Red Letters Series #12: Where Is Your Heart?


Matthew 6:16-21 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

When I use the word “fast” in our modern America we often think of:

FAST Food places like McDonald’s or Arby’s
Action movies like the FAST and Furious

Some of you think of BreakFAST,
what we’re told is “The most important meal of the day”.

When Jesus is talking about fasting, He is referring to a spiritual practice that few Christians exercise today. In Jesus’ day to “fast” was to go without food for a certain amount of time while seeking God in prayer and study of His Word. As Jesus spoke these red letter words to us from the Mountaintop He said:

Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast

Not IF but WHEN. Jesus expected His disciples to fast. Now let me be clear.

Fasting Is NOT A Way Of Earning Your Salvation

No one has ever been personally been saved by fasting. Salvation is ALL of GRACE.

Salvation comes by surrendering to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, by turning from
being your own god,
and following God.

The Pharisees often fasted as a means of both impressing people and also in hopes of impressing God. They fasted wrongly, for they rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and instead relied on their own religious abilities to bring them into God’s favor. The Scripture tells us:

Titus 3:4-8 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to {God’s} mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which {God} shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

God is our Savior. He is the One Who sent His Son to die for our sins. He is the One Who sent His Spirit to indwell us after salvation. Jesus Christ paid for my sins, and your sins as well, on that Cross of Calvary. He died for our sins, and rose again to lead us in the ways of the Children of God. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse in our place. It is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs upon the tree, the Cross” (Galatians 3:10-14). Because He was cursed, I can come to the Father claiming Christ’s work in my behalf. This is what salvation is. Not our works, but His work, blessed be the Name of Jesus!

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Salvation is by faith in Christ. Once we come to Christ we are commanded to do good works – works like fasting and giving – to be more like Christ our Savior. We are justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (Romans 3:28) but once saved, we do the things that are pleasing to our Lord. We are saved not because of our works, but because of God’s purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:8-10). Listen to me, Beloved. You cannot fast yourself into God’s family. Salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone. But once saved every Christian wants to know more about our God. Like that old song says:

While traveling through … this world of sorrow
I’m on my way … to glory land
I’ll not turn back … for some tomorrow
My trials here … I’ll understand

I want to know more … about my Jesus
I want to know more … about my Lord
I want to know more … about that mansion
I’m gonna receive … as my reward
I want to know more … about that homeland
I mean to go there … someday, somehow
And after I reach … that heavenly city
I mean to know more … than I know now!

Fasting draws you closer to God. God has promised to never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5), and God keeps His Word. The reason that God often seems far away is not because God is far away, but because WE are FAR AWAY. We allow the things of this world to draw our hearts away from God. Like the Psalmist said, “in all his thoughts there is no room for God (Psalm 10:4)”. Fasting is to replace something you often do (in the Bible this was eating) so that you can focus on God and His Word in prayer.

Fasting Throughout The Bible

In the Mosaic Law God only commanded the Israelites to fast one day of the year, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-32; Numbers 29:7). Yet fasting is found in many places throughout the Scripture.

  • When Queen Esther heard that Persian King Xerxes was going to kill all the Jews, she decided to go and see the King to persuade him against such a thing. Esther asked that the Jews fast for her (Esther 4:16) so that her mission would be successful.
  • When the cupbearer Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, we read:

Nehemiah 1:4-6 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, 5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: 6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant …

Nehemiah prayed that he would be released by the Persian King to lead a detail back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. His mission was God blessed because Nehemiah sought God first. Once the cleanup crew headed to Jerusalem they fasted, seeking God as they rebuilt:

Nehemiah 9:1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.

  • Daniel in Babylonian captivity prayed for the restoration of Israel. We read:

Daniel 9:3-7 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: 4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; 5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces…

  • What about the New Testament? When God told the Church to ordain the Apostle Paul and Baranabas for missionary work we read:

Acts 13:3 And when {the elders of the Church} had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on {Paul and Barnabas}, they sent them away.

As Paul and Barnabas established new Churches they in turn (Acts 14:23) “ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” The Apostle Paul often fasted (see 2 Corinthians 11:27; 6:5). Though there is no specific command for us Christians to fast it is important to note this truth:

Though Jesus Christ is the Son of God Incarnate (become flesh), He Himself fasted for 40 days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2) in preparation for His earthly ministry. If Jesus fasted, and we are to be “followers of Jesus” (see John 8:12),
then we should fast.

I can hear your objections now. I have heard them before. “Preacher, I can’t fast because I’m on medication that requires I eat something.” The purpose of a fast is not to harm yourself, but to give up something in order to draw closer to God in prayer. May I suggest some other options?

Fast from Social Media, the computer, the smart phone.
Fast from the television
Turn the electronic stuff off and open your Bibles.

You don’t have to fast for 40 days. How about one meal? Give up something that you do that pampers you, deprive yourself for a day or a few hours, and focus on your Lord and Savior. If you do, you will find yourselves drawing closer to God.

Fasting Is Not About Showing Off

Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Fasting is not about showing off. It is about drawing closer to God your Father. The Pharisees loved to come into the city on market day with their hair deliberately messed up. They would wear soiled or torn clothing, and rub ash on their foreheads, sometimes even whitening their faces to look as if they were fasting. God told Israel:

Isaiah 58:6 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?

