PLEASURE FOREVERMORE - THE BRIDEGROOM FAST
Haavard Sand

I AM REVEALED
B. Childress
Apr 11 2011

How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while He is with them?  The time will come when the bridegroom will be
taken from them; then they will fast
(Matthew 9:15).

Contrary to what many think, the New Testament paradigm of fasting and the whole focus of a fasted lifestyle is not
about self-denial, but of experiencing the "superior pleasures of the Gospel," as Mike Bickle puts it.

As the shorter catechism says, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."  Noted author and
Bible teacher John Piper has rewritten this to say, "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever."  It is
by enjoying Him that we give Him glory.  How can a child bring glory to his father if the only reason the child comes to him
is out of obligation, and not because he enjoys being with him?

Our chief end is to enjoy God.  When we enjoy Him, we burst into praise, much like we burst into praise if we hear a song
that we like or see a painting that strikes our heart.  Consider a chef: the degree to which we honor and bring joy to him,
is proportional to the degree to which we truly enjoy his food.  The more we enjoy and find pleasure in his creations, the
more he is honored and praised.

Jonathan Edwards wrote, "God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in."  And Sam
Storms says:

    The treasure which is God, is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in...The treasure
    which is God, is most glorified in and by you when your pleasure in Him is maximal and optimal.

We all seek pleasure.  Contrary to our traditional understanding, this desire is given to us by
God.  Our goal is not to smother it, but rather to do whatever we can to satisfy it.  Dr. Larry Crabb contributed the
foreword to Storm's book,
Pleasure Evermore.  In it, Crabb writes:

    Too many Christians struggle against sinful passions (which we should do) by running away from all passions
    (which we should not do).  We are like children who grudgingly eat our spinach of obedience, hoping someday we
    will receive a cookie.

    But the battle to resist pleasure and instead do what is right is not the core battle Christianity introduces into our
    lives.  The core battle is to believe that the Eternal Community of God is a party that we all long to attend and to
    discover and freely indulge our deepest passions for their kind of fun.

Superior pleasure is found only in God's presence, and that pleasure is eternal (see Psalm 16:11).  That is the pleasure
we want to take hold of, so that we can be fully satisfied.  We will not be satisfied with the passing pleasures of sin, or
even with good God-given legitimate pleasures, which certainly have their place - like the enjoyment of a well-prepared
meal, good quality movies, or any other recreation that you enjoy.  No matter how good and enjoyable any of that may
be, it is still a fleeting experience.

Our main desire and goal should be not for what is temporary, but for what is eternal.  "So we fix our eyes not on what is
seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

This is what will fully satisfy our longing for pleasure.  When it says at His "right hand are pleasures forevermore,"  I
believe it can imply two things (see Psalm 16:11 NKJV).  First, as we enter that position of being close to Him, we enjoy
the atmosphere emanating from His very being.  Second, we find pleasure forevermore in Jesus who sits at His right
hand.

How do we enter this realm of experiencing the superior pleasure?  Our basic problem in searching for superior pleasure
is that we are too easily satisfied.  In the words of C.S. Lewis:

    We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an
    ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the
    offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.

We are pleased and satisfied either by the deceiving pleasure of fleeting sin or even with good, God-given, legitimate
pleasures.  Therefore, to be able to enjoy superior pleasure, we have to abandon these inferior pleasures.  Why should
we abandon them?  Because God created us for superior pleasure and not for temporary  deceiving pleasure that
leaves us all empty in the end.  The call to repentance from sinful pleasure is not the call to repentance from
our longing
to seek pleasure.  It is the call to repent from being satisfied too early and settling for too little.

Then we have good and legitimate pleasures, which belong to the temporary, visible realm.  If we do not properly train
our spiritual senses, they may be easily drowned by our preoccupation with good and legitimate pleasures of life.  That
is why the call to the fasted lifestyle is so important.  It includes, among other things, fasting from food - but not only
that.  It is a call to deny good, legitimate pleasures for a season in the pursuit of superior pleasure.

All pleasure seekers need to deny themselves some pleasures in the pursuit of what they consider superior pleasure.  
The one who seeks the pleasure of a well-fit and trained body, has to say no to what would be considered the lesser
pleasure of an enticing slice of cake.  Or a man in love has to give up the lesser pleasure, of sitting home reading a
good book or watching a movie, for the superior pleasure of spending time with his beloved.

