Christus in je, de Hoop der Heerlijkheid (deel 2)

(complete vertaling volgt z.s.m. )

Lezen

We weten dat we wedergeboren zonen en dochters van God zijn want de Geest van God in onze harten vertelt het ons.

GALATEN 4:6 "En overmits gij kinderen zijt, zo heeft God den Geest Zijns Zoons uitgezonden in uw harten, Die roept: Abba, Vader!"

De Geest is in onze harten geplant om ons de KENNIS VAN GOD te geven.

2 KORINTHE 4:6 "Want God, Die gezegd heeft, dat het licht uit de duisternis zou schijnen, is Degene, Die in onze harten geschenen heeft, om te geven verlichting der kennis der heerlijkheid Gods in het aangezicht van Jezus Christus."

1 KORINTHE 2:12 "Doch wij hebben niet ontvangen den geest der wereld, maar den Geest, Die uit God is, opdat wij zouden weten de dingen, die ons van God geschonken zijn;"

Hij doet dit ten eerste d.m.v. een getuigenis te zijn in ons hart, hetgeen we eerder voelen dan begrijpen - diep van binnen weten we het.

ROMEINEN 8:16 "Dezelve Geest getuigt met onzen geest, dat wij kinderen Gods zijn."

1 JOHANNES 5:6 "...En de Geest is het, Die getuigt, dat de Geest de WAARHEID is."

1 JOHANNES 5:10 "Die in den Zoon van God gelooft, HEEFT DE GETUIGENIS IN ZICHZELVEN..."

Maar er is meer. God maakt ons duidelijk dat ons gevoel – wat ons hart ons zegt – misleidend kan zijn.

JEREMÍA 17:9 "Arglistig is het hart, meer dan enig ding, ja, dodelijk is het, wie zal het kennen?"

We hebben al gezien dat we ons verstand niet mogen vertrouwen. Nu gaan we nog een stap verder. Ook al weten we wat de Bijbel zegt, soms voelen we ons heel anders. Bijvoorbeeld: we voelen ons onwaardig en zondig, zelfs al we weten dat God ons vergeven heeft en Hij heeft ons ZIJN RECHTVAARDIGHEID gegeven (2 KORINTHE 5:21). De Schrift vertelt ons wat te doen wanneer dit gebeurt:

1 JOHANNES 3:20 "Want indien ons hart ons veroordeelt, God is meerder dan ons hart, en Hij kent alle dingen."

God weet meer dan ons hart! Dus als ons hart ons iets vertelt dat fout is, geloven we God en negeren ons hart. Maar hoe laat God ons weten wat fout is? Blijkbaar niet door de getuigenis van de Geest in ons hart! Het antwoord zou al duidelijk moeten zijn, maar hier is nog een schrift (!):

2 PETRUS 1:18-21 (Petrus beschrijft een stem die hij  uit de hemel gehoord heeft: zie MATTHÉÜS 17:1-6) "En deze stem hebben wij gehoord, als zij van de hemel gebracht is geweest, toen wij met Hem op den heiligen berg waren. En wij hebben het profetische WOORD, dat ZEER VAST is (voortzeggend); en EN GIJ DOET WEL, DAT GIJ DAAR OP ACHT HEBT, als op een licht, schijnende in een duistere plaats... Dit eerst wetende, dat geen profetie der SCHRIFT is van eigen uitlegging. Want de profetie is voortijds niet voortgebracht door de wil eens mensen, maar de heilige mensen Gods, van den Heiligen Geest gedreven zijnde, hebben ze gesproken."

Het aller belangrijkste is dat het niet uit maakt wat je denkt, voelt of hoort - zelfs stemmen uit de hemel! - er is altijd een ding dat MEER ZEKEHEID geeft en MEER BETROUWBAAR: HET WOORD VAN GOD! Naarmate we Gods Woord meer begrijpen en vertrouwen, sterven de vleselijke gedachten en gevoelens. We leven alleen nog bij/door het Woord. Dit is precies wat God van ons verlangt: Hij gaf Zijn Woord juist met dit doel.

PSALM 119:105 "Uw woord is een lamp voor mijn voet, en een licht voor mijn pad."

MATTHÉÜS 4:4 "Doch Hij, antwoordende, zeide: Er is geschreven: De mens zal bij brood alleen niet leven, maar bij ALLE WOORD, dat door den mond Gods uitgaat."

We kunnen nooit dicht genoeg bij het Woord geraken of te veel nadruk er op leggen, want God heeft Het verheven hoger dan wat dan ook uit Zijn schepping en heeft Het gelijk gesteld aan zich zelf!

PSALM 138:2 "Ik zal mij nederbuigen naar het paleis Uwer heiligheid, en ik zal Uw Naam loven, om Uw goedertierenheid en om UW WAARHEID; want Gij hebt vanwege Uw gansen Naam Uw woord groot gemaakt."

JOHANNES 1:1 "In den beginne was het Woord, en het Woord was bij God, en HET WOORD WAS GOD."

Al het andere - de aarde, de hemelen, onze lichamen - zullen vergaan: ALLEEN GODS WOORD ZAL BLIJVEN.

MATTHÉÜS 24:35 (Jezus spreekt) "De hemel en de aarde zullen voorbijgaan, maar Mijn woorden zullen geenszins voorbijgaan."

1 PETRUS 1:24-25 "Want alle vlees is als gras, en alle heerlijkheid des mensen is als een bloem van het gras. Het gras is verdord, en zijn bloem is afgevallen; Maar het Woord des Heeren blijft in der eeuwigheid; en dit is het Woord, dat onder u verkondigd is."

Deze verzen laten duidelijk zien dat God Zijn Woord zeer hoog acht en dus is het aannemelijk dat Hij veranderingen niet toelaat: wat Hij heeft gezegd staat voor eeuwig, maar alles wat willen toevoegen, zal vernietigd worden. Wij kunnen noch TOEVEOGEN, noch iets WEG LATEN: ieder woord telt en niets kan het evenaren. De Bijbel staat vol van waarschuwingen hier over.

DEUTERONOMIUM 4:2 "Gij zult tot dit woord, dat ik u gebiede, niet toedoen, ook daarvan niet afdoen (weg laten); opdat gij bewaart de geboden van den HEERE, uw God, die ik u gebiede."

