Summary: A Biblical study on fasting. Fasting may be one of the most neglected of the spiritual disciplines...Is fasting today a law or a privilige?
Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting
What Are Spiritual Disciplines?
-Practices which we use to draw ourselves into a stronger relationship with Christ
-Discipline is something that does not come easily
-Spiritual Disciplines do not stand alone
-Spiritual disciplines do no good if we aren’t seeking to obey God’s Word
-Spiritual disciplines do no good if we are not striving to have good relationships with others
-Motives matter with spiritual disciplines
-Jesus emphasized the heart of the issue about giving, praying, and fasting
-It is better not to do it then to do it with the wrong motives
-We should not give, pray or fast to bee seen by people (Matthew 6:16-18)
-Pharisee and the Tax Collector -- Luke 18:10-14 – “I fast twice a week…”
What do you think of when you think of a person who fasts?
John the Baptist
- Middle Ages and the rigid practices of self mortification
- Jesus fasting in the Desert
How many people do you know who fast regularly?
How many sermons have you heard on fasting?
What is Fasting?
* Fasting is the most feared and most misunderstood of all spiritual disciplines
- From 1861 to 1954 a period of nearly 100 years there was not a book published on the subject of fasting
· Fasting is feared for two reasons…
1. We associate fasting with the negative stuff and religious wackos of the Middle Ages
2. We love to eat and hate the idea of self-sacrifice
* A Biblical definition – a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes
- Even though there are physical benefits to fasting this is not the purpose of Biblical fasting. It is not a hunger strike for political purposes, but for spiritual purposes.
- Richard Foster defined fasting as “the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.”
· In the Old Testament the Jews were commanded by Law to fast on certain occasions, but today fasting is a privilege and not a law!
Christians and Fasting
· Congress proclaimed three national fasts. Abraham Lincoln called for a national fast on three different occasions.
· Every Jew was commanded to fast on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31) and if they neglected it the punishment was death!
· There were four more Jewish fasts instituted in Babylon (Zechariah 8:19) and they had 28 voluntary fasts.
Do We Have to Fast Today?
· The OT calls fasting an affliction of the Soul
· In the same way that Jesus assumes we will give and pray Jesus assumes that we will fast. He said, “but when you fast.” And “they will fast” (Matthew 6:16-17)
· There is no indication in Scripture that we do not need to fast any longer – many people see fasting as an Old Testament ritual that is not expected any more of Christians, but fasting is expected in the same way prayer is expected
· Christians in the Book of Acts fasted – they are our example (Acts 13:1-3)
· If we are going to be a New Testament Church, we cannot only be so in our doctrine we have to be also in our practice. We cannot pick and choose what New Testament examples we follow and what practices we keep
- Why do we observe the Lord’s Supper? Because of the Apostolic example set before us (Acts 20:7)
- Is not fasting as much of an apostolic example to us?
- No, Jesus did not command fasting, but he came close, telling us he expects it. No, the Apostles never commanded fasting, but they practiced it.
- Sometimes I think we like the idea and concept of being like the New Testament Church, but only when it is convenient to us and when it does not require sacrifice.
* Fasting should be seen as a privilege and not a law
· There is no command given to often or how long we should fast – like prayer, it should not be done legalistically, but should be seen as a privilege
- Jesus fasted for forty days
- Samuel fasted with Israel for a day (I Samuel 7:6)
- David fasted for seven days for his unborn child (I Samuel 12:15-20)
**The danger of fasting is pride -- Matthew 6:16-18
- Notice that Jesus’ teaching on fasting is in context of his teaching about prayer and giving, why is that none of us would dare deny the importance of the others?
- Jesus never condemned the practice of fasting, praying or giving, he condemned the negative motives of those practicing it
The Purpose of Fasting
· To Accompany Prayer
- Prayer in the Bible is often times accompanied by fasting to show the earnest desire of God’s answer and our sincerity