The seeking of one thing will always be at the expense of many other things, but the focus should not be on what we
need to deny ourselves.  Rather, the focus should be on what we are seeking.  "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread
alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4).

The Scripture says that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  But many
times our spiritual appetites are suppressed because we are too busy indulging our physical appetites.  Sometimes we
need to suppress our physical appetites to awaken, call forth, and indulge our spiritual appetites.

I love going to banquet tables - to taste and try all that is offered.  And when I am at a banquet, I don't suddenly read the
newspaper or work on my laptop, and then take a bite of all the delicious food in between working or reading.  I can do
that at home as I read my morning paper, drink my coffee, and eat some cereal - but not at a banquet.

Likewise, the Lord sometimes wants us to have and enjoy a spiritual banquet.  He wants to prepare a banquet table for
us.  And when you are there enjoying it, you won't suddenly take out your newspaper or turn on the television.

During regular days we have our breakfast, read our Bible, pray, and maybe watch the morning news, and then we are
off on our way to work.  But the banquet times in the Spirit are different.  You are there at the table for hours or days,
just focusing on getting all you can, indulging your spiritual appetite.  Your physical appetite has to be set aside for a
time.  Neil Armstrong said, "Eating is the grand-daddy of all appetites."  But when we speak of the physical appetite, we
are not only talking about food but also about entertainment, the Internet, newspapers, fellowship with others, and for
married couples it can include abstinence from sexual intimacy (see I Corinthians 7:5).

By fasting, we also break the power of overindulgence.  God has given us good and legitimate pleasures to enjoy.  But
these were not meant to be the end in themselves, but to show us the way toward ultimate pleasure.

If they become an end in themselves we can easily overindulge, which is the red light God has given us.  When we are
fasting, we break the spirit of overindulgence in our lives, and it brings us back to the pursuit of superior pleasure.  This
becomes the place where we can take a free fall into the river of His delight.

In Psalms, we read, "They feast on the abundance of Your house;  You give them drink from Your river of delights"
(Psalm 36:8).  In this river we are called to fully indulge ourselves where overindulgence does not exist.  It is the only
place where we will be fully satisfied because this river is God Himself.  Even God's good gifts leave us empty, if they
become an end in themselves.  Sam Storms puts it this way:

    When it comes to satisfying our spiritual appetites, there is no such thing as excess.  There are no restraints
    placed on us by God.  There are no rules of temperance or laws requiring moderation or boundaries beyond
    which we cannot go in seeking to enjoy him.  We need never pause to inquire whether we've crossed a line or
    become overindulgent.

The psalmist writes, "You prepare a table before me..." (Psalm 23:5).  As we are sitting down at the table the Lord has
prepared for us, partaking of all the spiritual blessings He serves, we are also entering a form of what we may call the
bridegroom fast.

THE BRIDEGROOM FAST

How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while He is with them?  The time will come when the bridegroom will be
taken from them; then they will fast
(Matthew 9:15).

Jesus introduces the bridegroom fast in Matthew 9:14-17.  It is interesting to note that this is the place where Jesus
chooses to reveal His deepest identity when it comes to His relationship with us.  He basically says , "I am the
Bridegroom."

You may ask, "Is it not more important that He is my Savior and the Lord of the universe?" No, for He came to save us
because He was a bridegroom coming for His Bride.  If you were to marry the Prince of Norway, the most important thing
for you would be that he was
your bridegroom and not the fact that he was a prince.

Jesus reveals His deepest identity as our Bridegroom in the context of fasting.  Why is that?  It should tell us that fasting
is important.  After Jesus reveals His identity, He goes on to introduce the bridegroom fast - the New Testament
paradigm of fasting.

John's disciples come to Him asking about fasting from the Old Testament paradigm.  Jesus, seeing where they are
coming from, answers their question using language they can understand.  He says:

    How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while He is with them?  The time will come when the bridegroom will
    be taken from them; then they will fast (Matthew 9:15).

Here, Jesus is using the word mourning interchangeably with fasting.  In the Old Testament paradigm, fasting and
mourning were closely connected.  In Joel 1:13-15, we see the connection between fasting, mourning, and sackcloth; it
was in the context of preventing God's judgment.  We also see some of this in Jonah chapter 3 and Esther 4:1-3.