DEUTERONOMIUM 12:32 "Al dit woord, hetwelk ik ulieden gebiede, zult gij waarnemen om te doen; gij zult daar niet toedoen, en daarvan niet afdoen."

SPREUKEN 30:5-6 "ALLE REDE GODS IS DOORGELOUTERD; Hij is een Schild dengenen, die op Hem betrouwen. Doe niet tot Zijn woorden, opdat Hij u niet bestraffe, en gij leugenachtig bevonden wordt.."

PREDIKER 3:14 "Ik weet, dat al wat God doet (inclusief wat Hij zegt!), dat zal in der eeuwigheid zijn, en er is niet toe te doen, noch is er af te doen; en God doet dat, opdat men vreze voor Zijn aangezicht."

OPENBARING 22:18-19 " Want ik betuig aan een iegelijk, die de woorden der profetie dezes boeks hoort: Indien iemand tot deze dingen toedoet, God zal hem toedoen de plagen, die in dit boek geschreven zijn. En indien iemand afdoet van de woorden des boeks dezer profetie, God zal zijn deel afdoen uit het boek des levens, en uit de heilige stad, en uit hetgeen in dit boek geschreven is."

Daar geen mens tegen deze duidelijke en sluitende schriften op kan, gebruiken mensen die hun eigen mening willen verkondigen om ze op hun manier uit te leggen. Met deze "interpretatie" doen ze niets anders dan hun eigen mening naar voren schuiven. We hebben Gods waarschuwing gelezen tegen deze persoonlijke uitleg in 2 PETRUS 1:20. De Heilige Geest heeft de bewuste mensen "bewogen" deze Geschriften te schrijven en diezelfde Heilige Geest wordt ons vrijelijk gegeven om in ons het Woord van God te openbaren.

1 KORINTHE 2:12-13 "Doch wij hebben niet ontvangen den geest der wereld, maar den Geest, Die uit God is, opdat WIJ ZOUDEN WETEN de dingen, die ons van God geschonken zijn; Dewelke wij ook spreken, niet met woorden, die de menselijke wijsheid leert, maar met woorden, die DE HEILIGE GEEST LEERT, geestelijke dingen met geestelijke samenvoegende."

Het kan niet duidelijker: God geeft ons Zijn Heilige Geest zodat wij alles wat met Hem te maken heeft, en in het bijzonder de Bijbel, kunnen begrijpen. We kunnen de Bijbel niet zonder de Geest begrijpen en daarom gaat het natuurlijke verstand 'interpreteren,' hetgeen niets anders is dan Schrift proberen te begrijpen met je verstand. God zegt dat dit niet kan.

1 KORINTHE 2:14 "Maar de natuurlijke mens begrijpt niet de dingen, die des Geestes Gods zijn; want zij zijn hem dwaasheid, en hij kan ze niet verstaan, omdat zij geestelijk onderscheiden worden."

In het Oude Testament werd de Heilige Geest vaak in verband gebracht met zalving, d.w.z.het uitgieten van olie over iemands hoofd (bijv.: 1 SAMUËL 16:13). Wij hebben hetzelfde mee gemaakt, maar dan op een iets andere manier, maar met een mooier resultaat:

1 JOHANNES 2:27 "En de zalving, die gijlieden van Hem ontvangen hebt, blijft in u, en GIJ HEBT NIET VAN NODE, DAT IEMAND U LERE; maar gelijk dezelfde zalving u leert van ALLE DINGEN, zo is zij ook WAARACHTIG (zie 1 JOHANNES 5:6), en is geen leugen; en gelijk zij u geleerd heeft, zo zult gij in Hem blijven."

Johannes spreekt natuurlijk over de Geest die God in ons hart geplaatst heeft. Met deze Geest, dezelfde Geest die de Bijbel tot stand heeft laten komen, kunnen we alle dingen van God begrijpen. Neem de tijd bij ieder vers dat je tegenkomt en lees het aandachtig zodat de Heilige Geest het in je hart kan schrijven. Probeer nooit het te begrijpen met je verstand want ons deze is daar niet toe in staat. Vaak moeten we eenvoudig weg alleen wachten totdat iets klikt binnenin ons hart; op dat moment weet je dat God je iets wil zeggen, ook al kun je het soms niet onder woorden brengen. Soms moet je dus een vers apart nemen en er over bidden en God vragen het in je hart te openbaren. (we spreken wel eens van een vers dat gezalfd is, dat wil zeggen dat God deze persoon iets heeft geopenbaard de HG. Dit is volkomen normaal.) Dit is trouwens de enige manier om ooit de Schriften te begrijpen. Dus we moeten vaak bidden voor wijsheid en openbaringen van de Geest in ons. Hij maakt van ieder vers een LEVEND iets, iets dat leven op zich heeft en dat op zijn beurt weer leven kan produceren.

JOHANNES 6:63 "DE GEEST is het, Die levend maakt; het vlees (je gedachten en gevoelens); is niet nut. De woorden, die Ik (Jezus); tot u spreek, zijn GEEST en zijn LEVEN."

Alleen de Geest kan ons het Woord openbaren: ons eigen verstand snapt er helemaal niets van (1 KORINTHE 2:14). We moeten ons meteen al aan het begin realiseren dat al onze kennis van God moet komen.

JOHANNES 3:27 "Johannes antwoordde en zeide: Een mens kan geen ding aannemen, zo het hem uit de hemel niet gegeven zij."

Aan de andere kant, wil God ook dat wij deze openbaring van Hem krijgen – Hij wil dat we diep in ons hart begrijpen wat Jezus voor ons gedaan heeft.

KOLOSSENZEN 1:27 "Aan wie (ons) GOD HEEFT WILLEN BEKEND MAKEN, welke zij de rijkdom der heerlijkheid dezer verborgenheid onder de heidenen, welke is CHRISTUS ONDER U, DE HOOP DER HEERLIJKHEID;"

Vanaf het begin werkt de Geest in onze harten, gevende ons de ware zekerheid dat wat wij horen ook werkelijk het Woord van God is, de 'gospel' of het goede nieuws van Gods kracht in ons leven.

1 THESSALONICENSEN 1:5 "Want ons Evangelie is onder u niet alleen in woorden geweest, maar ook in KRACHT, en in den HEILIGEN GEEST, en in VELE VERZEKERDHEID; gelijk gij weet, hoedanigen wij onder u geweest zijn om uwentwil"

Door in de Geest te bidden, openen we de deur voor Gods Geest om in ons hart te werken en Zijn Woord te openbaren - dus bidden we vaak voor wijsheid en openbaringen; en dat niet alleen voor ons zelf maar ook voor elkaar.

