Hank Hanegraaff, the host of the 𝘉𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘈𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘔𝘢𝘯 broadcast and the 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘜𝘯𝘱𝘭𝘶𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘥 podcast, follows up his recent teaching on fasting with the reminder to remain mindful of the purposes for fasting. As mentioned in previous episodes of this study series, four immediately spring to mind: forgiveness, almsgiving, supplication, transformation. Living disciplines such as almsgiving, prayer, and fasting characterized the life of Jesus. So, too, they must characterize ours. Every year millions make confessions of faith. But their habits of life are appreciably the same after conversion as they were before. Why? Because of the accumulated deposits of life experiences that remain entrenched in their embodied selves. They “have the desire to do what is good” but “cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). St. Peter vowed never to forsake his Lord. Yet when a young woman wondered whether he followed Caesar or was a follower of Christ, he renounced the Master with vile oaths. He swore he had no personal knowledge of the very One he had previously announced as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Preservation of life and limb overwhelmed his better intentions. This is the same problem we face in the cauldron of adversity. We may have correct inner beliefs yet lacking a full measure of the authentic Christian life we stumble in the moment of truth. How different our Lord. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law threatened to undo him, He exhibited an otherworldly calm—a peace in the midst of the storm. Such peace is accessible to you and me as well. Not by asking what Jesus would do in this or that circumstance. But by doing what Jesus did throughout the entirety of our lives. Such is the role of living disciplines. Force of will is entirely insufficient—indeed impotent—in dealing with the deeply ingrained tendencies embedded in the embodied self. Jesus said to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Supposing we can transform ourselves from carnality to Christlikeness through force of will is delusional. Willpower alone is insufficient to eradicate the layers of sin embedded in our embodied selves. Living disciplines can do what force of will cannot. They are the means through which we may sow to the Spirit instead of sowing to the sinful nature. The spiritual disciplines of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting are a way of sowing to the Spirit. By themselves the spiritual disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.
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