I am not saying that this form of fasting does not have a place.  But I believe Jesus introduces a new paradigm, when He
says that the main reason for fasting after He leaves will be the bridegroom fast:
fasting not to prevent God's judgment
but because we, as the Bride, are missing Jesus our Bridegroom
.

Jesus is saying that when He, the Bridegroom, is with His coming Bride, it is not a time of mourning but of joy.  But when
He leaves we will fast, and this fast will ultimately be broken when we meet again at the wedding table of the Lamb.

That is why the call to a fasted lifestyle is important.  We are entering a fast together with Jesus, saying, "I am fasting
until we meet again as an expression that I miss you.  When we meet again we will break the fast together at the wedding
table."  It is not only we who are fasting; Jesus does it too.  At the Passover meal just before Jesus left the disciples, He
said this about the wine:

I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's
kingdom
(Matthew 26:29).

Here we see that there is something in Heaven that Jesus will fast from until we meet Him at our wedding day.  He
basically says, "I will fast when I leave, and you, my Bride, will fast."  When He left, He said that we would fast and then
we would break the fast together when we finally meet Him at the ultimate banquet table.  Therefore, as Jesus entered
into a fast to express that He misses us too, He then invites us to do the same.

So, in practical terms, how do we enter this fast - the fasting until the Lord returns?  There are different ways we can do
this.  One is to abstain from something and decide not to eat it until that day.  Or it can also be by entering a lifestyle
where you are fasting on a weekly or monthly basis until He returns.

As we start this fasted lifestyle, we also understand that it is not just about entering a fast together with Jesus but also
taking part here and now in the fulfillment of the prophecy that Jesus spoke about: "Then they will fast."  
Every time we
miss His presence, the means Jesus gave us to express it is through fasting
.

The bridal generation is chosen to partake in the bridegroom fast.  And in these last days this bridal generation will arise
and enter into the ultimate dimension of this fast - that is, to usher His physical coming.  It will be the Church entering
what I call the Revelation 22:17 reality, which is the Spirit and the Bride saying, "Come."

This is the ultimate expression of the bridegroom fast.  He knows that at the end of the age, the Church will enter into a
revelation and experience as a mature Bride with a bridal heart.

What is the essence of a bridal heart?  It is like a woman anticipating her bridegroom on their wedding day.  This
becomes her consuming passion, as all other concerns of life become secondary.

She has truly become a person of one thing.  And she expresses this one desire through the "come prayer."  The way
Jesus told His disciples to say, "Come," was through the bridegroom fast.  This was also the prayer He taught them to
pray.  When they asked how they should pray, He taught them the "come prayer": "Your kingdom come..." (Matthew 6:
10).

Throughout the ages, that's what the Church has been praying.  But as we all know, a kingdom without a king is no
kingdom at all.  So at the end of the age, one generation will not only pray for the Kingdom to come but, more
importantly, for the King to come back.

THE NEW WINESKINS

In the last part of His teaching on the bridegroom fast, Jesus connects it with the importance of pouring new wine into
new wineskins.  I believe this especially relates to the endtime, when the church will enter into the reality of Revelation 22:
17.

As the Bride comes before Him and cries, "Come," at the end of the age - just before His Second Coming - there has to
be built up a new structure or wineskin to facilitate that cry to come forth.  At the end of the age that cry will crescendo to
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!  It is going to be a yearlong cry for Him to come.

It's not just about saying, "Come."  The "come prayer" then also becomes prayer for the end-time harvest because that
is one of the things that must take place before His coming.  So then the end-time harvest in a way becomes not a goal
in itself but one of the elements that stands between the Bride and her Bridegroom on their wedding day.  Because of
this she gives herself to pray for the harvest, and that becomes one of the ways she expresses her cry, "Come."

The house of prayer then becomes the place where the Church, in any geographical area, comes together as one Bride
crying out.  As Jesus sees just one Church in any given geographical area, He also sees only one Bride with many
different local expressions. It's like the nation of Israel, which was divided into different tribes, each with their own
uniqueness.  This was how they lived their daily lives, but when it came to worship they all gathered together in the
temple worshipping the Lord as one nation.