KOLOSSENZEN 1:9 "Waarom ook wij, van dien dag af dat wij het gehoord hebben, niet ophouden voor u te bidden en te begeren, dat gij moogt vervuld worden met de kennis van Zijn wil, in alle wijsheid en geestelijk verstand;"

Als we in de Geest bidden, leren we Jezus in ons kennen en door Hem leren we ook God kennen. We gaan de dingen begrijpen die met onze verlossing te maken hebben, ook al begrijpt ons verstand dit niet. God heeft als het ware onze ogen geopend voor Zijn waarheid - niet onze eigenlijke ogen, maar een ander soort ogen, genaamd "de ogen van ons verstand." We zijn ZEKER van wat Hij zegt in Zijn Woord en wij WETEN dat God in onze levens werkt met al Zijn kracht.

ÉFEZE 1:16-20 (Paulus zegt, Ik...) "Houde niet op voor u te danken, gedenkende uwer in mijn gebeden; Opdat de God van onzen Heere Jezus Christus, de Vader der heerlijkheid, u geve den Geest der wijsheid en der openbaring in Zijn kennis; namelijk verlichte ogen uws verstands, opdat gij moogt weten, welke zij de hoop van Zijn roeping, en welke de rijkdom zij der heerlijkheid van Zijn erfenis in de heiligen; En welke de uitnemende grootheid Zijner kracht zij aan ons, die geloven, naar de werking der sterkte Zijner macht, Die Hij gewrocht heeft in Christus, als Hij Hem uit de doden heeft opgewekt; en heeft Hem gezet tot Zijn rechter hand in den hemel;"

Het leerpatroon zou nu duidelijk moeten zijn. God gaf ons Zijn Woord wat op zich ALLES WAARHEID is (JOHANNES 17:17). Dus alles wat we moeten weten, staat in de Bijbel en alles wat in de Bijbel staat is waar. Om van Gods wegen te leren, lezen we eenvoudig weg vaak. Nadien, en vooral als we over de gelezen verzen bidden, kan de Geest in ons beginnen te werken om de schriften tot leven te brengen in onze harten zodat we begrijpen wat God tegen ons zegt. Als we niet lezen, weten we ook niet wat God wil en dwalen we gauw af. De eerste pagina van deze studie leerde ons al dat onze emoties niet te vertrouwen zijn - ALLEEN het Woord kan ons feilloos leiden. Het is daarom ESSENTIEEL de Bijbel regelmatig te lezen - net zo belangrijk als in de geest te bidden. Hoe beter we de schriften kennen, hoe minder fouten we maken en dan wordt God pas werkelijk verheerlijkt in ons leven: dus iedereen wordt vermaand ijverig te lezen!

2 TIMÓTHEÜS 2:15 "Benaarstig u, om uzelven Gode beproefd voor te stellen, een arbeider, die niet beschaamd wordt, die het Woord der waarheid recht snijdt."

Dit is eens te meer belangrijk want als we het Woord lezen, leren we MEER OVER JEZUS:

JOHANNES 5:39 "ONDERZOEKT DE SCHRIFTEN; want gij meent in dezelve het eeuwige leven te hebben; en die zijn het, die van Mij getuigen."

ALS JEZUS dit zei tegen niet-geredde mensen die weigerden Hem te geloven, hoe zeer moeten wij dan wel niet de schriften ijverig doorzoeken, wetende dat zij getuigen van Jezus die ONS LEVEN IS (KOLOSSENZEN 3:4). Het zijn de woorden zelf die leven voor ons betekenen (JOHANNES 6:63; MATTHÉÜS 4:4) en we moeten ze respecteren als de ware woorden van God, die in ons werkt en ons leven geeft.

1 THESSALONICENSEN 2:13 "Daarom danken wij ook God zonder ophouden, dat, als gij het Woord der prediking van God van ons ontvangen hebt, gij dat aangenomen hebt, niet als der mensen woord, maar (gelijk het waarlijk is) als Gods Woord, dat ook werkt in u, die gelooft."

Gods Woord 'werkt' in ons want Hij heeft het feitelijk in onze harten geplant:

JEREMÍA 31:33 "Maar dit is het verbond, dat Ik na die dagen met het huis van Israel maken zal, spreekt de HEERE: Ik zal Mijn wet in hun binnenste geven, en zal die in hun hart schrijven; en Ik zal hun tot een God zijn, en zij zullen Mij tot een volk zijn."

DEUTERONOMIUM 30:11-14 "Want ditzelve gebod, hetwelk ik u heden gebiede, dat is van u niet verborgen, en dat is niet verre. Het is niet in den hemel, om te zeggen: Wie zal voor ons ten hemel varen, dat hij het voor ons hale, en ons hetzelve horen late, dat wij het doen? Het is ook niet op gene zijde der zee, om te zeggen: Wie zal voor ons overvaren aan gene zijde der zee, dat hij het voor ons hale, en ons hetzelve horen late, dat wij het doen? Want dit woord is zeer nabij u, in uw mond, en in uw hart, OM DAT TE DOEN."

Dit toont ons eens te meer het wonderlijke feit: Gods Woord leeft in ons.

KOLOSSENZEN 3:16 "Het woord van Christus wone rijkelijk in u, in alle wijsheid..."

2 JOHANNES 2 "Om der WAARHEID wil, die in ons blijft, en met ons zal zijn in der eeuwigheid."

Dit laatste vers zegt hetzelfde want we zagen al eerder dat Jezus zegt:"UW WOORD IS DE WAARHEID" (JOHANNES 17:17).

We naderen het belangrijkste feit dat er bestaat over het Woord van God. Bedenk dat Jezus zei, "Ik ben de Waarheid" (JOHANNES 14:6) en dat Zijn inwoning in ons, onze hoop op eeuwig leven is (KOLOSSENZEN 1:27). Dit laat ons al zien hoe sterk het verband is tussen het Woord en Jezus zelf. De volgende stap is te zien dat het Woord onze redding is!

JAKOBUS 1:21 "Daarom, afgelegd hebbende alle vuiligheid en overvloed van boosheid, ontvangt met zachtmoedigheid het Woord, dat INU GEPLANT WORDT, HETWELK UW ZIELEN KAN ZALIGMAKEN."

