Summary: Jesus condemns the type of fast that the Pharisees have "invented" and causes us to examine the method and results of a true fast.
The True Fast
This may be a shocking statement to many people, especially if they have been trying to DO BETTER as a Christian: .Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is NOT a list of things that you must DO or endure in order to be FIT for God’s Kingdom! Rather, IF YOU HAVE this kind of heart, you can be ASSURED that God has given you, by His Grace, a NEW SPIRITUAL, KINGDOM of God-HEART, capable of pleasing God. IF you can see these qualities in your life and you are experiencing many difficulties in your LIFE, well: WELCOME to the KINGDOM of HEAVEN.
That is NOT to mean that we are PERFECT in these qualities. God’s Kingdom does not make its entrance into the HUMAN HEART in PERFECTION any more than when someone receives a PHYSICAL HEART TRANSPLANT, they are immediately healthy and well. (Sins are forgiven perfectly, but you aren’t yet perfect!), Our SIN HAS BEEN COMPLETELY forgiven, the old has passed away, (consider yourselves DEAD to SIN), but there is a time process of recovery and strengthening where there will be definite SIGNS of NEW HEALTH and LIFE, but there will also be struggles. There will be weakness, but definitely VICTORY.
In the SPIRITUAL and HEAVENLY REALM, there is a process during which we are being CONFORMED to the IMAGE of CHRIST. We can and will have spiritual “set-backs”. We can have relapses, times of weakness, ESPECIALLY if we don’t obey the GREAT PHYSICIAN’S orders. If we listen to what other people “THINK”, rather than what God says, and follow worldly, advice rather than God’s, we will have relapses.
The Kingdom is revealed to us in Christ, His Word, and His Spirit, but He is still FULFILLING HIS PROMISES in our lives. Everything isn’t fulfilled at once, and we have seen how, for one who has received a new HEART from Him, He causes ALL THINGS (during this process) to work together for GOOD to those He has CALLED ACCORDING to His Purpose and Will. (Romans 8:28)
I want us to recall those “BEATITUDES”, those blessings of the Kingdom of God:
*Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (I’m destitute and needy SPIRITUALLY.) (Matt. 5:3)
*Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4) (I repent of my sin and confess my need for the Savior.)
*Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (5:5) (I am willing and humble to follow you, Lord.)
*Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be satisfied. (5:6) (I want to love and honor You, Lord, more than anything else. Give me the bread of Life and the Living Water.)
*Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)(You have shown me mercy; I have to show others mercy as well.)
*Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (5:8)(My only purity and righteousness is that which You have given me.(Imputed)
*Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. (5:9)(I want to proclaim to others, the peace of God found in Christ Alone. It is a peace that the world does not understand and inevitably, is rejected often.) Therefore…
*Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Persecution and rejection is inevitable, but be of good courage. Don’t lose faith! Actually, YOU WON’T!)
In our last study we looked at the Lord’s Prayer, but did not look at Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, Your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” This is really completing the thought of verses 12 and 13: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” The forgiveness that you have received freely, should be freely given to others.
I realize that forgiveness for some things and some people doesn’t always come easily, but A FORGIVING SPIRIT is what Christ exemplified, and if we have His Spirit in us, then we should be examples OF HIS FORGIVING SPIRIT. If you have been forgiven by God, that forgiveness will be evidenced in your forgiving spirit. OUR forgiving spirit will attract others to the love of Jesus in us, because FORGIVENESS is not a fruit of the world; revenge and retaliation are the world’s “fruit”. Forgiveness and pardon are letting go of infractions against you, as God has “let go” of your sins on account of Christ, you are to “let go” of the sins against you.
The truth about FASTING according to Jesus
Look at Matthew 6:16-18: "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret ; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”