The Fasted Lifestyle
In this post, we will be studying Matthew chapter 11. This topic is so incredibly challenging and yet, to me, critical for this time in history. I have taken this material from a teaching tape series by Mike Bickle entitled, “Forerunners with a Holy Violent Love.”
This teaching helped me to understand some things God has done and is currently doing in my own life and I believe it will challenge you to make some important and necessary choices. This is a very heavy subject. But it is like fire shut up in my bones. It turned me inside out and it cannot be ignored. If it doesn‟t sink in after you’ve read it, that‟s OK. God will bring it back around when it‟s time. We‟re all at different places in the journey and God will grace you to walk in this when it‟s time.
We‟re going to go through this line by line, building the whole subject around verse 12 which says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” This scripture addresses the topic of “whole-heartedness”, which the Scriptures refer to as “spiritual violence.”
Offenses (Verse 6)
First of all, in verse 3, when John‟s disciples approached Jesus with the question that John sent them to ask, “Are You the one or should we wait for another?”, Jesus responds in essence telling them to go tell John that prophecy is being fulfilled. He outlines the fulfillment of Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 61 which told that the Messiah would heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, etc. Every good Jewish boy knew these prophecies. They knew it and Jesus knew John would know it. Then He exhorted them in verse six saying, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matthew 11:6). The point here is that we cannot grow in maturity and whole-heartedness while offended towards the Lord, having a closed spirit.
The Crowd Defined (Verses 7-10)
“As John‟s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: „What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings‟ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a proph22et. This is the one about whom it is written: „I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way before you‟” (Matthew 11:7- 10).
Jesus turns to address the crowd after speaking with John‟s disciples. He asks them three questions:
. 1) What did you go out to see in the desert? A reed swaying in the wind? (verse 7).
. 2) If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who
wear fine clothes are in king‟s palaces (verse 8)
. 3) Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you and more than a prophet
Jesus is addressing a crowd of people who actually went out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness. Now these people didn‟t make just a little effort to go and see John. To get to John was a five-day journey one way. So they walked five days there and five days back home in the hot sun. These people were sincere. They made a determined response to go see John and it was politically incorrect to go see John. John was causing tremendous trouble in the political arena of Rome by challenging Herod and also the religious arena of the Sanhedrin. It was costly to go see John.
But notice how Jesus asks them three times, “What did you go out to see?” He must have struck a nerve in them when He implied that they went out to “gawk” at the religious sensation of John with no understanding that He [Jesus], the Miracle Worker with Messianic prophecies, and John, the forerunner with the Spirit of Elijah had come together in the same nation at the same time. They didn‟t put two and two together and understand that cataclysmic things were about to break in on the human race in the natural and in the spirit.
A Prophetic Generation (Verse 10)
“This is the one about whom it is written: „I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you” (Matthew 11:10).
We know it was the mission of the forerunner to prepare the way for Jesus to come to a prophetic generation. There are three prophetic generations mentioned in scripture that stand above and beyond all the other generations of human history. All three prophetic generations had the same common factors:
. 1) They were transitional generations. This is where the purpose of God made significant and dynamic changes in the way that the redeemed would live before God. The people related to God differently and experienced Him differently.
. 2) They see the manifestations of the power of God.
. 3) It was required of them to have an unusual dedication to God commensurate
with the value and importance of it in God’s redemptive history.
The three prophetic generations were the following:
. 1) The Generation of Moses (Exodus). Most of the people of God witnessed the power of God on a nearly regular basis. It‟s the only generation in Old Testament history that did. It was a transitional generation. They were brought out of Egypt and into the wilderness to cross over to a new land. The fire of God came on Mt. Sinai bringing the entire nation into a covenant with signs and wonders. The power of God was manifest among them for an entire generation.
. 2) The Generation of the Apostles (Acts). The first century church is the second prophetic generation to experience a covenant God made with man. Now every single one of the redeemed would have the indwelling Holy Spirit. This communion with God was not limited to prophets, priests and kings. Anyone who desired could enter into the life of the Spirit.
. 3) The Generation of the Lord’s Return (I believe that’s us). Think about to what this generation is transitioning. The last days, the Bible says, the sky will be filled with fire. One or two billion people will eventually be suspended in mid-air, the new heavens and new earth will descend down into a renewed earth (see Revelation). This last phase of history will be a serious transition. We don‟t just have the indwelling Holy Spirit, but face to face dialogue, the presence of angels (which is on the increase), etc. We‟re talking major transition!