Dus hoe belangrijk is dit Woord? Onze redding hangt er van af! God heeft het verheven boven Zijn Naam (PSALM 138:2) en heeft het in een ieder van ons vereeuwigd. Het is een deel van ons geworden. We delen er in. De eerste verzen van Johannes tonen ons het wonder van het Woord dat nu in ons hart leeft:

JOHANNES 1:1-2 "In den beginne was het Woord, en het Woord was bij God, en het Woord was God. Dit was in den beginne bij God."

('Woord' en 'woord' zijn hetzelfde, zoals we al zagen met 'Geest' en 'geest')

Vanaf het begin toen God hemel en aarde schiep (GENESIS 1:1) was het Woord al bij Hem. Hoewel het laatste Woord pas zo een tweeduizend jaar geleden geschreven werd, was het Woord voor de schepping! Dit Woord leeft nu in ons!

JOHANNES 1:3 "Alle dingen zijn door Hetzelve gemaakt, en zonder Hetzelve is geen ding gemaakt, dat gemaakt is."

Jawel, ditzelfde Woord was betrokken bij de gehele schepping. Nog een schrift dat hetzlefde zegt is 2 PETRUS 3:5. Geen wonder het Woord voor altijd zal blijven bestaan, ook al verdwijnen hemel en aarde!

JOHANNES 1:4 "IN HETZELFDE WAS HET LEVEN, en het Leven was het Licht der mensen."

Bekijk nogmaals dat ons leven in het Woord is! We weten dat CHRISTUS IS ONS LEVEN (KOLOSSENZEN 3:4). Jezus zegt dat Hij het licht der wereld is (JOHANNES 8:12). Het was Jezus die alle dingen schiep (KOLOSSENZEN 1:16). Wat gebeurt hier? Is het een tegenstelling: het ene schrift zegt dat Jezus zo en zo is of deed dit en dat, terwijl een andere schrift zegt hetzefde over het Woord? Het antwoord is in al zijn glorie geopenbaard:

JOHANNES 1:14 "EN WOORD IS VLEES GEWORDEN, EN HEEFT ONDER ONS GEWOOND (en wij hebben Zijn heerlijkheid aanschouwd, een heerlijkheid als des ENIGGEBORENEN VAN DEN VADER, vol van genade en waarheid."

Dit zegt eenvoudig dat het Woord van God, dat alle dingen schiep, gelijk met de Vadef vanaf het begin, mens werd en onder ons leefde, terwijl het tegelijkertijd duidelijk wordt dat Hij de eniggeboren Zoon van God is. Dit was dus niemand anders dan Jezus zelf. Petrus en anderen getuigden:

MATTHÉÜS 17:5 "Terwijl hij nog sprak, ziet, een luchtige wolk heeft hen overschaduwd; en ziet, een stem uit de wolk, zeggende: Deze (Jezus) is Mijn geliefde Zoon, in Denwelken Ik Mijn welbehagen heb; HOORT HEM!"

Bedenk dat Petrus zei, dat het geschreven Woord is zekerder dan een stem uit de hemel! En het punt is dat dit Woord is Jezus zelf. Praktisch gezien betekent dit dus dat als we Jezus willen volgen, we moeten doen wat het Woord zegt. Als we over het Woord willen leren, moeten we naar Jezus kijken. En we weten dat Jezus in ons is - de hoop der glory. Zijn Woord vertelt ons wat we moeten weten voor het eeuwige leven, AND DAT WOORD LEEFT IN ONS HART.

1 JOHN 5:9-13 "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. HE THAT BELIEVETH ON THE SON OF GOD HATH THE WITNESS IN HIMSELF: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is IN HIS SON. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life."

The witness is in our hearts: Jesus Himself. As we read the Word and pray about it we realise that Jesus Himself is speaking to us in the words that we read, and His Spirit is 'anointing' them to us, making them alive in our heart. Both halves of this are equally important: if we read something and it doesn't 'click' we haven't understood it properly; take it to God and pray about it. On the other hand, if you think or feel something without knowing a scripture to back it up, you may be wrong. If you can't find the verse that you need, go and ask one of your elders.

You are now living with God in Christ. This is a wonderful life, and it centres around one thing: God's Word. It is a life of praying, reading and telling others of Jesus. Get into the habit now of frequent reading and you will be building wisely on a sure foundation.

Which Bible?

There is a bewildering variety of 'Bibles' available today. In the English language alone, there are the Douay Version, the Authorized ('King James') Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Knox Version, the Jerusalem Bible, the New English Bible, the 'Moffatt Bible', 'Good News for Modern Man' (or 'Today's English Version'), and many others. No two of these are alike! The obvious question is, how do we know what is the correct 'version' of God's Word?

God makes a number of very important statements about His Word, in the Word itself:

PSALM 119:89 "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven."

PSALM 12:6-7 "The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."

As we have seen, we can neither add to nor subtract from God's Word. Here He says that it is fixed for ever, and in addition we are given a guarantee that God will preserve His Word, independently of men. This means that even if every man on earth were against Him, still the Word would be kept pure and intact. In particular, this means that right now there can be no part of the scriptures missing, or else God will have failed. So there is no problem about 'right' books being left out.

On the other hand, there are still attempts to put wrong books into the Bible. Some of those versions named above include a number of extra books in the Old Testament, and add extra pieces to the existing books as well. The same extra material is included in some other Bibles in a separate section called 'The Apocrypha'. Right from the start the history of these books has been of people trying unsuccessfully to have them accepted as a true part of the Bible. They cannot belong, because they contradict other genuine scriptures in many places. None are ever quoted in Old or New Testaments. God has kept them out of His Word, and we need not consider them further.

Now that we know what are the correct books for the Bible, the next question that arises is, what are the correct words within these books? Because of the perishable nature of parchments and papers the original copies of the books have not survived, and the earliest copies we have come from about 300 years later. Because of the enormous and prolonged persecutions of all Christians that took place in this period it is only by a miracle that the scriptures were not lost altogether. Instead God has, as He promised, kept His Word and preserved it, so that we can trust Him that no word of it has been forgotten. The trouble is that extra words have crept in: apparently if people were not sure whether something was scripture or not they put it in just in case! The result is that if we collect all the manuscripts from this period there are many small differences and a few big ones as well.

