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Ideas for Small Groups

Giving is Fun Weeks of Self-Denial 2014 Is fasting the same as self-denial?

For some who fast regularly in the seven weeks before Easter, this time is often the start of a new habit or way of life. At this point I would like to distinguish between the various methods of fasting, which also include The Salvation Army’s weeks of selfdenial, and a fundamental attitude of selfdenial.

I do not own the interpretational sovereignty for these two terms. Language always has something to do with feeling. So I will dispense with detailed definitions. In the Old Testament, we often read that the people fasted. Sometimes people fasted in the context of collective penance. But always with the intention of showing God how serious they were in their concerns.

Jesus, who himself practised periods of fasting, at the same time demonstrates and calls for a perpetual self-denial. In it lies the secret of a new life.

Fasting is a purposeful process, but limited in duration. It was said of John’s disciples that they ‘often fasted’ (Luke 5:33). Normally, fasting entails temporarily giving up something essential, like food. So fasting is like a ‘little death’, which implies: I am standing up for this cause with my whole life. This unconditional purpose also explains why fasting is connected with prayer. •

General Bramwell Booth wrote similarly in a handout for Salvationists: It is a striking thought that self-denial is, perhaps, the only service that a man can render to God without the aid or co-operation of something or someone outside himself – unless it be to pray. If, for example, he speaks or sings for God, whether in public or in private, he must have hearers; if he distributes gifts, there must be receivers of his charity; if he leads souls to Christ, these souls must be willing to come; if he suffers persecution, there must be persecutors. And though it is true that God can, and often does, wonderfully teach and inspire His people without the direct aid of any human agent, it is equally true that He generally does so by the employment of His word, which He has revealed to men, or by the recalling of some message which has already been received into the mind and heart. After full allowance has been made for the power and influence of intervening agencies, it is in Him we really live, and move, and have our being. But I return to my first word. There is one kind of service open to all, irrespective of circumstances and gifts, which can be rendered to God without the intervention of anyone. And this we may truly call selfdenial. Much that quite properly comes under that description need never – probably will never – be known to anyone but God. It may be a holy sacrament indeed, kept between the soul and its Lord alone.

Share what experiences you have had with fasting.

Jesus says that ‘fasting and prayer’ will help us to serve with authority and experience miracles (Mark 9:29). At the same time he warns about making a religious show. ‘Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you’ (Matthew 6:1-4). According to that, our weeks of self-denial would be more of a time of fasting, a time of spiritual exercise with positive effects on our whole lives. The concept of The Salvation Army, which hands over the money saved for mission with all its heart, makes us expect more blessings. ‘For God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). •

How could this cheerfulness be expressed?

Take turns telling each other how God has blessed you, after you voluntarily gave up something for a while?

1 Frank Honsberg // Evangelist & Territorialer Sekretär für Entwicklung geistlichen Lebens // Impulse 2014 SVW 04 ENG Die Heilsarmee THQ // Salierring 23-27 // 50677 Köln // // 0221-20819-0

Ideas for Small Groups

Giving is Fun Weeks of Self-Denial 2014 Song Book of The Salvation Army 511

The success of the first Salvationists is due to the fact that they brought this offering of self-denial with joy. That affected income, certain amusements, time and strength.

1. My body, soul and spirit, Jesus, I give to thee, A consecrated offering, Thine evermore to be.

Let’s look at the many holiness songs which speak about complete commitment to God. ‘All to Jesus I surrender’ (SASB 474) and ‘Not my own; my time, my talents, freely all to Christ I bring’ (SASB 514) are just two examples.

Chorus My all is on the altar, I'm waiting for the fire; Waiting, waiting, waiting, I'm waiting for the fire. 2. O Jesus, mighty Saviour, I trust in thy great name; I look for thy salvation, Thy promise now I claim.

A relic of the past? – On the contrary! It concerns an all-time, completely up-to-date outworking of Jesus’ command: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24, New International Version – UK).

3. O let the fire, descending Just now upon my soul, Consume my humble offering, And cleanse and make me whole.

So seen in this way, seven weeks of selfdenial are hardly worth mentioning. However, they can be a sign for us, showing us how much we cling to the things of this world. But when the time of fasting is over, the self-denial goes on.

4. I’m thine, O blessed Jesus, Washed by thy precious blood; Now seal me by thy Spirit A sacrifice to God. Text: Mary D. James (Verses) Song Book of The Salvation Army 521

Self-denial is not a part-time job, nor is it a speciality of a Christian elite. Bramwell Booth ends the section on self-denial with the sentence: ‘Are you a self-denying disciple? If not, beware, lest it should shortly appear that you are not a disciple at all.’ •

Give examples as to how self-denial can show itself to be a lifestyle.

Which things are easy for you, which are difficult?

Pray for each other in pairs, that you may live as disciples of Jesus even in areas and situations which are difficult.

1. Saviour, I long to be / Nearer to thee; In word and deed and thought / Holy to be. O take this heart of mine / And seal me ever thine, Fill me with love divine, / For service, Lord! 2. Make me a blazing fire / Where’er I go, That to a dying world / Thee I may show: How thou hast bled and died / That none may be denied, / But in thy bleeding side / A refuge find. 3. So shall my moments flow / In praising thee, For thou hast never failed / To strengthen me. Filled with the Holy Ghost, / Saved to the uttermost, In Christ alone I'll boast / And forward go. Text: Anon ______________________________________ Additional comprehensive material is available from your corps leaders or from: 07_fasten_lese.pdf

2 Frank Honsberg // Evangelist & Territorialer Sekretär für Entwicklung geistlichen Lebens // Impulse 2014 SVW 04 ENG Die Heilsarmee THQ // Salierring 23-27 // 50677 Köln // // 0221-20819-0

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