John the Baptist Defined (Verse 11)
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).
What is the Lord saying here? He is talking about greater privilege. John was the very last of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus was saying that the one who is least in the New Covenant has more privilege in God than the greatest one of the former dispensation: which was John the Baptist under the old covenant. He is announcing that there are radical changes getting ready to burst on the scene. There is a new dispensation about to begin and the least in the new dispensation has more privilege and more access to Holy Spirit experiences and Holy Spirit ministry than the greatest ones under the Old Covenant.
Now the multitudes were more than likely taken back a bit by this announcement and so Jesus continued with the introduction of the principle of whole-heartedness or spiritual violence. Spiritual violence is a radical pursuit, a refusal to be denied, a refusal to come up with anything less than God‟s best for our lives. Jesus introduces it in a strategic way.
Spiritual Violence Introduced (Verse 12)
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing (another translation says, “suffers violence”) and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12).
In other words, the new dispensation that is breaking upon you, permits, rewards and honors spiritual violence. As a matter of fact, the spiritually violent lover of God will literally seize and take things by force that would have been withheld from them if they would have been passive.
Response: The Dance and the Dirge (Verses 13-17)
“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear. To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting In the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance, we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn‟” (Matthew 11:13-17).
Jesus tells the crowd that if they were willing to accept it, John was “the Elijah” who was to come. The Spirit of Elijah rested on John in their generation which was a partial fulfillment of prophecy. Then Jesus compared them to children in a marketplace calling out, “We played the flute for you , and you did not dance; we sang a dirge [a funeral song] and you did not mourn.”
Jesus is saying that the wedding flute didn‟t produce the response of celebration and the funeral dirge did not produce the response of mourning or lamentation. The wedding flute represents the celebration of response to the presence of God. The funeral dirge represents our acknowledgment of the reality of sin in our world and its consequences being dealt with. The redeemed deal with the consequences of sin through self-denial. The unredeemed come under the judgements of God.
So Jesus is rebuking them, saying that they neither rejoiced at the coming of a new dispensation nor did they mourn or appropriately deal with the presence and consequences of sin in their generation or personal lives. They were unresponsive. They were passively indifferent. Neither approach awakened them. The celebration nor the warning of the funeral, neither provoked a response.
This celebration/funeral dirge combination is a divine paradox because this love- sickness of whole-heartedness has in it celebration in response to the presence of God and the anguish or mourning over sin. It is two-dimensional. Verse 12 (spiritual violence) is manifested in both the wedding song and the funeral dirge.
Jesus is drawing special attention to His generation. He chose His lineage and His generation therefore making it a prophetic generation or as Paul called it in Galatians 4, “The fullness of time.” The generation of Jesus was a very strategic and prophetic generation. Jesus picked it and therefore sanctified it as one of the most strategic generations of all of natural history.
Jesus is using John as the focal point to wake up His hearers to the fact that they were a prophetic, transitional generation. Their generation saw the fulfillment of two prophecies about the forerunner and the miracle-working Messiah. Jesus was essentially saying, “Can‟t you see that something massive is right in front of you?” What happens when the power of God is being manifested in the person of Jesus Christ in the flesh and the Spirit of Elijah is on the forerunner, John the Baptist? They couldn‟t see it. They didn‟t know.
It was a sign of a significant transition in God‟s economy. Jesus‟ point is that in a transitional generation where God is relating to His people in a different way than at any other time in human historyan accelerated way, a way with higher privileges where His power is released in greater manifestationsuch a prophetic hour requires an unusual dedication to meet the opposition that rises against the transition.
Jesus was trying to warn them that opposition was about to break forth in the natural and in the spiritual realm and God‟s power was going to be loosed to meet the opposition. But unusual dedication is the only answer; it‟s the cause to which God calls His people. Is there not a cause today? Is there any more noble cause then to stand as God‟s servants in the hour of transition of human history?
The spiritual obstacles that come in a time of transition we find in Revelation 12. War breaks out in the heavens. Like then, demonic and occult activity against the people of God in this Continue reading