Here are some examples:

  1. Some copies are missing the last twelve verses of MARK (i.e. MARK 16:9-20). It is obvious that there should be something else to follow verse 8, but the fashionable 'wise' answer today is to say that the original ending is lost and that what we have is something someone else wrote to fill up the gap. But if this were so PSALM 12:7 would have failed. So the 'original' ending (that is, the one that the Holy Spirit intended to be there) must have survived, and of the three possibilities that we have, the one in our Bibles is the only real contender. So we can be quite certain that MARK 16:9-20 belongs in our Bible.
  2. 1 John 5:7 is often omitted or changed in some versions. It is actually a good proof for the Trinity and states: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." Instead, in corrupted Bible versions, verse 7 is omitted and verse 8 is changed, being split into two parts, to cover verse 7. Verse 7 is often quoted as: "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth."

Other examples can be found in the book "Let's Weigh the Evidence" by Barry Burton (Cat. B).

This accounts for some of the more puzzling differences between Bibles. The third and simplest to deal with is simply a matter of translation. The Old Testament was written mostly in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in a form of Greek. This means that before most of us can read the scriptures they must be translated, or rewritten in English. Unfortunately it is never possible to translate from one language to another completely accurately, just by the nature of the way people use words, so that sometimes what is said in the English Bible is not what was originally meant.

A common example is the Greek word that means 'have faith'. It is usually translated as 'believe', but it means much more than that: to 'have faith' in God means to live your whole life through Him, completely trusting Him in everything you do and obeying Him in everything He asks. There just isn't an English word that means all that, so we have to use 'believe', and remember all the other things as well: ADHERING to Him, TRUSTING Him, RELYING on Him. This is the sort of thing that we have been putting in brackets when we quote a scripture (e.g. 'supplication' in EPHESIANS 6:18 means 'earnest pleading').

Once we realise that all of the different versions are made by men and therefore imperfect, there is very little to choose between them. We use the Authorized Version (sometimes called 'King James Version') because it is the most common and the most reliable. The more modern ones (Revised Standard, New English Bible) are more accurate as regards the second sort of mistake, although they sometimes go too far by relying on men's wisdom instead of what God has said. And when it comes to translation, all the modern versions seem to take much more liberty – replacing whole phrases and sentences with others that 'mean the same thing' because they sound more natural. This sort of thing is just plain dangerous.

Many people at first find the Authorized Version too 'old-fashioned'. The trouble is that God's Word cannot change to keep up with the times! There just isn't a word in common everyday use for such things as 'righteousness', 'propitiation', 'grace', 'holiness', and so on. The solution is not to run to a 'modern speech' translation that waters down the sense until everyone thinks they can understand it in their heads! Rather we must pray frequently for understanding of the scriptures, and read them often, so that the words and ideas are no longer strange to us. In these sheets most of the difficult words will be explained as they appear, and if you find any others you can always ask your pastor or elders.

Another advantage with the Authorized Version is that it comes in so many different shapes and sizes, with all sorts of different 'extras' added. Some things to watch for when you are buying a Bible are:

  1. Maps: Some people find these helpful, and many Bibles have a small selection at the back. Illustrated Bibles have many other pictures as well, but these are rarely any use and may distract you.
  2. Italic Type: Is the sort of lettering that slopes to the right: it is used in many Bibles to indicate words which have been added to the English to complete the sense of the Hebrew or Greek. Most of these are necessary and there can be no argument about what words should be added.
  3. Marginal Notes: All but the cheapest Bibles have a column either down the centre of the page, or at the side, which gives references to the main text. These are of three types: one gives alternative translations which in the New Testament at least are usually more accurate than those in the text. The second type of reference gives one or more scriptures which have something in common with the verse referred to. Some of these are useful, for example, when an Old Testament (O.T.) verse is quoted in the New Testament (N.T.): The O.T. verse will usually have a reference saying 'cited...', and the N.T. verse will have one saying 'cited from...', so that you can easily see what the connections are. Others are less useful, for example, sometimes a reference will give all the other verses where a particular plant or animal is mentioned, or a type of 'grammatical construction' is used. There are also notes giving explanations, which are usually very few, only giving the equivalents of weights and measures or the value of money: these are rarely important for understanding what is happening.
  4. Commentaries, etc.: Either at the back of the book or along the bottom of the page some Bibles have notes and 'helps' to 'understanding' the scriptures. It is wiser not to use these but to get ALL your understanding from the scriptures themselves, by reading and by prayer: 1 JOHN 2:27.
  5. Other 'Helps': Some Bibles have all sorts of added extras: short histories, time lines, tables of weights, lists of festivals, 'hints on how to read the Bible' - almost everything imaginable. Again, it is wiser on the whole to ignore these. Two sorts of 'extras' are common:
  • 'Bible Encyclopaedias' or 'Bible Dictionaries' list various words and give explanations of their meanings and significances. This again is dangerous, as they are all written by men, who for all we know might have been unsaved. In general, no 'help' should be used unless it causes you to turn back to reading the scriptures themselves; if it becomes a substitute it must not be used.
  • A 'Concordance' is simply a list of words used in scripture, each word accompanied by a list of places where it occurs in the Bible. This is obviously a great help in finding a particular verse, and some Bibles have a short one at the back, although if you want a complete concordance that lists every scripture you will have to buy it separately as it is at least as big as another Bible. The shorter ones are easier to handle, but you may not be able to find the particular verse you want. But then you can always ask your pastor or an elder.
  • When you buy a Bible (Authorized Version) look out for italics and for a good 'margin'. The other things do not matter as much, and you can buy a book of maps or a concordance separately if you want them. If you do not mind the extra expense you can get Bibles with extra room down the sides of the page for you to write your own notes in (called 'widemargined' editions), but these are not cheap. (One of the advantages of the Authorized Version is that all these things are readily available: most of the other versions come in only one or two ways.) A Bible that is cheaply bound will save money now, but remember that you will use it a lot and it will need replacing sooner.

BE DILIGENT IN YOUR READING!

Fasting

The Flesh

Right in the very first Bible study we saw that we are dead to ourselves and that all our life is now in Christ.

COLOSSIANS 3:3 "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."

We have been made COMPLETELY NEW, and because of this it is to be expected that we will live in a new way.

ROMANS 6:3-4 "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so WE ALSO SHOULD WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE."

