Summary: 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.


A. Introduction

1. One day, my husband announced to the family that he was going to fast and pray. Ginny, our 5-year-old, had recently learned that fasting meant not eating. "No!" she shouted. "You can't fast! You'll die!" Her dad carefully explained that many men and women fasted in Bible times. Ginny paused a moment. Then, with a flash of insight and a note of warning, she proved her point. "And they all died," she said.

B. Fasting, I got this definition from a book I have on the Gospel of Matthew

1. Fasting means to abstain from food for some religious or spiritual purpose.

a. A study of the fasting practiced by Jesus and by the great leaders of the Bible reveals what God means by fasting

b. Very simply, fasting means being so consumed with a matter that it becomes more important than food

c. Therefore, the believer sets food aside in order to concentrate on seeking God about the matter

d. Biblical fasting means more than just abstaining from food; it means to abstain from food in order to concentrate upon God and His answer to a particular matter

e. Biblical fasting involves prayer, intense supplication before God

f. Note the words "when ye fast"

g. Jesus assumed believers fasted

(1) He expects them to fast

(2) He fasted and He taught fasting

(a) Jesus fasted 40 days and nights

(b) Probably to prepare for His ministry

i) Turn to Matthew 17:21

(c) The early believers fasted

Matthew 17:21 (NKJV)

"However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

(d) Turn to Acts 13:2 & 3

Acts 13:2-3 (NKJV)

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." {3} Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

2. The benefits of fasting are enormous, but there are also dangers

a. We can fast for the wrong reasons

b. This is the point of the present passage

c. Christ counsels us on the wrong and the right motives for fasting

(1) Lets begin by turning to Matthew 6:16

II. Body.

A. The wrong way to fast

Matthew 6:16 (NKJV)

"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.

1. Fasting as a hypocrite is wrong

a. Being hypocritical is a real danger when fasting

b. There are four reasons men fast, and all but one are false and hypocritical

(1) Men fast to gain a sense of God's approval and of self-approval

(2) Men fast to fulfill a religious act

(3) Men fast to gain religious recognition.

(4) Men fast to genuinely meet God for some special purpose

2. Fasting is not condemned by Christ

a. Fasting for any purpose other than to meet God is condemned

(1) Pride, arrogance, and seeking recognition from men is what is condemned by Christ

(a) Turn back to Matthew 6:2

Matthew 6:2 (NKJV)

"Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

(b) Turn to Matthew 6:5

Matthew 6:5 (NKJV)

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

3. Fasting for recognition is wrong

a. It poses several serious dangers that must be guarded against with all diligence

(1) The danger of feeling super-spiritual

(a) Few believers follow a true fast

(b) Therefore when they really fast, they have to guard against a sense of super-spirituality and pride

(2) The danger of over-confidence

(a) The believer's confidence is to be in God, not in self

(b) After a genuine fast a believer usually feels spiritually confident, ready to go forth

(c) He must go forth depending upon the strength of Christ and not upon his own energy and effort.

(3) The danger of sharing one's fasting experience

(a) The believer has usually learned so much from being in God's presence that he is anxious to share it, especially with those closest to him

(b) The best advice is to hush: share nothing, not even with one's dearest friend

(4) The danger of changing one's appearance and the way one acts and behaves

(a) Any change whatsoever from one's normal behavior and routine attracts attention and ruins the whole benefit of the fast

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