The purpose of a fast is to loosen the bands of wickedness. To draw our attention back to God our Father. We fast to undo heavy burdens, to draw close to Christ so that we can lay our burdens on Him.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

As we fast and deprive the flesh, our hearts focus upon God our Savior. God uses the time we spend in Him to break the yoke that binds us, to remove from us the darkness, and make us brighter lights for Him.

Matthew 6:17-18 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

The purpose of fasting is to deny the flesh and feed the spirit. When the Pharisee fasts and brags of fasting, or does things to draw attention to himself, that Pharisee is in reality feeding the flesh. Jesus said “they have their reward”. When you fast and do so to please God, the Father Who sees you will reward you openly. In our America today we desperately need to seek God’s face. We need to fast. Whether it be a fast of food, or a thing we enjoy doing, let us do so to glorify our Lord.

Where Is Your Heart?

Matthew 6:19-20 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven …

 I won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes this week! What an exciting thing this was! My super prize check came to me in a large First Class envelope that cost the company $1.60 to mail. Sherry and I are going to take a vacation on the large sum received.

We got a check for a whopping $10.00!

I guess I’ve been sending in these Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes entries for 40 years or more. It costs a stamp to mail it, which costs .55. When I started doing this in 1980 a First Class stamp was .15. I suspect if you add it up I have probably spent far more than $10.00 on stamps to send in to this sweepstake. I’ve often thought about the sweepstake. If I won the money, what would I do with it? I hope I would glorify the Lord with it. But I don’t know.

I’ve never played the Tennessee Lottery (or any other Lottery, for that matter). I am told, however, that Americans spend an average of $206.69 on Lottery tickets each year. The odds of winning the Lottery are small. And the odds of keeping what you win is even smaller. Economist Jay L. Zagorsky writing for U.S. News and World Report stated: “Studies found that instead of getting people out of financial trouble, winning the lottery got people into more trouble, since bankruptcy rates soared for lottery winners three to five years after winning.”

Jack Whittaker, who won $315 million in West Virginia’s Lottery in 2002, told Time Magazine, “I wish that we had torn the ticket up.” Since winning, Whittaker’s daughter and granddaughter died due to drug overdoses. Just eight months after winning, he was robbed of $545,000. Whittaker said “I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got. I don’t like what I’ve become.”

Whereas fasting can open your heart to God, too much “stuff” can close your heart to God. Jesus told us what we all know: Treasures stored on the earth become moth eaten, rusty, and are stolen.

I had an Aunt that acquired quite a bit of money before she died. When she contracted Cancer the money she had and the properties she owned didn’t do a bit of good. Hospitals and nursing homes robbed most of her funds. What she had left my father received at her death. But before daddy and momma passed away, once more hospitals and nursing homes consumed their goods.

The stuff that we have, and that we hoard, can so easily be taken away from us. Even worst – this “stuff” can make our hearts immune to God’s Grace.

The Bible tells us of a man who came running to Jesus. Running! We read:

Mark 10:17 … there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

Jesus told the eager man:

Mark 10:19 … Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Those who enter eternity with God are saved by faith in Christ – but they are CERTAINLY NOT LAW BREAKERS. The Scripture says “Sin will not rule over you, for you are not under the Law but under Grace” (Romans 6:14). The Bible says that “Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from ALL iniquity, and PURIFY unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Those who are saved by Grace live lives pleasing unto God because God has put His law into our minds and hearts (Hebrews 8:10). No Christian is a law breaker. The man told our Lord Jesus:

Mark 10:20 … Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then the Bible says:

Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him…

Jesus looked into this person’s heart, just as he looks into yours and mine. Jesus loved him, but nonetheless spoke the truth. He saw that this young man’s heart was focused on not God, but on his “stuff”. His heart was filled with greed over the things he had. Jesus loved that man enough to tell him the truth.

You cannot go to Heaven nor walk with God if your stuff is your idol.
We must love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strength.
Our love for God must surpass the love we have
for even our spouses and children.

Loving this man Jesus told him:

Mark 10:21 …. One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Put away your idols. Give to those in need. Take up the Cross and follow Jesus. The Cross is hard. The Cross is self denial. But the Cross is absolute love. God does not mind us having “stuff”, but He doesn’t want the “stuff” to take His place. God must be first in our hearts and minds. We must love Him. Jesus’ command to “take up the Cross and follow Me” is found several times in Scripture:

Mark 8:34 And when {Jesus} had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 {Jesus} said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Where is your treasure, dear one? Where is your heart?

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If your treasures are in Heaven – in the love you have for Jesus – then nothing this life throws at you will destroy your spirit. Put your trust in Jesus. Follow Him. If your hearts have gone cold, redirect them to the Master. One day you will receive a glorious inheritance in Heaven, that is, if you are Christ’s. But if you are not His by faith, today would be a great day to meet Him. He calls for you. Come! The Spirit and the Bride say “Come”. Let him that heareth say, “Come”. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the waters of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17). May God touch your hearts and souls with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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