That is, just as Jesus began a new life three days after He died, so we have begun another life - the change is just as complete because it is all accomplished "by the glory of the Father". One thing only keeps us alive: JESUS IN US.

COLOSSIANS 1:27 "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY."

Because He is in us and we are in Him EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED: we are walking IN A NEW LIFE.

2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

We must be careful to remember this always: all things are become new - God says so! We see it with the eyes of our understanding. On the other hand, if we look around with our natural eyes we will see things that seem not to have changed: the most important is that we still seem to be walking around in the same body, the same flesh and blood. We MUST see – understand – that this is an illusion: WE ARE DEAD and CHRIST LIVES IN US.

GALATIANS 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

This is the wonderful reality of being a new creature in Christ: HE HAS TAKEN OVER. HE LIVES IN US – WE DON'T. OUR BODY IS NOW HIS BODY.

1 CORINTHIANS 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

This same body died when we were baptised, receiving the wages of sin, which is death (ROMANS 6:23). Then Jesus came in, and His Spirit brought a new life through Jesus' righteousness. But now our body is no longer its own master: Jesus is in charge, not our 'flesh'. What this means is that our 'flesh' is still dead, but the Spirit is giving our bodies a new life.

ROMANS 8:10-11 "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but THE SPIRIT IS LIFE because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (make alive) your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

In other words, the life that we now live in the flesh we only live through Jesus in us – just what GALATIANS 2:20 says.

This 'flesh' that we live in is more powerful than we may realise, for associated with it are all the old ways of life from the times past, all the habits, all the lines of thought. But because all these things are made new, we truly can walk in newness of life, with all the old ways just forgotten! The 'old man' that used to sin is completely destroyed, so that the old ways that are associated with sin do not concern us either.

ROMANS 6:6 "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."

This is a cause for great joy, because the flesh was, and is UNPROFITABLE – in other words, useless! All that we have that counts is Jesus' Word and the life that the Spirit gives:

JOHN 6:63 "It is the spirit that quickeneth (makes alive); the flesh PROFITETH NOTHING: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."

Before we were saved we lived 'in the flesh', that is, not only in our body, but bound to its ways and habits as well. Now that we have been made anew we are no longer 'in the flesh' but 'in the Spirit':

ROMANS 8:9 "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

Now as the flesh is dead and the Spirit is alive, there is simply no problem: we just follow the Spirit's leading and ignore the flesh. Trouble can only occur if we do not realise this fully and carry on as if the flesh were still alive. In practice this would mean keeping to the old ways of the flesh and making allowances for them: this is called living after the flesh or according to the flesh. It is obviously a lost cause because the flesh is already dead! IF WE GET ENTANGLED WITH DEAD THINGS WE WILL END UP DYING OURSELVES.

ROMANS 8:13 "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."

'Mortify' just means 'put to death'. In other words, KILL OFF your old ways by showing them that they are already dead, and live only through Jesus – He is OUR LIFE (COLOSSIANS 3:4). We notice that we are told to do the mortifying through the Spirit – we cannot do it ourselves, because anything we do without God is of the flesh! The Spirit is given to us to help us by doing the work of mortifying as we yield ourselves to be led by Him: this He is more than willing to do, because our flesh is truly His enemy!

GALATIANS 5:17 "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit (this means that it has a strong desire to subdue him), and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

There is a real battle going on in our bodies! We have already seen how this comes about in one part of our flesh, which is the MIND: God says something, and our mind refuses to believe it. The same sort of thing works in other parts of our flesh too: sometimes we 'feel' too tired to pray. This happened to Jesus' disciples once, and He told them what to do: PRAY ABOUT IT! This seems ridiculous to our minds, but that's flesh, too, so we must ignore it and do what Jesus says:

MATTHEW 26:41 "Watch and PRAY, that ye enter not into temptation: the Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

What really happens is that our flesh tries to get our eyes off God and onto something else, often itself. If we live 'after the flesh' – in our old ways – our understanding is pointed only at the flesh; only if we live 'after the Spirit' can we truly understand God's ways – this means mortifying our natural or fleshly mind and using the mind of Christ (1 CORINTHIANS 2:14-16).

ROMANS 8:5-8 "For they that are after the flesh do mind (here it means 'understand') the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded (to have a fleshly understanding) is DEATH; but to be spiritually minded (to have an understanding of the Spirit) is LIFE and PEACE. Because the carnal (fleshly) mind is ENMITY (hostility!) AGAINST GOD: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

The whole nature of our flesh is one of rebellion – enmity – against God and His Law. This is so fundamental that not even God can restore our flesh: instead through Christ He gives us a NEW LIFE.

JOHN 3:6-7 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh (and cannot be changed); and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born-again."

No one can be saved unless they become born-again, because they are still in the flesh, and God cannot allow flesh into His heavenly kingdom:

1 CORINTHIANS 15:50 "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."

By God's grace we have become dead to the flesh so that we might live for Him only and walk in newness of life (ROMANS 6:4). This means not just being 'in the Spirit', which we all are, but WALKING in the Spirit.

GALATIANS 5:16 "This I say then, WALK in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."

'Walking' with God is a simple thing: He has set us a path that leads to eternal life, and all we have to do is walk along it and claim the prize – in fact we already have it, because by believing in Jesus we have already died and risen into heaven:

JOHN 5:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, HATH EVERLASTING LIFE, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."

EPHESIANS 2:6 "And HATH raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

But the path that God has given us to walk along is narrow, and the flesh will by its nature try to drag us away from that path. The only way we can keep from falling off it is to walk in the Spirit.

MATTHEW 7:13-14 "Enter ye in at the strait (narrow) gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Paul wrote of this and said that because of it he kept his body under control like a good athlete, so as not to miss out:

1 CORINTHIANS 9:27 "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection (under control): lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

There is only one solution, if we want eternal life – to let God mortify our flesh and put it under His own control.

COLOSSIANS 3:5-6 "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience."

It is time now to be specific and see just what things God does want mortified:

  • FORNICATION means any sexual activity apart from natural acts between husband and wife.
  • UNCLEANNESS means what it says (impurity). This means thoughts, words, acts - anything impure.
  • INORDINATE AFFECTION just means uncontrollable emotion or passion.
  • EVIL CONCUPISCENCE means a bad excessive desire.
  • COVETOUSNESS is just hankering after something not yours – God says this amounts to
  • IDOLATRY, which is making a god of it.

