Summary: This is a study on the Sermon on the Mount. This is the 7th sermon in the series.
Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 6: 16-18
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
How many of you have ever fasted?
How many of you have fasted in the last month?
How many of you have fasted in the last year?
1. As you may have noticed for the majority of you fasting is not an aspect of Christianity that is practiced or participated in often.
2. God does not say when or how often we should fast, but Jesus does here tell (v. 16, 17) His disciples that they are expected to fast throughout Christian walk through this world.
1. Fasting is the refraining from eating food.
2. Christian Fasting is when the believer refrains from eating to draw near to God.
a. In Christian Fasting the believer becomes dependent upon God to sustain him as he seeks to understand either the will of God in his own life or concerning the special needs of the object of his petitions.
My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness.
B. The Bible describes three main forms of fasting: 1) normal; 2) absolute; 3) partial.
1. Normal Fasting – this involves the total abstinence of food.
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.
Jesus fasted 40 days – Luke 4:2
David fasted during his and Bathsheba’s son’s fatal illness – 2 Samuel 12:15b-20
2. Absolute Fasting – this is the refraining from food and water.
Then Saul [later called Paul] arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither are nor drank.
Esther preparing to approach the King concerning the plight of the Jews – Esther 4:16
3. Partial Fasting – this is the restriction of diet rather than complete abstinence.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel … In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azairiah (Abed-Nego), - asked that they go on a limited diet of vegetables and water for ten days – Daniel 1:11-12
C. Fasting is often associated with faith | prayer –
[to the disciples, Jesus said], Because of your unbelief … However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
SO WHEN YOU FAST …?
A. Wrong Way
1. Hypocrites – so that they may appear to be fasting
a. sad countenance
b. disfigured face
c. open asceticism (austere [rigidly abstinent] and self-denying)
NOTE: Result – they have their reward: implies paid in full, no other payment due or required.
B. Right Way
1. Privately – so that you do not appear to be fasting
a. anoint your head
b. wash your face
c. secret asceticism
NOTE: Result – you will be rewarded openly by God
1. Fasting is the laying aside of food for a period of time when the believer is seeking to know God in a deeper experience. It is an act before God in the privacy of one’s own pursuit of God’s will for their life or the specific need they are depending upon God to address.
2. Fasting is tied to faith | prayer. Consequently should be carried out together.
3. God is not the respecter of people.
It does not matter to Him if you are rich, important, powerful, or how you wish to present yourself.
a. These are only outside attributes that will all fade away with you the moment you pass from this earth.
b. What matters to God is what you do according to your heart – for this truly reflects who you are (Proverbs 27:19 – As in water face reveals face, so a man’s heart reveals the man).
c. A religionist fasts before men. - A believer in fasts before God.