Title: Judges 20. The second appendix: The Benjamite War; humility before God's will.
After two defeats by Benjamin, the army of Israel offers burnt and peace offerings, likely for the sins of their brother Benjamin, they weep for Benjamin, and they fast. They revealed a love for their brethren and a complete submission to the will of God.
We had begun to look at what God calls fasting in the scripture, and although it would be related to forsaking food for a time, it is actually the acts of sacrificial, brotherly love towards others. In these we certainly deny ourselves legitimate needs so that we may serve and benefit another person.
Sacrificial brotherly love will only be realized in a believer who has fully given his life over to God and has fully deferred to God’s will above his own.
You cannot fake this, and we would assume that there have been very few people in this world who have experienced it. It is the love of Christ in application, and all may realize it, but they have to get themselves out of the way, they must no longer look at the world and the people in it with eyes of pride and self, and by that I even mean "some" pride and "some" self.
The Hebrew word for "soul" (naphesh) refers to the entire person. All of our being must be given over to God. We can't hold any of it back.
The Shema states:
DEU 6:4 "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
DEU 6:5 "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
The demand "with all your …" excludes all half-heartedness. Heart: conscience, will, knowledge. Soul: entire person. Might: do so exceedingly.
"Might" is a word that is often used as an adverb for "very" or "exceedingly" and so here it would refer to your all or your excess. It is closely akin to the Greek word perissos.
"And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [perissos: exceedingly]?"
"than others" is not in the original text. It would read, "what do you do extraordinary?"
DEU 6:6 And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart;
DEU 6:7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
DEU 6:8 And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
DEU 6:9 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The shema is to be all around you all the time. It is to be the main thing that we teach our children. We find in this a call from God to willfully give over to Him our whole lives and our whole persons and to not be divided or double-minded. It is true that it scares us, but think about the alternative. To whom, other than Him, would you give your life? Who is able to care for it and give it what it needs and desires?
Every Christian, coherently or not, wants to make his own modifications to the plan of God, and then he wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. Everyone is attracted to bits of the plan of God and they try to leave out the rest, and that is why they only get so far. No one will experience the depth of the love of Christ until he accepts all of it.
God calls us to complete dependence upon Him, which means trusting Him when we are in difficulty, which almost everyone can see, but it also means that we give all of ourselves over to His ways and His commands, which almost everyone tries to avoid.
The Christian in trouble will find it easy to cry out to God for help, and he should - every time. But will he cry out for God's help in humbling himself, removing all of his pride, so that he may give all of himself in the service of others. This is why the love for God is followed by the next greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot confidently say that we serve God with all of ourselves if we do not do the same to the body of Christ. As our Lord clarified: "If you have done it to them, you've done it to Me."
Love God with all of you. Love your neighbor as yourself. What does it mean, "as yourself." It is the love that all of us have for what's best for ourselves. This can actually be godly.
There has been a lot of confusion about loving your neighbor as yourself. The confusion in not in loving your neighbor, but in the "as yourself" part. I have heard several interpretations and some have taught that you have to learn to love yourself and then you can love your neighbor. The funny thing about that falsehood is that the person seems to always be working on the "loving themselves" part and never seem to move on to their neighbor. No one has to learn to love themselves. All of us are born loving ourselves and it never goes away. Initially it seems blasphemous that this is the love that God has in mind, but it is the only one that is not perverse. You see, if you have to learn to love yourself then you have to find good in you and admire it. This is definitely not in view as we are to lose ourselves.
People always want what's best for themselves. Everyone wants to be rich and famous, but few want to do the work or exercise the discipline necessary to do it. The ones who do are often all hyped up on their own pride and worth, which is ugly and ungodly, but it is not this perversion that we are after. We are after the initial desire for what is best for me. Let's skip right to Christianity.
The best thing a Christian can do for himself is to become conformed to the image of Christ. He will experience the fruit of the Spirit. He will experience pure joy.
I would venture to say that every Christian, because of the divine seed that is in them, desires to be conformed to the image of Christ, but how many are willing to do what it takes to realize that end? Would you not agree with me that this is the best thing for them? What could be better to have than pure divine joy? All the tea in China couldn't buy it. Everyone who has ever lived is looking for it. And there is stands, yelling at us from the list of the fruit of the Spirit as #2, right behind agape love.
God's joy in our hearts, everywhere, anywhere, all the time, no matter what. You and I have to literally fight in our souls to hold on to it. It slips through the fingers of our minds so easily.
We are not to be the believer who gives some of himself to God and others and reserves some for himself.
We find king Saul relating to Samuel that he had done the will of the Lord, when he had only done part of it. We find many of the first Christian Jews in the church trying to hang on to parts of the Mosaic Law. Every believer attempts to alter the plan and then convince himself that it is the true plan. We all learn that this cannot be done.