Here is another list:

GALATIANS 5:19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

  • ADULTERY is when a man has sexual intercourse with another man's wife. (Both have then committed adultery.)
  • LASCIVIOUSNESS is just excess, in any form.
  • WITCHCRAFT means any use of charms or magic remedies or superstitions. This is of the flesh and has no place in God's work.
  • HATRED is likewise of the flesh and must be mortified.
  • VARIANCE means contention or fighting and arguing about doctrines.
  • EMULATIONS means fleshly zeal – in other words, misplaced enthusiasm.
  • WRATH is pure flesh and must be destroyed: JAMES 1:20.
  • STRIFE is personal quarrels: these cannot be allowed in God's church – we are all saved.
  • SEDITIONS occur when people 'stand apart' and refuse to submit to God on some point.
  • HERESIES are simply personal opinions – these will go as we take on Christ's mind.
  • ENVYINGS are like covetousness: wanting something not yours.
  • MURDERS obviously have no place!
  • DRUNKENNESS simply means DRINKING ALCOHOL. (There will be a later study on this.)
  • REVELLINGS means wanton or loose behaviour.

Some of these things seem harmless to our old minds - some are indeed common to all men – but God says they are works of the flesh, and MUST be destroyed: if we persist in them we will not inherit eternal life.

Here is yet another list with the same terrible warnings:

1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-10 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."

  • EFFEMINATE means affectedly delicate men, that is, men who behave as a woman or unmanly.
  • ABUSERS OF THEMSELVES WITH MANKIND are homosexuals. God demands that they come to him and be transformed. (The same applies to lesbians.)
  • THIEVES likewise have no place except they repent.
  • REVILERS use abusive language against others.
  • EXTORTIONERS obtain things by violence or intimidation.

We have gone into detail on these things so as to be sure where we stand: ALL have flesh that MUST be mortified. At the same time we must realise thankfully that Jesus' Blood has already cleansed us from all these things.

1 CORINTHIANS 6:11 "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified (set apart for God), but ye are justified (made RIGHTEOUS) in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

We know that we cannot be condemned for what goes on in our flesh because Jesus dwells in us and gives us His righteousness. GOD ONLY SEES HIM.

ROMANS 8:1 "There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are IN CHRIST JESUS, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

But because of THIS SAME RIGHTEOUSNESS, Jesus has the POWER to destroy and mortify ALL our flesh. As far as He is concerned this is ALREADY DONE (ROMANS 6:6).

2 CORINTHIANS 2:14 "Now thanks be unto God, which ALWAYS CAUSETH US TO TRIUMPH IN CHRIST, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place."

MATTHEW 28:18 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ALL POWER IS GIVEN UNTO ME in heaven and in earth."

JOHN 17:2 "As thou hast given him (Jesus) POWER OVER ALL FLESH, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him."

We know that because we are justified apart from what we do (that is, our works), we are in a state of liberty where nothing is unlawful for us. But this does not mean we can do what we like and still please God – He wants and expects us to walk with Him according to His ways which will mean according to His Word.

1 CORINTHIANS 6:12 "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

Things happen in our flesh from time to time at first, but they are not to be encouraged and must never get the upper hand. Rather we must mortify our flesh so that we can serve God and one another.

GALATIANS 5:13 "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion (or impulse) to the flesh, but by love serve one another."

If we allow it, our flesh can push us on until it is completely restored and in full control: where does that leave God? To prevent this we must surrender ourselves to Him and let Him mortify.

ROMANS 6:11-13 "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be DEAD indeed unto sin, but ALIVE UNTO GOD through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members (the parts of your body) as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."

In fact God puts it as strongly as possible: we make ABSOLUTELY NO ALLOWANCE for our flesh or what it wants. Only Jesus counts, and He is OUR LIFE.

ROMANS 13:14 "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts (desires) thereof."

So God wants us to completely ignore our flesh and its old ways and surrender completely to Him. Because of Christ in us no more is needed – Jesus' Blood has already cleansed us from all our sin.

So if your flesh stumbles, admit it to God and keep going on – He has promised that sin is forgiven and cleansed.

1 JOHN 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

As we walk in the Spirit the sin in our flesh dies off and we just live with God. But if we do make a mistake we must know that there is still no condemnation (ROMANS 8:1) because Jesus is pleading with the Father for us.

1 JOHN 2:1 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate (a helper) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

In fact, the same Jesus Christ the righteous is now in us and we are in Him, so that for all purposes we do not sin at all - 1 JOHN 3:9. Only our flesh does. All the more reason to get it mortified!

EPHESIANS 5:18 "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit."

As we walk in the Spirit our body is truly dead and all our life is in Jesus. Then, instead of the works of the flesh (GALATIANS 5:19-21), we start to show forth something different: the FRUIT of the SPIRIT.

GALATIANS 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."

All these things together are called a fruit because they grow within us. You do not wake up suddenly one morning and find you 'have love' or any of the others! All we do is thank God that His Spirit is within us, and wait patiently in prayer for all these things to be manifest in our lives as the flesh is mortified. Truly all the work is already accomplished because the flesh is already dead – we only wait for the flesh itself to realise it!

GALATIANS 5:24-25 "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (its passions and desires). If we live in the Spirit (which we do), LET US ALSO WALK IN THE SPIRIT."

Remember that Jesus has bought you - you are not your own (1 CORINTHIANS 6:19). It is only right then that we do walk as Jesus did: by the power of the Spirit.

1 JOHN 2:6 "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."

We walk as Jesus walked by crucifying the flesh, sharing in His death: then when the flesh is dead, Jesus can shine forth from us in all our lives.

2 CORINTHIANS 4:10 "(We are) always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."

So that, like everything else, the mortifying of our flesh has already been done in Jesus: we simply thank God that He has already given us the victory over all the 'problems' of our flesh: the battle is the Lord's!

