1.2 The Taming Of The Flesh

Welcome to the next part of Red Bricks. From here onward our study of discipleship will deal almost exclusively with the words and deeds of Yeshua. It is always better to start with the source, rather than what other people have written about the source. Yeshua is the source Himself – His very words are life to all who believe. If you want to purpose to be more like Him in every way, then getting to know everything He said and did is an excellent foundation to your discipleship.

Read Luke 4:1-13

We are told that we should follow Yeshua. In order to follow Him, we must first believe in Him, and what His name signifies. To believe in Him is not a one-off event but, instead, it is a lifetime of being faithful to Him; like a bride to her husband. That faithfulness means being loyal to Him alone. It means not to be swayed by any other ideas and beliefs than what He said and showed us by way of example. We trust Him because He is trust-worthy. He is worthy of our trust. Once we have been granted that trust, or faith, or belief in Him then, as we learnt in the first session, we get baptized.

In following His example you will note that after Yeshua was baptized, He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Note that He went willingly. Note also that He didn’t eat for forty days. Why forty? Well, there are many reasons shown throughout the Old Testament, but for the purposes of this study we are looking particularly at the physical reasons. Forty days is as long as the human body can survive without food and then still be able to start eating again. Once you deny yourself food for more than forty days, your body will no longer be able to digest food. This is a medical fact.

We learn in Matthew’s account of Yeshua in the wilderness, that Satan came to Him at the end of the forty days. Why did Satan wait until then? Because he thought Yeshua would be at His weakest then. That is how Satan works. But, Satan found that Yeshua was far from being at His weakest after forty days without food. He was, in fact, at His strongest. The reason is because Yeshua was showing us that if we subdue the flesh by not eating, the strength of our spirit will increase. If you push your flesh to the limit in almost every scenario, your spirit will want to survive; it will drive you on. You will know of amazing stories of people who survive horrific situations simply because their spirits had taken over. Yeshua showed us that we can rely upon the Holy Spirit for our strength when we deny the fleshy part of us.

You will be aware that part of man’s downfall was eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of God and Evil. This was a sin because God had told them not to eat it. To deny our bodies food is to stand in defiance of temptation and Satan’s lies. The first sin was to stop believing what God had said and to start believing what the serpent was saying. This is unfaithfulness. Adam and Eve stopped trusting in God and started trusting in lies.

Read Genesis 3:1-6

Note that Eve quoted what God had said in response to the serpent, just as Yeshua did in response to Satan in Luke 4:4. With Eve, despite quoting God, she allowed the desires of her flesh to dominate her thinking and she subsequently gave into them. Yeshua, on the other hand, had already learnt to deny the desires of the flesh and, as a result, was able to withstand the temptations that Satan waved in front of Him. There is an important lesson for all believers here.

“For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world.” [1 John 2:16]

Satan tempted Yeshua in exactly the same way that the serpent tempted Eve. He has no new tricks, but then, because of our lack of understanding of spiritual matters, he doesn’t really need anything new to draw us in to unfaithfulness to God. He used the ‘lust of the flesh‘ on Eve and she saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food. He tried the same trick with Yeshua by tempting Him to turn the stone into bread. He tries to appeal to what he thinks dominates our minds. That is why we fast – to deny the flesh. The serpent then used the ‘lust of the eyes‘ on Eve and she saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye. Again the same method with Yeshua by showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and making them look attractive to Him. Finally, the serpent used the ‘pride of life‘ to trap Eve completely. She realized that the fruit would make her just like God in her understanding and, as she was already allowed to eat from the Tree of Life, she would never die. When Satan tried that with Yeshua, he even quoted the scriptures to Yeshua, but Yeshua knew better.

Eve failed on all three temptations. Yeshua’s example is that if we live our lives by the Spirit and not the flesh then we will be able to counter any attack or temptation that Satan sends our way.

Elsewhere in the Bible (James 4:7), we are told that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. Yeshua led by example on this. He withstood the temptations, despite being forty days without food. Remember that Yeshua was entirely human in doing this. I am not suggesting that you start with a forty day fast, but I am suggesting that you practice Yeshua’s example until you master how to subdue the flesh and learn to be led by His Holy Spirit. Fasting is simply one way of subduing the flesh. The life that Yeshua led as a man is packed full of examples of Him allowing himself to be led by the Spirit. He teaches us not only that we should do it if we want a life closer to Him, but also how we should do it.

Read Matthew 6:16-18

Under the Law, or Torah, regular fasting was a requirement. The people used to make a big deal out of it. This was to appear to be more spiritual than they really were. Be careful not to get drawn into worrying about what others might think of you. In that last scripture Yeshua was also saying for us not to get too legalistic or ritualistic when fasting. If you get all legalistic about it, you give into the flesh. Legalism is man-made – of the flesh. Remember that Yeshua went out into the wilderness to fast. He didn’t want people to notice He was fasting. Do not make it into a law – or you will feel the guilt that the law brings should you break a fast early for whatever reason. The purpose of fasting is to draw nearer to God. Instead of a meal, read a chapter of the Bible. This is your spiritual food. Feed your spirit not your body when trying to get closer to God. Think about what you are reading whilst fasting and meditate on it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more of the person of Jesus to you, for in the person of Yeshua is the true nature of God Himself.

In Mark 9:29, Jesus links fasting with prayer:

“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” [Mark 9:29]

Here Yeshua was discussing with His disciples their inability to drive a demon out of a young boy. He wasn’t saying that you had to pray and fast WHILST driving out demons. He was saying that if you want to have authority over demons then you will need to spend quality time with God. He was, in effect, saying to them that if you spend more time getting to know God and His nature by praying more and by fasting more, then you will be given the authority to drive out demons, and perform other supernatural acts.

Throughout the gospels we see that Yeshua frequently withdrew to lonely places to be with His father. Spending time with God, talking to Him, is essential. Just look at the example that Yeshua left us. Without that close communion, you will never learn to use the authority He wants to give you. We don’t know how often Yeshua fasted, but we do know that he placed great importance on it because, after baptism, it was His next act. Yeshua always practiced everything He preached so we need to follow His example.

Read Isaiah 58

This scripture teaches us that fasting, in God’s eyes, is less a religious act and more about a state of mind or a spiritual condition. It is important that we understand the Spirit of God in these matters and not just the man-made rules. On one of the regular feasts which the Hebrews have long observed, they are told to ‘afflict your soul’ (Leviticus 16:31). The word used for soul is actually the Hebrew word nephesh or nefesh. This word actually means apetitite. So, the purpose of fasting is linked to what we hunger after. To afflict our soul is to restrain ourselves when it comes to what we desire. God’s message to all of us is that we should feed our spirits, and not our flesh.