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Summary: In many Christian circles fasting has fallen out of favor, yet Jesus' expecation appears to be that His followers WILL fast! Why ought we to fast? What is fasting? What blessing comes from fasting? How do we go about starting a fast? Come and see wh

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The Time Is Now! - Matthew 6:16-18 - March 4, 2012

Series: Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down #20

Let’s open our Bibles this morning to the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew as we continue in our study of the Sermon on the Mount. If you’re joining us for the first time today, this series is called, “Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down,” because that’s exactly what Jesus is showing us in these chapters of Matthew. It’s a world where our preconceptions, our values, our expectations even, are turned upside down and made new in Him. And what we discover is that we are called to, and enabled to live, a life that is radically different than the one the world holds before us. It’s a life that goes beyond the mere letter of God’s word and grasps the Spirit with which that word is given. Kingdom living finds its life in the attitudes and motives of the heart – the heart that is responding both, to the grace of God that we have received, and the mercy of God that we have experienced.

In Romans 12:1 Paul exhorts us with these words, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” So the proper response to the mercy we’ve received in Jesus is to live a life that glorifies God. Hymn writer Isaac Watts described our response well when he penned those lines “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” In the verses we’ve been looking at over the last few weeks, Jesus is showing us what it looks like when we respond to God with everything we are, everything we have, and everything we ever hope to be.

The truth is that it’s easy to go through the motions of religion and faith and to give an outward appearance of righteousness and godliness. Man can be fooled by that but God sees right through it. Jesus’ words challenge us to consider the heart with which we do the things we do. In particular, in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, the challenge is to consider the motive by which we give to the needy, the heart that moves us to pray, and, what we’ll see today, the manner in which we fast. And what we’re going to see again this morning is a pattern similar to that which we have seen the last two weeks: A Warning Given, An Example To Avoid, A Principle To Follow, and A Reward To Be Received.

So let’s begin reading in Matthew 6, verse 16 … “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others 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.” (Matthew 6:16–18, NIV)

Just out of curiosity, by the show of hands, how many here this morning have fasted before? Not because of sickness, or medical tests, or trying to lose weight, but fasted as they sought God and gave themselves to prayer? …. How many do that on at least a semi-regular basis? …. Alright, you can put your hands down now. Thank you.

If we had asked those same questions even a hundred years ago chances are good that every hand in this room would have gone up. Yet fasting is something that has largely fallen out of popularity in evangelical circles. I firmly believe that we are the poorer for it. Now some of you might be thinking, “Good grief pastor, fasting is so Old Testament. What’s this got to do with us today?” If you’re a disciple of Jesus it has got everything to do with you!

Look at verse 16 – Jesus says, not, “If you fast,” but rather, “When you fast.” It’s the same language He uses when He talks about us giving to the poor and when He talks about us seeking God in prayer. And friends, there are at least two conclusions that we can draw from that fact. First, Jesus’ expectation is that His followers – that’s you and me – that we would give ourselves to fasting on a regular basis. Secondly, this must mean that fasting is a good thing for those who want to draw closer to God. And, if we kept reading, we’d discover that not only is it a good thing, but that there is in store for those who do it with right hearts, a reward from God Himself.

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