SHOULD FASTING BE IN THE ARSENAL OF A JESUS-FOLLOWER?

SHOULD FASTING BE IN THE ARSENAL OF A JESUS-FOLLOWER?

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.

HOW TO FAST AND BE HEARD BY GOD

HOW TO FAST AND BE HEARD BY GOD

“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
    and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
    they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
    Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
    and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
    will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.

13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
    from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
    or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 58:1-14

Motives color everything we do, but actions still count. Both matter, especially in spiritual matters. It is possible to go church, sing the hymns and praise choruses, pray and give and yet be offending God. I don’t want to be offending God, especially when I am supposed to be doing things to please him. Israel had this problem with their fasting.

When they fasted they continued to do business (seek your own pleasure) and oppress (mistreat and underpay, if at all) their workers. They were cantankerous; they would quarrel and fight. What was God’s response? Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. God isn’t interested in our religious show of fasting.

A fast pleasing to God has a goal to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke. It involves caring for the hungry and the poor instead of going about business as usual. This kind of fasting has as its goal to bring freedom, both freedom economically but more importantly freedom spiritually. People are not only held in bondage to debt or dead-end jobs but worse; people are caught in bondage to their sin and bondage to demonic spirits that want to consign them to an eternal hell.

I love God’s response to a proper fast.

then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Isaiah ties a proper fast to a proper observance of the Sabbath. It is not to be just another day of doing business as usual and pursuing our own pleasures. I think it is worth mentioning that two of the most successful companies in their respective fields are Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, both of which do not do business as usual on the Sabbath or Sunday. ( I know the difference so please don’t argue with me about Sunday not being the Sabbath.)

Again, the results of proper Sabbath keeping along with fasting;

then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

I have stated before that my interest in fasting has been reinvigorated by recognizing that it appears by the observation of Disciple-Making Movements around the world to be an essential component that precedes these movements. Many Jesus-followers are concerned about the future of America, and it appears there is good reason. The solution to redeeming our culture and seeing the United States once again riding on the heights of the earth is not political or military might, but masses of pagan Americans bowing the knee to King Jesus and following the King of Kings rather than the Republicans or the Democrats or any other political party.

We must become effective, and God sotted followers of Jesus who become disciple-makers who make disciple-makers, who make disciple-makers. Then we will see a Disciple-Making Movement in our land much like those in the Global South. It is happening in other parts of the world. It can happen here, but only if we will give ourselves to a strong movement of prayer and fasting and walking in the Spirit.

Being disciples is not about better theology, it is about obeying God in Christ, being doers of the word and not hearers only. Join with me in fasting for a great Disciple-Making Movement in the United States.

IN DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND OF POWER: A CALL TO PRAYER AND FASTING

IN DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT AND OF POWER: A CALL TO PRAYER AND FASTING

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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