Summary: When I fast I’ll focus exclusively on God.
June 24, 2001
Secret Christianity – Part 3
There has been a lot of talk about consumer privacy lately. Have you gotten any of those statements in the mail recently? Our life insurance company, our bank, the company that holds our retirement account – all sent us statements on privacy.
Privacy became a hot issue when certain companies began to secretly sell or share consumer data. It’s complicated by the Internet. Web sites that deposit cookies into our machines led to a scare that companies can now know which sites a user has visited. Done to target advertising and promotions.
Grocery stores now lure customers into obtaining a preferred card or a fresh values card on the premise that you’ll save more money at check out, when in reality the stores now are able to track what you, personally purchase every time you shop.
The Microsoft mantra, which says, - ’’The power over one’s personal information belongs in the hands of that individual,’’ is becoming an increasingly popular position in the eyes of consumers.
This shows that most of us would rather do our banking, shopping, investing and Internet browsing without the watchful eyes of others.
I don’t want people knowing this about me. (Actually it may not be to our advantage if they did – It may take total control away from us)
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.”
And yet when it comes to the most private religious activities of all we are strongly tempted to be seen. (Maybe it is to our advantage and places us in a position of control).
Just like you want to shop, invest, bank and browse in secret – fast that way too.
READ TEXT – MATTHEW 6:16-18
16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Here is today’s Big Idea: When I fast, I’ll focus exclusively on God.
TRANSITION: To get at this today, I want to show you what fasting is, how not to do it, how to do it correctly, then finish with a few suggestions on giving it a try. First of all…
I. WHAT IS FASTING?
Quite simply - Fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes.
For instance we’re all familiar with the word “Breakfast.” It’s a combination form or two words – break and fast. It implies breaking our fast from the night period when we ate nothing.
In the Bible, the words prayer and fasting are often coupled to show that the two go hand in hand. This doesn’t mean that whenever we pray we have to fast. But it does suggest that when we fast, we certainly need to pray.
Fasting is different from a hunger strike. The Rev. Al Sharpton recently underwent a hunger strike while in prison in New York to protest the U.S. Navy’s practice bombings on a Puerto Rican island. A hunger strike is a tool to gain leverage. Fasting is a tool to greater learning.
It is different from dieting, which is a tool to lose weight. Fasting is the practice of losing ourselves in God.
There are a couple of ways fasting shows up in the Bible:
1. For one, fasting is sometimes an expression of sorrowful turning from sin.
In Joel 2:12 we read, “Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
That’s the language of repentance. Repentance accompanied by abstaining from food.
In the book of Nehemiah, after Ezra reads the Law of God out loud for the Israelites returning from exile, they gathered together for a fast where they confessed their sins.
In Acts 9, Paul had been doing his best to destroy the church, but after Paul (at that time still called Saul) met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he fasted for three days. So fasting was done when a person was sorrowfully turning from sin.
2. Fasting also shows up in the Bible when a person wanted to seek God for some particular direction or blessing. When a person was faced with a major decision, or a major crisis, they would turn away from food and other distractions in order to concentrate more fully on prayer.
Moses fasted during the time he received instructions from God on Mt. Sinai