1 CORINTHIANS 15:57 "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Fasting

One excellent way to mortify the flesh is to fast, which simply means not to eat, or to abstain from food. The immediate result is that our body cannot get what it wants, and learns that God is now in charge, which is good and proper. Normally when you fast you eat nothing and drink only water. Medical people tell us it is unwise to go for longer than twentyfour hours without water, although by God's help Queen Esther once fasted without water for three days (ESTHER 4:15-16) in the most drastic circumstances – her whole people was about to be destroyed. Generally in the Old Testament fasting was used in times of emergency or for special need. When the whole nation had been defeated twice in battle they fasted together (JUDGES 20:26). When they were defeated by the Philistines they repented and did the same thing (1 SAMUEL 7:6). The people fasted seven days after King Saul died (1 SAMUEL 31:13). King David fasted for a child that was dying (2 SAMUEL 12:16). King Ahab fasted when the Lord had promised to destroy all his house (1 KINGS 21:27). King Jehoshaphat prayed and fasted when he heard of an approaching enemy army (2 CHRONICLES 20:3). When Ezra was about to begin a long and dangerous journey he fasted and prayed to the Lord for protection (EZRA 8:21). Other people fasted in time of sorrow or when help was needed (NEHEMIAH 1:4 and NEHEMIAH 9:1; PSALM 35:13; DANIEL 6:18 and DANIEL 9:3). When we come to the New Testament we see that the prophetess Anna fasted when she was 'of great age', probably over one hundred years old (LUKE 2:36-37). Most importantly, Jesus fasted (MATTHEW 4:1-2).

Should we fast? Jesus says so:

MATTHEW 9:14-15 "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 away from them, and then shall they fast."

People were criticising Jesus' disciples for not fasting: Jesus replied that while he was with them it was just not right for them to fast. Of course Jesus is still with us, but no longer in His own body, and NOW is the time to fast. He does not say 'then may they fast' or 'then might they fast' or 'then I would like them to fast', but 'then SHALL they fast'. This puts the obligation on us to determine what God wants for us. The same thing is repeated in MARK 2:18-20 and LUKE 5:33-35. We see that Jesus is speaking of now because of the pattern given us in Acts:

ACTS 13:2-3 "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."

ACTS 14:23 "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."

The apostle Paul also testified that he often fasted, showing himself as a minister of God:

2 CORINTHIANS 6:5 "In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings..."

2 CORINTHIANS 11:27 "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness..."

Paul tells us to follow his example: 1 CORINTHIANS 4:16.

We conclude then that as Christians we ought to fast. Beyond this the scriptures do not tell us much, except for one passage where Jesus tells us how to go about it:

MATTHEW 6:16-18 "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. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 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."

We learn from this firstly that because the flesh is being mortified we should rejoice, not mope and grumble like the flesh wants to.

ZECHARIAH 8:19 "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah JOY and GLADNESS, and CHEERFUL feasts; therefore love the truth and peace."

The other point is that fasting is between each individual and God, and must be undertaken for HIS sake – that our flesh may be mortified so that His Son can take over and HE be glorified.

ZECHARIAH 7:5 "Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?"

There are lots of other reasons for fasting: people sometimes go without food for medical reasons (it is usually quite beneficial); others fast to prove a point or to give extra weight to their arguments (this is why people go on 'hunger strikes'). In many religions the people fast to try to atone for their sins: we know that nothing we can do can ever do this; only Jesus' Blood counts with God. If we are fasting for these reasons God cannot honour it.

ISAIAH 58:3-5 "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? (They were fasting, but God was apparently ignoring them. He answers:) Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 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?"

They were fasting for personal pleasure, or to advance their own arguments, or to gain advantage over someone else. No wonder God wasn't answering! Instead He gives us the proper reasons for fasting:

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?..."

At the simplest level, we fast for God's work to be done. This will then mean He is glorified.

As to the physical effects of fasting we cannot be precise because the flesh is being affected, and is even more unpredictable than ever. Circumstances will change from one person to another, and for the same person from one fast to another. Usually the first obvious effect is that you feel hungry. This is because your body is used to getting far more than it needs and when this stops it complains. Sooner or later (about a day, sometimes less) after you start to fast the hunger has stopped, but you feel weak. Sometimes this in turn will disappear in a day or two, sometimes not, but certainly you will be looking more and more to the Lord as the fast goes on. It is very important to drink a lot of water, because otherwise your body starts to dehydrate. The first symptom of this is headache caused by the brain contracting: if this starts, drink more water than ever. If you fast more than a day or two your knees may become weak and you will almost certainly lose weight (PSALM 109:24), but for some this may not be a bad thing! As to the length of the fast, this you have to work out with God: it can be as short as one day (or even a part of one day) and as long as months! Your pastors and elders are always willing to help you. When you break (finish) a fast, NEVER gorge yourself – you might as well not have fasted in that case. If you have fasted more than a day or two it is unwise to eat solid food straight away: you will need to start on fruit juice and then soups and so on. Your body has been living off itself during the fast and has 'forgotten' how to digest fresh food, so be careful – you can easily make yourself very ill and displease the Lord as well. Afterwards, apart from loss of weight, your body will probably have benefited by being thoroughly cleaned: when you are eating at full capacity, not all the food can be digested and a lot of 'waste' builds up, which can be unhealthy. As you fast, the body lives off this and uses it up. If anything untoward happens when you are fasting see your pastor about it first, because the problem is likely to be spiritual rather than simply medical.

For all that we can do – reading, praying, fasting – it is really God that is mortifying our flesh. All that we can do is yield ourselves completely to Him.

ROMANS 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

When we are completely surrendered to Him, He is able to mould us, like a potter moulds clay, into the shape He wants us.

JEREMIAH 18:6 "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel."

We simply say 'Amen' – 'Yes, Lord' – to that: ISAIAH 64:8. We want Him to mould us and destroy our flesh, even though we know it will hurt at the time, because it's for His glory, and the end is everlasting life. As God deals with us the flesh is troubled, but the Spirit gives us peace inside (GALATIANS 5:22). So instead of 'labouring' to do it ourselves, we submit to Him.

MATTHEW 11:28-30 "Come unto me (Jesus), all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

We can trust Jesus and believe Him, so that when our flesh is troubled – for example when we are fasting – we know that it is for our good (ROMANS 8:28). After a while we learn not to regard the flesh at all, but simply to look to Jesus, with the result that the 'affliction', which just means a pressure on our flesh, becomes light and momentary – we just cease to worry about it and rejoice in Jesus instead, knowing that greater things are in store for us. While our flesh is being cut away, the one thing that counts – CHRIST IN US – is increasing more and more.

2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-18 "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man (flesh) perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

HEBREWS 12:1-2 "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and LET US RUN WITH PATIENCE the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS ..."

Compiled by Pentecost Revival Centre, Ballarat, Australia, approx. 1968-1972.