Sermon: Stewardship of God's Temple (Part Two)
Fasting: Spiritual Autophagy
David F. Maas
Given 31-Jul-21; 39 minutes
I Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
Please scroll forward to chapter 6.
I Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
In this second installment of the “Stewardship of God’s Temple” (namely the tending and keeping of our physical bodies which are indeed the temples of God’s precious Holy Spirit), I wish to focus on the topic of fasting—a vigorous process described by Roderick Meredith in his booklet “The Seven Laws of Radiant Health” available in PDF format from several sources on the Internet. Dr. Meredith explains, “Greatly restricting one’s diet is known as fasting. An animal, when sick, will frequently refuse to eat. It loses all appetite. Governed by its instincts, it fasts until it is well—a sure cure provided by nature, actually by God Almighty.”
But what about humans? Doctors and dieticians agree that we humans are in the habit of eating far more food than our bodies require. If food is eaten in excess of our bodily needs, it is bound to produce a clogging up of the vital processes; for if it is not needed, it is invariably harmful and becomes productive of causes which lead to sickness and disease.
A great number of sicknesses are caused by the presence of poison in the bloodstream. Greatly restricting one’s diet enables the body to cleanse itself of the products of an imperfect diet. As food intake is retarded, elimination proceeds rapidly, and the body is truly “house-cleaning” itself. For common sicknesses such as colds, headaches, fever, and stomach distress, such a procedure is often effective.”
In his book, The Sacred Art of Fasting, Thomas Ryan expands on this house cleaning metaphor, proclaiming that abstaining from food “gives the body a chance to renew itself. It is a time in which the body burns its rubbish. It’s like house cleaning day.”
Brett and Kate McKay in their book, The Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting, “By sort of ‘taking out the trash,’ fasting seems to have a vitalizing, balancing effect on the body’s hormonal and metabolic systems, and practitioners have reported a sharpening in mental functions as well.”
Fasting as a healing procedure has occupied an honored position in the world’s medical and religious practices from the dawn of history. Hippocrates, traditionally regarded as the father of Western medicine, advised those suffering from obesity to exercise after eating a high fat meal, and that they, moreover, should eat only once a day. In other words, incorporating a daily twenty-hour fast was, during the classical times, recognized as highly beneficial in treating obesity.
The ancient Greeks also knew that fasting improved cognitive skills and ability to solve complex problems. Paracelsus, the Swiss German physician, and founder of toxicology, insisted that “fasting is the greatest remedy—the physician within” and that “the best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”
Mark Twain, one of America’s foremost writers, humorists, and philosophers, once proclaimed, “A little starvation can really do more for the average sick man than the best medicines and the best doctors.”
Even though the discipline of spiritual fasting is not practiced for physical reasons, the physical benefits invariably supply types from which spiritual insights can emerge (referencing Romans 1:20). What we know, perhaps all we know about the invisible spiritual realm, Jesus and the apostles teach through physical imagery, metaphor, similes, or parables and allegories (varieties of metaphor).
Brett and Kate McKay, deriving insights from practitioners such as Jason Fung, Ken Berry, and Eric Berg, point out that fasting has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for the advantages it offers to physical health, including losing weight, normalizing insulin levels, boosting the immune system, increasing the human growth hormone (called HGH or mTor), spurring cell regeneration, and extending longevity. In giving our bodies a break from processing food, fat stores (stored in the abdomen, liver, kidneys, and pancreas) are fed upon, and the cells get a chance to go into repair mode—old and damaged ones are destroyed, and new ones are generated.
During the past seven months, as I have struggled to permanently change lifestyle habits which, in effect, have defiled the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, it has become abundantly clear to me that a significant common denominator links both physical and spiritual fasting, namely the concept of autophagy, a physical process described by Dr. Jason Fung in his book The Obesity Code, as “the natural cellular recycling process that rids our body of old or malfunctional protein. This sets in motion the process of rejuvenation as our body rebuilds new proteins to replace the old ones. Autophagy is a powerful method of healing and can only be activated by fasting.”
Autophagy is activated when we stop consuming food, which switches the body from consuming sugar glucose or glycogen, activated by the hormone insulin, switching over to the fat burning mechanism—which cleans up and digests excess fat stored in the abdomen, liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatitis, and sadly even Alzheimer’s disease are all stages of progressive insulin resistance, caused by an excess of sugar, glucose, and glycogen.
Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Ken Berry, and Dr. Eric Berg all concur that prescribing insulin to a type 2 diabetic is like pouring gasoline on an out-of-control fire. When my physician threatened to prescribe insulin for my high blood sugar in January, I finally became motivated to make a permanent lifestyle change, beginning a regimen of intermittent fasting—experimenting with lengthy seven day fasts with liquid only, once a week monk fasts (36 hours with food only), 2 meals a day (one at noon and one at 6:00 pm allowing an 18-hour period of fasting, and just this last month one meal a day, consuming fat and protein, cutting down on carbohydrates). To my pleasant surprise, this has been the only technique which has reversed the dangerous numbers on my blood tests, which my doctor has been taking every month.
In her highly informative article, “8 Health Benefits of Fasting, Backed by Science,” published in Healthline, July 30, 2018, Rachel Link, Registered Dietician, confirmed empirically what I and many others (some right in this congregation), have experienced anecdotally. Posting links to the scientific studies, some of which are relatively current, Rachel Link identifies the following eight highly startling but welcomed results:
Promotes blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance: Several studies have determined that fasting significantly improves blood sugar control, a useful finding for those suffering from or at the risk of adult-onset diabetes. One study discovered that both intermittent fasting and alternate day fasting proved just as effective as limiting calorie intake at reducing insulin resistance.
Fasting promotes better health by fighting inflammation: Rachel Link explains that while acute inflammation is a normal immune process to help the body ward off infections, chronic inflammation can lead to serious consequences, including heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
3. Fasting may enhance heart health by improving blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels. Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death around the world, accounting for an estimated 31.5% of deaths globally. Some research has affirmed that by incorporating fasting into our routines, it will prove highly beneficial when it comes to heart health. For instance, one recent study revealed that eight weeks of alternate day fasting reduced levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides by 25% and 32% respectively.
4. Fasting may boost brain function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease: Rachel Link explains that even though most current research is limited to animal studies, fasting has proved to have a powerful effect on brain health. In particular, studies in animals suggest that fasting improves brain function, increasing nerve cell synthesis and protects against and improves outcomes for such neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
5. Fasting aids weight loss by limiting calorie intake and boosting metabolism: Rachel Link reveals that some research has proved that short-term fasting may boost metabolism by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which triggers weight loss. One review demonstrated that whole day fasting could reduce body weight by up to 9% and significantly decrease body fat over 12-24 weeks. Another review demonstrated that intermittent fasting over 3-12 weeks was equally effective at inducing weight loss as continuous calorie restriction, decreasing body weight and fat mass by up to 8% and 16% respectively. In addition, fasting proves to be more effective than calorie restriction at increasing fat loss while simultaneously preserving muscle tissue.
6. Fasting could delay aging and extend longevity: Rachel Link reveals that several animal studies have found promising results on the potential lifespan-extending effects of fasting. For example, in one study, rats that fasted every other day experience a delayed rate of aging and lived 83% longer than rats that did not fast. I am sure that our forebears on the Sinai who passed up the quail survived a little longer.
7. Fasting may aid in cancer prevention and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy: Rachel Link reveals that animal and test-tube studies indicate that fasting may benefit the treatment and prevention of cancer. For example, one recent rat study at the University of Southern California determined that alternate day fasting contributed to blocking tumor formation. In another test-tube study, exposing cancer cells to several cycles was equally as effective as chemotherapy in delaying tumor growth, increasing the effectiveness on cancer formation. In autophagy, when cancer cells are denied sugar, glucose, or glycogen, they wither and die—turned into garbage or rubbish.
8. Fasting increases growth hormone which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss, and muscle strength: Rachel Link explains that human growth hormone (HGH-sometimes referred to as the M-Tor receptor) is a type of protein hormone central to many aspects of our health. Research has demonstrated that this key hormone is involved in growth, metabolism, weight loss, and muscle strength. Several studies have determined that fasting naturally increases HGH levels. Fasting maintains a steady blood sugar and insulin level throughout the day, optimizing levels of HGH, while increased levels of insulin found in type 2 diabetics reduced HGH levels. Consequently, fasting (switching from the insulin hormone to the HGH hormone) in autophagy plays a major role in growth, metabolism, weight loss, and muscle growth.
And furthermore, fasting is 100% free and is not patented by Bill Gates or Big Pharma and it is based upon true empirical science and not the science falsely so-called (warned about by the apostle Paul in I Timothy 6:20) responsible for the climate change hoax, the notorious food pyramid construct by the USDA and the WHO, instigators of the “plandemic” and the inventors of the poisonous bioweapon, the Covid-19 vaccine.
The physical process of autophagy (getting rid of the old and replacing with the new) provides a magnificent metaphorical type for what we could describe as getting rid of malfunctioning carnal human nature and replacing it with godly character, empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.
Spiritual autophagy is implied by Paul in Romans 8:13 as he warns us to continuously put to death (or mortify) the deeds of the flesh, replacing the dead and malignant cancerous cells of carnality with the life-giving and sustaining properties of God’s precious Holy Spirit. During fasting, the harmful toxic cellular debris is broken up and recycled as the body is literally eating itself—digesting and eliminating the dangerous malignant cells, sometimes compared to renovating, reconstructing, or remodeling an old bathroom, perhaps replacing a broken-down toilet or sink with brand new functioning equipment.
Richard Ritenbaugh, in his sermon “Teaching Us to Think, Part Two: Renewing the Mind by God’s Spirit,” alluded to the spiritual autophagy process using a remodeling metaphor, warning that the war on carnality takes tremendous sacrifice, requiring that one refuse to coddle carnality but mortify the flesh incessantly. One must completely remodel the old edifice, “gutting” each of its rooms, renovating the structure top to bottom, inside and out, so as to add value. To renew the mind is to adjust to the mind of God by changing behaviors.
Spiritual autophagy is implied In Isaiah 1:18 in which the Lord instructs us that though our sins may appear presently as scarlet, they may be rendered as white as snow; though they may now be stained blood red as crimson, they can be cleansed to appear as wool.
David, in his fervent prayer of repentance in Psalm 51, alludes to spiritual process of autophagy—a crushing and breaking down of his rebellious deceitful heart to allow for future spiritual growth. In verse 1, David begs God to totally blot out his transgressions. In verse 2, he uses a scrubbing metaphor, asking God “Wash me thoroughly from my sin and cleanse me from my iniquity.” In verse 7, David asks God to purge him with hyssop (an herb used for treating digestive and intestinal problems as well as symbolic purification) enabling him to be clean—whiter than snow. In verses 10-12, David connects a clean heart with the renewal of God’s Holy Spirit which he earnestly implores God not to take away. In verse 17, David realizes that a new purified heart cannot possibly emerge unless the old stony heart has been metaphorically crushed and purged of its carnal nature.
Autophagy (spiritual and physical) demands a breaking down of the old, corrupt, and decrepit, allowing for fresh spiritual growth. In my August 2001, Forerunner article, “Fasting: Building Spiritual Muscle,” I made the case that the process of building physical muscle tissue begins with tearing down existing muscle tissue. Fasting depicts a process of tearing down old, familiar habit patterns that have enslaved us, as we read in Isaiah 58:6: “To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and . . . that you should break every yoke.” Before building the good, we must destroy the evil. When we tear muscle down, we must wait for the new muscle to form during a resting or refractory period. Paradoxically, muscle regenerates when we rest. Likewise, spiritual muscle regenerates or forms when we have totally submitted to God—after we have done our part in tearing the old tissue down.
Through fasting, we become a full junior partner with our heavenly Father in building and developing our spirituality. Fasting requires us to do something, while God also promises to do something in our behalf, namely placing His godly character in the inner recesses of our minds until we will be transformed into His very image.
When we fast, we not only take a firm stand against our own fleshly pulls, but against the one who amplifies these pulls, Satan the Devil. James 4: 7-8 gives us the instruction, “Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Notice the two sides of this process—ours and God’s. Fasting demonstrates to God our acknowledgement of our helplessness, dependency, and vulnerability. We, at this point, admit to God that we do not have the wherewithal to overcome, but at the same time, we acknowledge that we choose to follow Him. God then replaces the torn-down carnal pulls with a fresh reserve of His Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit, combined with our will or determination to control ourselves according to His holy law, then begins to build holy character in us. As long as this process continues, strength in character, like muscular strength, will also continue to grow exponentially.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in John 15 alludes to the concept of spiritual autophagy in verse 2 in which He purposes to prune every branch that does not bear fruit and in verse 6 to gather the withered branches, burning them in the fire. Like cellular autophagy in which the deformed or alien cells are gobbled up, destroyed by the immune system, the dead, corrupt cells (the tares or the dead branches) in the body of Christ will be consumed and replaced by functioning organs and cells.
The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 5:7, describes a variety of autophagy (tearing down the old and decrepit and replacing it with the new) as he admonishes us to purge out the old leaven (containing the deadly spores of malice and wickedness), replacing those malignant elements with godly sincerity and truth, symbolized by unleavened bread, the reconstituted cells of the body of Christ.
The function of spiritual autophagy is alluded to in Romans 12:1-2, in which Paul encourages us to become living sacrifices to God, discarding the pulls of the flesh and the world, being transformed by the renewing of our mind, enabling us to prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God—our new nature. The renewing of the mind—the end result of spiritual autophagy—is expanded in Ephesians 4:22-24, as Paul again admonishes that we put off our former conduct by being renewed in the spirit of our minds, enabling us to put on the new man, created by God in true righteousness and holiness.
In II Corinthians 4:16, Paul encourages us to not lose heart even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. In II Corinthians 5:17, we learn that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” When Paul proclaims that “if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Corinthians 5:1), when he proclaims, “I die daily” (I Corinthians 15:31), and when he describes his fate as being poured out like a drink offering (Philippians 2:17) he is describing the autophagy mechanism God has distributed throughout physical and spiritual creation.
The apostle Peter suggests a process of spiritual autophagy in his Pentecost sermon in Acts 3:19-21 as he admonishes the congregation to “repent and be converted that their sins may be blotted out, so that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” who will ultimately restore all things.
Spiritual autophagy has taken place in Hebrews 8:13 in which a new covenant is rendering the old obsolete—which is growing old and ready to pass away. Contrary to the belief of many Protestant theologians, the law is not being done away, but is rather transformed from temporary physical external laws and rituals to permanent spiritual laws written permanently on our hearts
The physical process of autophagy was not an invention of Yoshinori Ohsumi, for winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2016, for his alleged discovery of the mechanisms for autophagy. God Almighty holds the patent on autophagy, both physical and spiritual, as He holds the patents and copyrights on all physical and spiritual laws. Today, Charles Whitaker revealed that the godly principle of autophagy exists in the vast depths of the earth and the oceans. Likewise, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, does not have the patent or copyright on fasting. God Almighty, before the foundation of the world, established both the physical and spiritual principles of fasting.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ began His ministry by fasting 40 days, and furthermore He has instructed His disciples, then and now, to fast, adding that when the bridegroom is taken away, they indeed will fast (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20), certainly with far greater frequency than once a year at the Day of Atonement, another major example in spiritual autophagy, in which our sins will be removed out of existence and ultimately from scarring our memories.
The physical benefits of fasting are dramatic and life-extending, but the spiritual benefits of fasting extend into eternity as our mortal, carnal bodies will be transformed or autophagized into dazzling, luminous spiritual bodies impervious to sin and temptation.