. We thank you, Lord, for bringing to us Christians who have been faithfully walking with you for many years, that we might learn from our older brothers and sisters in the faith! Lastly, we thank you for our newest members. We pray that they would be unified with our body quickly and that they would be built up in their faith!
Confession. And Lord, we ask for your forgiveness for those times over the last week when we’ve failed to count others as more significant than ourselves. Lord, give us a greater love for Christ and His church, that we might reflect His love for the body!
Petitions. Heavenly Father, we pray for those members currently on the fringes of our body. We pray that they would desire to delight in Christ with this community and that our body would be intentional in reaching out to them. Lord, bring them into our fellowship and grow them in unity with us! Loving God, we pray also for those within our body who are not yet married. Lord, help us to fully delight in Christ during this season, help us to faithfully steward our time for your kingdom and glory, and continue to grow us in holiness, O Lord. Gracious God, please bless our upcoming Engage Conference. Would many come and be motivated to reach the nations (even here in DC) for your glory and renown. We pray for our brothers and sisters at Redeemer Arlington Church, that they would hear faithful preaching, they would grow in unity, and that they would be a church that makes faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are at this very moment experiencing persecution for the name of Christ. We pray that amidst their suffering they would be reminded that awaiting them in Heaven is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, being kept for them. And for their persecutors, we pray their evil would be restrained, they would repent of their sin against you, O Lord, and trust in Christ, that they too might have the same salvation as us. Lastly, we pray for Joey’s sermon. Lord, would you allow Joey to be faithful to your Word, bold, articulate, and would you use his sermon to convict and encourage our hearts, that our affections for Christ would grow exponentially this morning!
We pray these things in the name of Christ! Amen.
Publicly and privately I (Joey) have often said, “God doesn’t just love you, he likes you.” And I say that because some of us carry around a low-grade level of guilt thinking that God loves us but only begrudgingly so. At best this type mentality leaves us spiritual dry and disconnected from God, and at worst it leaves us feeling condemned in our sin.
But what if God doesn’t just love us, but he actually likes us? For those repenting of their sins and trusting in Christ, God’s unwavering affection and delight is set upon you. His posture is not a begrudging love toward you, but a love-laced liking of you.
Mark Altrogge, captures these thoughts than I could. He writes:
When Jesus first saved me I believed God forgave my sins. Gradually I came to believe God loved me. But perhaps because of my upbringing or my own lack of affection for others I wasn’t sure God liked me. I believed he put up with me because he’d saved me, but didn’t have any sense that he delighted in me. I was wrong. God delights in his children. If you believe God loves you but aren’t certain he likes you let me try to persuade you with a few Scriptures:
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. ZEPH 3.17
God said this of Israel. How much more does he rejoice and exult with loud singing over his blood-bought children, for he sees his delightful Son in us. He sees us clothed with the beautiful righteousness of Christ.
…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. IS 62:5
Believers are the bride of Christ and he feels a wedding day delight in us.
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. PHP 1:8
Paul longed for his brothers and sisters with affection. Not a mere natural affection, but “the affection of Christ Jesus.” The very tender love Christ feels for his redeemed. Jesus doesn’t love you in some cold and distant way, but with a deep, heartfelt warmth and passion.
“As for the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” PS 16.3.
David delighted in God’s people. He saw them as “the excellent ones.” David expressed the very heart of God for his people. David wouldn’t delight in them more than God himself. This verse tells us how God sees us: as “excellent ones” in whom is all his delight. Believe me now? God not only loves you but he “likes” you – his heart overflows with affection for you because of Christ in you. Let God’s delight in you spur you on to increasingly delight in him, spending time with him in his word and prayer, worship and fellowship with his people.
“We should show when tempted to hide, and hide when tempted to show.”