Summary: The benefits of truly fasting are enormous, but there are also dangers. We can fast for the wrong reasons. This is the point of this passage of scripture. Jesus will council us on the wrong and right motives for fasting.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Part 13
The right Motive for fasting
Fasting means to abstain from food for some religious or spiritual purpose. A study of the practiced by Jesus and by the great leaders of the bible reveals what God means by fasting.
Very simply, fasting means being so consumed with a matter that it becomes more important than food. Therefore, as a believer, I set food aside in order to concentrate on seeking God about the matter. 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. Biblical fasting involves prayer, intense supplication before God.
In this passage Jesus assumed believers fasted, he said “when you fast”. In fact He expected believers to fast. He fasted and He taught fasting, and the early believers fasted. Yet so few have continued such intense seeking of the Lord; so few fast, truly fast.
The benefits of truly fasting are enormous, but there are also dangers. We can fast for the wrong reasons. This is the point of this passage of scripture. Jesus will council us on the wrong and right motives for fasting.
Read Scriptures: Matthew 6:16-18
I. The wrong way to fast;
Vs. 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.”
Jesus laid out the wrong way to fast for us.
1. Fasting as a hypocrite is wrong. Being hypocritical is a real danger when fasting. There are four reasons people fast, and all but one are false and hypocritical.
a. People fast to gain a sense of God’s approval and of self-apporval.
b. People fast to fulfill a religious act.
c. People fast to gain religious recognition
d. People fast to genuinely meet God for some special purpose.
Fasting is not condemned by Christ. Fasting for any purpose other than to meet God is condemned; when you fast, fast “only to your father” (Vs. 18).
2. Fasting for recognition is wrong. It brings up several serious dangers that must be guarded against .
a. The danger of feeling super-spiritual. Very few believers truly fast. So when we really fast, we must guard against a sense of super-spirituality and pride.
b. The danger of over-confidence. Our confidence is to be in God, not in self. After a true genuine fast we must go forward depending on the strength of Christ and not our own energy and effort.
c. The danger of sharing our fasting experience. After we have been through a true fast, and have really been in the presence of God, we are anxious to share it, especially to those who are closest to us. The best advice would be keep it between you and the Lord, and take what you have learned and apply it to your life, don’t try to apply it to someone else’s life.
d. The danger of changing our appearance and the way we act or behave. If we purposefully change our appearance or the way that we act to draw attention to ourselves so that we will be asked what we are doing, then we have lost the benefit of the fast.
3. Fasting the wrong way has its reward. The reward will be the recognition and esteem of people, but that is all the reward you will receive.
II. The right way to fast
Vs. 17-18 “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so 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.”
As we stated in the introduction fasting means be so consumed with a matter that it becomes more important than food. Therefore, the believer sets food aside in order to concentrate on seeking God about the matter.
1. Fasting is a duty. Every believer is expected to fast. Jesus said “When you fast.” He expects us to fast.
We know that Jesus fasted. Matthew 4:2 “After fasting forty days and forty nights he was hungry.”
We know that early church leaders fasted. Acts 13:2 “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 14:23 “Paul and Baranbas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, I whom they had put their trust.”
It is expected of the believer to fast.
2. Fasting is to be done without notice. As a believer I am to fast before God, and not men. There is to be no change in appearance or behavior to indicate that I am fasting. When I am seeking God in a very special way, it is between God and myself, and not me and any other person.