“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” (Isaiah 58:5)
God never commanded you to examine your emotions, experiences, or sins. What He did say is, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Victory over sin comes from focusing on Christ — not beating yourself up! In the Old Testament the Israelites reached a place of despair. They’d fasted and “afflicted” their souls, yet God ignored their efforts. They sought spiritual restoration in their own self-directed way, and God rejected it, saying: “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen … for people to humble themselves … bowing one’s head like a reed … in sackcloth and ashes? Is that … acceptable to the Lord?” Clearly, God is not pleased with the misery that comes from self-focus! He has a more effective way to liberate us. Rather than have us weighed down with remorse, He said: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice … set the oppressed free … break every yoke … share your food with the hungry … provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not … turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7).
God’s way eliminates the “paralysis of self-analysis” by commanding you to forget about yourself completely; to stop dwelling on your imperfections and get involved in the lives and needs of others. His four-point plan for overcoming your flesh is:
- Acknowledge His grace and see yourself as ‘righteous’ in Christ.
- Fix your eyes on Jesus.
- Shun obsessive self-focus.
- Serve God by serving others.
When you do all these things, “Your light will rise in the darkness … The Lord will guide … and … strengthen [you]” (vv. 10-11).
Heavenly Father, help me focus on the needs of others and serving them in Your Name, in Your way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.