Today, I believe the Lord is gathering His people not only as one nation, but even more as one Bride to say, "Come."  
The Lord is also making a new wineskin, the house of prayer where we can come together as one Bride saying, "Come,"
expressed through the bridegroom fast until He returns.  This becomes her consuming passion above all other concerns
of life.

In conclusion, let's look at the connection between the house of prayer and the bridal message.  In Isaiah, God declares
the bridal message over the nation of Israel, and the blessings He will give her as He brings her back to Him from her
backslidden state.  "For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is His name" (Isaiah 54:5).  Then in Isaiah 56:4-
6, the Lord gives a message to eunuchs and foreigners (Gentiles):

    To them I will give within My temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give
    them an everlasting name that will not be cut off (Isaiah 56:5).

God promises a name better than sons and daughters, and what is better, closer, and more intimate than a son or a
daughter, other than a wife or a bride?  Then we see in verse 7, which is one of the main verses on the house of prayer,
how these people will be brought to Him:

    These I will bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer.  Their burnt offerings and
    sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7).

Why will there be joy?  There will be joy because of the bridal revelation.  In Isaiah 62:2-5, we see the bridal message
and the new name that we will receive.  It is a name that indicates intimacy and one that is better than the name given to
sons and daughters.  "...You will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and
your land will be married" (Isaiah 62:4).  
Hephzibah, means  "My delight is in her."  It is a name He gives us for being His
beloved and His delight as a Bride.  We know that a name given to a bride is better than a name given to sons and
daughters in the sense that the name given to a spouse speaks more of the union and intimacy of a couple.

In verse 5, we see even more clearly that the context is the bridal paradigm.  "As a young man marries a maiden, so will
your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5).  
Furthermore, as the bride flows with intimacy, a house of prayer is set night and day.

    I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night.  You who call on the
    Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the
    earth (Isaiah 62:6-7).

The bridal message is what will bring joy in the house of prayer, to sustain it and enable it to run night and day.  It is
where the Bride meets with her Bridegroom, and then there will be joy and rejoicing (see Isaiah 62:5).  In Isaiah chapter
56, the promise of a new name or a deeper revelation of our identity as the Bride is promised in the context of the house
of prayer (see Isaiah 56:5-7).  Therefore, the house of prayer does not just become a place to get answers to prayers
for our needs, but a place where intimacy with God is expressed.  Prayer then, becomes a delight only in the context of a
bridal paradigm.  Prayer is no longer a duty to endure.  It is not a means to an end but an end in itself, as any bride
longs for and enjoys talking to her bridegroom.  (It is interesting to note that Mike Bickle, who is the main instrument in
bringing the bridal message to the body of Christ, is also the founder of the International House of Prayer.)

It is within new wineskins that we can live out the bridegroom fast and say, "Come," through our fasting.  Moreover, as
we do, He will come with His presence into our lives for us to enjoy the Bridegroom's embrace.  And eventually it is in that
context that we will say not only "Come to me," but even "Come for me."

GLOBAL BRIDEGROOM FAST

Some years ago, I could honestly say that I could not yet hear the bridal cry of Revelation 22:17.  But today, I am
starting to hear this cry.  It may only be a whisper today, compared to what it will become one day, but I believe it has
begun.

One of the expressions of that cry is the global bridegroom fast for which Mike Bickle (from the International House of
Prayer in Kansas City) and Lou Engle (founder of The Call) have taken the initiative.  They are calling the body of Christ
worldwide to come together, every first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in each month from January to November
and seven days in December.  This is a total of 40 days in a year.  It is interesting that if you are fasting for 40 days in
one year, you are actually giving to the Lord, not only the first days of each month, but also a tenth or a tithe of the
entire year to seek Him in prayer and fasting.

This is a call for a solemn assembly - coming to the Lord in prayer and fasting, and basically saying, "Come."  they are
committed to do this until the Lord returns.  Mike Bickle believes that eventually, there will be at least 100 million
believers worldwide coming together the first days of each month saying, "Come."  As this accelerates we will truly be
able to say that we are starting to enter the Revelation 22:17 reality.

As this cry escalates, in the Father's perfect time, the sky will break and the Bridegroom will come for His waiting Bride.






Source:

BECOMING THE BRIDE OF CHRIST IN THE LAST DAYS, by Haavard Sand, Copyright 2009, Destiny Image - Europe
2010 - HIS GLORY REIGNS
LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES