And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”  Luke 5:33-39 (parallel passages in Matthew 9:14-17 and Mark 2:18-22)

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. – Matthew 6:16a

I want to answer one simple question primarily. Does Jesus expect his followers to include fasting as part of their spiritual life?

Fasting sounds so medieval like it is something monks do in monasteries. Surely it isn’t expected to be a part of the life of an average Jesus-follower, is it? I’m not a monk, and I don’t want to be one. Why fast? Besides, aren’t we saved by faith alone? I don’t really need to get into “spiritual disciplines” in order to have eternal life, do I? Of course not.

The simple answer to the question is pretty clear in the passages above. In Matthew 6 Jesus states plainly, “when you fast.” He didn’t say, “If you fast.” So, it appears that fasting is an assumed practice by Jesus.

In the Luke passage, Jesus again makes it clear to me. His disciples didn’t fast (he explains why), but there will come a time after his death, resurrection, and ascension that they (we) will fast.

So the simple answer to the simple question I started with is, yes, followers of Jesus are expected to fast until he comes again. (Not one long fast until he comes, I don’t think I could make it, but fast as a regular practice until we are reunited with the Bridegroom.)

Jesus explained why his disciples were not asked to fast while they were with him. To do this, he gave two examples, the one about new wine in old wineskins and the one about sewing a new cloth patch on old cloth. In both cases, the old couldn’t survive the new. The religious culture of the Jews included lots of outward expression including fasting among other practices. Jesus was wanting to “take a break” with fasting so it would be entered into in a new way once he inaugurated the new covenant. Actually, the “new way” was how it should have been practiced all along, but Jesus wanted to make clear that the New Covenant is indeed new. The New Covenant is to be practiced based on the inward power of the Holy Spirit and not based on any outward appearances. The new life in the Spirit will blow up the old wineskins of the Old Covenant practices of the Jews. This was clearly a problem since we have the book of Galatians largely because the practices of the Old Covenant were being carried over in a legalistic fashion and required Paul to write the corrective letter. In his corrective, he was direct with the truth that this life is experienced in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the practice of outward expressions, in this case, circumcision.

So, yes we should fast, but not as the Pharisees whom he encountered often.

I plan to write some more on fasting so we can hopefully put it to practice with a Biblical view to glorifying God and enjoying him forever. I am in some cases being reminded, and in others, I am learning, as I write. Writing turns out to be good for me. I hope it is for you as well.



And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I envy people whose minds work in a way that makes them excellent apologists and debaters. Unfortunately for me, I am not one of those people. I don’t have the attitude that apologetics is a waste of time and should not be engaged in. However, I do hold strongly to the position that no amount of logical reasoning or fancy philosophizing will bring anyone into saving faith in Christ.

Why am I so adamant about that? Because Scripture makes it abundantly clear that outside of Christ we are dead in our trespasses and sins. If you look carefully at the meaning of the word, dead, you will find that what it actually means is, dead. The last time I checked dead people couldn’t do anything for themselves. They are dead. So the question is, can a person be argued from death to life? I don’t believe so.

The New Birth is a miracle. It is a demonstration of the Spirit. It is a demonstration of the power of God. Dead people coming alive in Christ. No amount of words of human wisdom can accomplish that.

Paul’s ministry was characterized by many other demonstrations of the Spirit and power. Demon possessed people were delivered from their captivity. Sick and lame people were healed. Greatest of all, hearts were changed to become loving people and people of Jesus-like character.

There are millions of people within an hour’s drive of us who need to find this kind of forgiveness and deliverance. Some are afflicted with the kinds of bondage that Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29 NKJV)

Prayer and fasting have been proven by experience to precede every disciple-making movement in this century. We have been commanded to go make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught. Part of what Jesus taught is this command to go make disciples. One of our prayer goals, if we are to pray Biblically, is for the Lord to raise up laborers who will make disciples. Of course, many of us need to heed that command ourselves. Disciple-making is one of the commands of Jesus we are to teach and to obey ourselves.

Thus, prayer and fasting. I know that I am not capable of making a disciple of Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit is capable of doing that. Which is why Jesus told his first disciples/apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power before launching on their disciple-making mission. When our efforts to bring people to Jesus are heavily seasoned first with prayer and fasting, then we will see the demonstration of the Spirit and power. And we will see the multiplication of disciple-makers moving us closer to the completion of the Great Commission as well as the transformation of our community because its citizens will be transformed by the power of God.

Let us pray for the complete transformation of San Diego County (and your community for all of you out of my region) by the transformation of its citizens by the power of God in the gospel.


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