MAT 5:47 "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [perissos: exceedingly] than others [not in original]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
MAT 5:48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
MAT 6:16 "And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
MAT 6:17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face
MAT 6:18 so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
The fasting of the Christian is his self-denial in love and service of others. It is the law of Christ, and it is constant, day by day.
Christ does not condemn fasting but tells us how it should be done. It is not compulsive but voluntary. It would include the proper sacrifice of anything for the benefit of another.
Sacrifice, or laying down one's life for another, would include denial of anything, including food, and only for a legitimate reason. As our Lord said, it should never be done for any approbation, to be seen by others, or even to admire yourself. It is the practice of self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit, and so a key aspect to the Christian way of life.
Therefore, according to Christ's instruction, when we perform these spiritual functions we are not to look any different than if we were not sacrificing.
Self-control means that I don't always satisfy the appetite of the body, whatever form that appetite may take. Often in service of others there is a call to self-renunciation. The Holy Spirit doesn't force us. We must choose to deny ourselves and trust the Spirit to give us the power to carry it through.
As the fruit of the Spirit, we have self-control and also joy. A grudging self-control is not of the divine.
The attempt at discipline is not enough to accomplish it, as almost everyone has found out in their personal experience. Self-denial does not come natural to the flesh, and the attempt must be made based upon faith in the indwelling Spirit and in following Christ's example. We are to be aware from the word of God of the rebelliousness, constant pride, slothfulness, and self-indulgence of the flesh.
MAT 26:40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?
MAT 26:41 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
When we choose to deny ourselves, we must trust in God's power within us to accomplish it. If we are disciples we have His word in us and His Spirit in us and together they have more than enough power for us to see any self-denial in the will of God through to the end. Trust is a humiliation of the flesh. As Paul stated, "I buffet my body and make it my slave." The flesh hates to be denied since it lusts for kingship.
The flesh, hating to be denied or delayed anything, hides under a false impression of the word "liberty."
It tells us that it is free from all compulsions, and thus only in this is liberty, but liberty without the proper authority is always anarchy and not liberty at all. Our authority is the One who sits at the right hand of God until all are made a footstool for His feet. Our freedom consists in having the power to be like Him in our thinking and conduct as disciples. Such freedom sometimes demands self-sacrifice in love. So then, the disciple is free indeed, but freed from the flesh so that he may follow Christ, hence he is simultaneously Christ's slave. When "in Christ" a "free slave" is not a paradox.
The disciple is not to put on a gloomy face or look fatigued or agitated for the purpose of being seen as one who is really sacrificing.
If he does he has gotten his reward in full. When we fast, or pray, or serve, or lay down our lives we are to look and act as we do in times of rest and ease. We are to be in sacrificial service as we are when we're on vacation. For this to be true we must really be doing what we do in service of God and not in the care of being recognized by men.
The Christian is not called to be an ascetic, but at times of service he does have to practice asceticism by denying himself of something that he may normally partake of.
This sacrifice of time or energy or wealth is done unto God first and foremost and then unto people, and if it is, we will not care whether we are recognized or thanked. Our reward is with our Father and, as we have seen, that reward is being able to actually live the life of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not looking for the Father to give us anything else, though in His matchless grace He may, but just to walk in the image of Christ is the ultimate reward.
We sacrifice unto God first and foremost and only then to people, then we will not care if we are recognized or thanked.
We are to reject asceticism for the sake of asceticism alone. But if we find that the flesh has far too frequently ruled over us with the result that we failed to serve our Master, then it is time for an assault on the flesh, but not through brutally treating the body, but through Bible study and prayer, and with these, a greater diligence.
1CO 9:26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
1CO 9:27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified
"Disqualified" (adokimazo) = un-testable.
One of the types of tests that we receive is the call to deny ourselves something that we may legitimately partake of in the service of another, even an enemy or persecutor.
Salvation does not guarantee self-control in life. The Corinthians were believers, and they were carnal. When the Christian thirsts and hungers for righteousness then he is a disciple.
If a Christian desires the flesh above the Spirit then he will find himself daydreaming about spirituality while justifying the reality that his flesh is really in control of his life.
ROM 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts,
ROM 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
The carnal Christian knows he is to pray and has faith that he should, but he doesn't, and the same is true for service, study, sacrifice, love, etc. The picture of self-control may be a dream in the mind but not an actual part of life. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and the Spirit will empower it in the life of the Christian who takes the steps towards it by faith.
The motive for self-control is simple: to be equipped for better service.
It is not an end in itself. It is to lead to the service of God in anything He wills. It is not a function of the flesh so that it may show itself off to others or even to one's self as an achievement. The disciple hungers for it, and his faith in the word of God for instruction and his faith in the power of the Spirit to make it a reality give him the power of service unto God and therefore unto others.