All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Matthew 6:17-18 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Many churches and individuals begin the new year by fasting and praying for spiritual renewal and awakening.  Fasting is a wonderful discipline and it’s sometimes misunderstood.  It’s important to understand what fasting is and what it’s not.

Spiritual fasting is not a diet, or at least that’s not the main purpose.  One may lose weight on a fast from all food or become healthier on something like a Daniel fast, but the purpose is connection with God.  Even if the reason behind your prayer and fasting is related to health and healing, make the spiritual communion with God the primary focus of your fast.

A fast is not something to be done in order to look spiritual or to get attention.  Jesus warned about pride in association with fasting and public prayer.  Don’t fast for the attention it may bring.  There is no reward for fasting with selfish motives.  If possible, don’t make an issue of the fact that you’re fasting.

A fast is sacrificial.  Not all fasts call you to give up all food.  Some don’t even deal with food, but rather abstinence from activities like TV watching or a break from any contact with sources of news.  All fasts require some sort of sacrifice.  Remember when it gets hard that it’s not meant to be comfortable.  In our hardship, we are drawn closer to God.

A fast is personal.  Even if you’re fasting as a group, you should be connecting with God personally during this time.  If someone else decides that they can’t go on with the fast, continue on.  Don’t judge them for their personal decision, but don’t allow their change of plans to excuse you from your connection with God.

A fast is planned.  It’s not recommended that you jump into a fast without laying out a purpose, and end date, preparing your body, and praying.  Give yourself some time to plan your fast. Some people even like to consult with their doctor before starting.

Fasting is effective.  Various passages in God’s Word point out the power that is in fasting and prayer.  However, it should be noted that fasting does not guarantee answered prayer. (2 Samuel 12)

Preparing for glory

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

From the day we’re born, we’re dying.  We grow, we learn, we love, we laugh, we experience all of the things life has to offer.  But we all reach and end to this life.  Praise be to God that this life is not all there is!  We have something wonderful to look forward to – life eternal.  This life is momentary, but the life after this one is never-ending.

All of the hardships we face here, they’re building us up, conforming us into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another.  Sanctification takes place in this life, the Holy Spirit doing His work in us to make us what God intended us to be.  We endure all that there is here for the reward we receive later when sanctification ends and glorification begins.

We carry with us the death of Christ. We die as a reminder both of the fact that sin brought death into the world and a testimony to the fact that Jesus saved us from eternal death.  We live forever with Him because of what He did on the cross.  His death spared us ours.  His resurrection gave us a brief glimpse of what’s coming for us.  What we face here is nothing compared to the glory we’ll see on the other side.  It’s all just part of the journey.

Who is the Holy Spirit? Holy

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own

The Spirit is holy. I know that seems obvious from the name Holy Spirit, but don’t gloss over it. We’re warned in Scripture not to believe every spirit, in fact to only trust the Holy Spirit, which is why God sent Him to live in us.  Holy means “set apart” or “sacred,” so while there are other spirits that exist, the one true God is the Holy one.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:1-4

If He’s Holy, and He lives in you, then you are a temple. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives in you, speaks to you, guides you, prompts you, comforts you, and empowers you. You have the power to overcome anything that you face because you walk in the Spirit. Embrace that and be confident that God is always with you. Don’t ever doubt His presence.

  • Do you treat your body as the dwelling place for a completely holy God? Are there any sins you need to repent of, as they have abused His holy sanctuary?

Who is the Holy Spirit? GOD

1 Corinthians 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

In discussion of the Holy Spirit, we can’t glance over the fact that He is God, as though everyone knows this. Understanding God is so complex that we can’t make any assumptions.

The Holy Spirit isn’t a force, but a relational being, part of the Trinity- One God who eternally exists as three distinct persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – who are each fully and equally God and in eternal relation with each other. The Bible equally declares Father, Son, and Spirit to be God. None are more important than the other, though each person of the Trinitarian God serves a specific purpose and has a specific role.

“Persons” does not mean human beings. Only Jesus became human. Person means that each member of the Trinity thinks, acts, feels, speaks, and relates because they are persons and not impersonal forces. We can’t control the Holy Spirit because He has His own will. We can’t fool Him or hide from Him because He possesses all of the characteristics of God- omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, etc.

The Holy Spirit will never act contradictory to God because He is God. He won’t lead us in any way that would go against God’s will, because it’s His will.

  • Do you ever fall into the trap of seeing the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force instead of a person? How have you tried to “harness” Him instead of having a relationship with Him?
  • Do you treat the Holy Spirit as God, or do you treat Him as lesser than the other two persons of the Godhead? How can ensure to treat Him as such?

