Summary: Motivation in Fasting

Motivation in Fasting

Matthew 6:16-18

We have taken a rest stop on fasting for a few weeks. From Luke 2 we saw two God centered old saints who were not satisfied with the status quote who hungered for more of God and for him to work on behalf of his people. Anna in particular gave herself to prayer and fasting for God to move on behalf of his people.

Then we looked at the example of the early church fasting and praying in Acts 13 and saw God responding to the cry of their hearts and the result is that the course of history is forever changed.

Last week we looked to the example of Christ himself fasting in Luke 4 and saw the spiritual value of fasting in that it gives us spiritual strength and exposes the heart.

Today I want us to look at the motivation for fasting so that we do not endanger our souls. I am asking you to join with the staff and elders in fasting to seek Gods direction for our church, that God would awaken and revive us as a church, for our children and young people to be radically god centered.

1. Followers of Jesus are expected to fast

In previous weeks we have seen that Jesus expects his followers to fast. We get this from verses 16 and 17, ‘when you fast.’ So we saw the early church in Acts 13 when they fasted together to seek God’s direction. In Acts 14 we again see the early church fasting as they appoint church leadership. If you are a follower of Christ it is just as normal for you to fast as it is to attend church, to pray, and to read your bible.

2. The key to authentic Fasting is the motivation of the heart

ESV Matthew 6:16 "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. I.e. Carson historical, p. 72

Something that started out with the right intention and motivation but the sinfulness of the human heart left unchecked, led to self righteous self display. They fasted to be seen by others disguising it as doing it for God. If your motivation for anything as a follower of Christ is to be seen by others because you want their approval, applause, or affirmation then that is your reward. That is all you will get (v.16b).

Why are they hypocrites? They fasted to be seen by others disguising it as doing it for God. Fasting is to show your heart for God and not for human admiration. Fasting says my heart is hungry for God. Yet they did the opposite – fasted to be rewarded by others and disguising that fasting as a love for God. That is why they are hypocrites. Piper, p. 72.

Does this mean that Jesus excludes public fasting? There are many examples in both the Old and New Testament of corporate or public fasting. We saw one such fast in Acts 13. There is another corporate fast in appointing elders in Acts 14. So I do not think he is eliminating corporate fasts. What he does do is warn us about the dangers of fasting. Are we fasting to be seen or are we being seen fasting. Fasting to be seen and being seen fasting are not the same thing. Fasting to be seen is motivated by a desire for others to see us and think highly of us. Being seen fasting is being found out and does not necessarily destroy the value of the fast. The value of fasting is not destroyed if you are seen fasting but the value is destroyed if you are fasting to be seen. The goal is to be seen by God not by men (v. 18). Wallace, p. 39.

3. The promise of fasting is the reward of the Father

V18 tells us the right motivation in fasting. It is to be seen by God our father and seek his reward. Fast to be seen by God. Fast to get his attention. Jesus is testing the reality of God in our lives. Do we really have a hunger for God himself and only for him or do we hunger for human admiration. All that matters is God, who he is and what he thinks and what he will do. That leads us to the last phrase of verse 18, ‘your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Fasting is for God and his approval and what he thinks and that he will do in response to our fasting. He promises to reward us and his promises are sure. The reward is the gracious response of God to an act of faith and prayer. Fasting or any act we do is not a business deal. That would make it works oriented - God the employer and us employees and thus deserving wages. That belittles God and exalts the human heart. The reality is that God has initiated the fast and God is sustaining us so it is all about God. Fasting and every act of faith is in him and through him and for him. Hebrews 13:21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us1 that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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