Afflicted, but victorious

2 Corinthians 4:8-9  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

We face all sorts of opposition in this life, both before and after our conversion and rebirth in Christ.  As we journey down the road of discipleship we’ll meet lots of challenges along the way, but they can be used to build us up instead of destroying us.  With God on our side, we will be victorious.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t operate in our own strength, we have the Creator by our side.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)  His power shows through when we have none.  When we embrace our weakness and rest in Him, His power shows in us. When we’re weak, then we’re strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

It’s for the sake of Christ that we endure all this life has to throw at us.  It’s so His power can be made known, so His strength can be evident in our lives.  We’re given over to death in this body so that His life can be made real in us for all to see.  It’s for His glory that we face trials, and just as we die like Christ we’ll be resurrected and glorified. He was victorious over death, so now we can be too.

We have power in Christ

John 1:12 But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.

One problem we face in the Church today is that many Christians don’t really believe that God can do what He says He can do. We believe what we read in the Bible, but in practice, we don’t trust God to come through on His promises. This fear that God won’t fulfill his promises is a lack of faith in the power of God. On one hand, we believe that God can do all things, and on the other hand when we see situations that look impossible to conquer, we don’t believe He can handle all things.

Beyond that, we don’t believe that we have any power or authority. The Bible says that to all who received Christ, He gave power to become children of God. If Christ gave us power, then we can do all things. Paul said to the Philippians that we could do all things through Christ who gives us strength. If we are truly children of God, then we are not impotent, but very powerful. We have the Creator of all things working through us.

Don’t be afraid to act when God calls you to do something. He won’t ask you to do something that He hasn’t given you the power to do. If you are called to do it, the Lord will equip you for it. He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

Who is the Holy Spirit? A relational being

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?” Isaiah 40:13

Understanding the Holy Spirit completely may not be possible, but we’re going to get to know Him a bit more and since the Bible does say a lot about Him, there’s quite a bit we can find out.

The first thing to establish is that the Holy Spirit is not an “it.” He is not a power to be harnessed or an impersonal force. He is a relational being. The Holy Spirit is one person of the Trinity, One God who eternally exists as three distinct persons – father, son, holy spirit – who are each fully and equally God and in eternal relation with each other. Persons does not mean human beings. Only Jesus became human. Person means that each member of the trinity thinks, acts, feels, speaks, and relates because they are persons and not impersonal forces.

We are all susceptible to falling into the trap of trying to harness the power of some force that we refer to as the Holy Spirit rather than being in relationship with him as God. Without a good understanding of who He is, we will ignore the Spirit while trying to relate to the Father and the Son. That’s like trying to be in a relationship with some of the people who live in your home while ignoring others. No one thrives in that scenario.

The Holy Spirit is not some feeling that we get on Sunday morning, or a ghost, or something that makes us shake and shiver. He is a personal, relational being with whom we can communicate, find comfort, and abide.

Jars of clay

2 Corinthians 4:7  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We’re here and then we’re gone.  So short are these lives we live on earth, but we seem to think we’ve got forever.  We think that we can solve all of the world’s problems, if only given enough time.  But none of us has that kind of time.  It was designed that way.  We’re here, and then we’re gone.

We weren’t made to live in these bodies forever, they’re our temporary homes.  We give witness to the death of Christ through the death of our own bodies, but our spirits live on and bear witness to His resurrection with our own resurrection.  We depart these jars of clay and trade them in for the real vessels our souls belong in.

To some, death is a terrifying, sad thought.  But to those of us who belong to Christ, it’s only the beginning.  Our knowledge, our strength, our capacity to love, all of these things are limited here on earth, in these bodies.  What God has in store far surpasses anything we know here.  This is just a warm up for the main event!

Work hard

Colossians 3:23 Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men.

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grunting or questioning.

One way we can stand out as disciples of Christ in the world we live in is to serve with joy. It’s not a good witness to the Lord for the Christian in the workplace (you may be the only one) to be the whiner or complainer. We shouldn’t be the one who everyone sees as negative.  We’ve received a joy that comes from the Lord and we ought to let it show.

When we’re capable of finding joy in the mundane or good in the seemingly bad, people wonder how that’s possible. This gives us a great opportunity to point them to Jesus, our source of peace. If we work hard at all tasks given to us, we bring glory to God. He has not put us on this earth to be lazy or to complain.

Work hard, don’t complain, serve others. Be a joy to others so that they will want to know your Master.

The light of the gospel

2 Corinthians 4:6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

How does God reveal Himself to us?  Many have asked this question and many will continue long after we’re gone from this earth, but the answer has been given.  God revealed Himself in the form of Jesus, who walked the earth among men, facing our temptations and yet never giving in to them, living a perfect life in perfect harmony with the Father.  In Christ, the character of God was revealed and lived out.  And in God’s Word, Jesus is revealed to us who never got to walk in His presence on earth.

But to some the gospel is nonsense, they can’t make anything of it.  They’ve been blinded to the power of the gospel as though they’re in darkness.  But to those of us whom God has called, to those of us who have responded, He has shone a light. He has illuminated Jesus in the gospel to show us the glory of God, and He’s done it in our own hearts.

Apart from God working in us, we can’t understand His revelation, we can’t see Jesus for who He is.  But when God gives the light, we can see everything for what it is. His truth is made real, His character is made clear.  Then and only then can we begin to know Him.