HFG-05 - Reflecting the Purpose that God Chose for Fasting by Cultivating Christ's Compassion for Our Neighbors

 

150503AM FTF-26 LP-5 Hungering-4.docx

How Does God Want Biblical

Fasting to Impact Our Lives?

Isaiah 58:1-14

 

 

 

Let me just warn about the hucksters that always prey upon tender hearted believers. Paul warns of those to come who would make money off the church by pitching their various methods of “abstaining from food”. As humans we like to get our list of rules, and follow them. We like someone that we trust to tell us what to do, and do it.

That is easier, simpler, and also dangerous.

 

Beware of Bondage to Dietary Laws

God does not say what we are to eat or not eat as New Covenant believers. Here is an example from John MacArthur’s blog that sums up the current Christian fads that border on legalism:

A friend recently sent me a link to a popular website promoting fasting. A self-appointed fasting guru gladly tells readers how to fast, when to fast, what to eat—and oh by the way, would you please post a favorable review of my book at amazon.com?

How bad is that website? Really bad. In the name of biblical fasting, you can find advice on “Tasty Breakfasts,” “Savory Soups,” and “Satisfying Casseroles.” If you can stomach still more, the author will treat you to gems like this in the comments section:

Semolina is a processed flour and the bran and germ have been removed leaving the starchy endosperm, so it’s not allowed on [the fast]. Stick with simple whole wheat pasta.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Trust me: a teacher alerting you to the dark dangers of semolina and starchy endosperm is nowhere near the galaxy that is remotely connected to what God means by what He says in His Word.

What’s sad is the effect these self-appointed authorities have on those who follow them. They bind consciences with false guilt. Setting themselves up as judges of what goes into your mouth, they oppose our Lord Jesus Christ, who declared all foods clean and said that nothing should be rejected if it is received with gratitude (Mark 7:19; 1 Timothy 4:1-5)[1].

Biblical Fasting leads to:

As Jesus said:

Enlightened Living (8a)

"not walk in darkness…but have the light of life" (John 8:12)

Stregthened Living *8b)

"I have food to eat ye know not of…" (John 4:32)

Holy Living (8c)

"who hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Mt. 5:6)

Secured Living (8d)

"Lo I am with you always…" (Mt. 28:20)

Godward Living (9a)

"And whatever you ask…I will do it" (John 15:16)

Confident Living (11a)

"My peace I give unto you…" (John 14:27)

Satisfied Living (11b)

"Life, and live more abundant…" (John 10:10)

Renewed Living (11c)

"never thirst…out of him flow rivers of living water…" (John 6:35; 7:37)

Rewarded Living (12)

"lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven…" (Mat 6:20)

 

Our study from God's Word today may be one of the most relevant to the culture we currently live in, than any other topic we could study. As we open our Bibles to Isaiah 2, let me ask each of you a series of five questions, that explains how God describes the moral and spiritual collapse that precedes:

 

The Death of a Nation

1.     What happens when a nation with a long and deep Biblical Heritage turns its back on God? How about a group of formerly devout followers of the Lord who mostly have abandoned genuine worship, and godly behavior?

2.     What does God's Word prescribe when a nation that formerly honored Him, slips into Eastern mysticism and new age errors, accepts and dabbles in witchcraft and occultic errors, plunges into materialism and greed, and allows idolatry and false worship to thrive?

3.     What does God's Word prescribe when a formerly God honoring nation chooses the pathway of greedy over development of its land, allows and enables a culture of alcohol and drug fueled addictions, with a bent towards unrestrained spring-breakish partying among its people?

4.     What does God's Word prescribe when a nation that formerly revered God's Word becomes a place where truth is replaced with lies, and absolutes with relativism, where cultural and educational elitism begins to rule as pride and arrogance are promoted at the highest levels, and national heroes are actually people who are sexually immoral and often addicted to substances that control their minds and actions?

5.     What does God's Word prescribe when a nation that was built upon the moral law of God descends into a place where injustice towards the poor and helpless reigns, and where the land becomes a place of growing lawlessness?

 

Eerie Similarities

Do you think that I am talking about the Baltimore Riots of 2015, or the current condition of the United States of America?

The similarity is eerie, but actually every one of those five questions are behind what God Almighty Himself is asking to His Chosen People of Promise, the nation of Israel. The primary target of these questions are the people that God Himself confronts in Isaiah 1-5.

As you sit with Isaiah open before you, may I ask a quick question? Why would we in the New Testament Era, the Church Age of Grace, turn back to the Old Testament, and start there as we study an important Biblical topic? Is there authorority for our lives in the Old Testament?

 

The Magnitude of Isaiah in God's Word

As you reflect on just the book of Isaiah, I think you will be able to answer that question yourself!

ü Isaiah is the fifth longest book in the Bible, with 66 chapters, 1,292 verses, and 37,044 words.

ü Isaiah is quoted from or alluded to 472 times by 23 New Testament books.

ü ISAIAH contains more references to salvation that any other Old Testament book (The word salvation appears 33 times in the writing of the prophets, and of these, 26 instances occur in Isaiah.)

ü Isaiah contains the only Old Testament prophecy concerning the virgin birth of Christ (cf. Isaiah. 7:14 with Matthew. 1:21-23).

ü Isaiah is a miniature model of the Bible: the Bible has 66 booksàIsaiah has 66 chapters; the Old Testament has 39 books à the first section of Isaiah has 39 chapters; the New Testament has 27 books à the last section of Isaiah has 27 chapters; the 39 Old Testament books record the history and sin of Israelà so does Isaiah 1-39; the New Testament introduces Christ and His ministryà so does Isaiah 40-66.

ü Isaiah contains the two furthest reaching events in all of history:  The most ancient event is the fall of Satan (14:12-17) and the most future event, the creation of the new heavens and earth (66:22).

ü Isaiah has more to say about the greatness of God (40,43), the horrors of the Tribulation (24), the wonders of the Millennium (35), and the ministry of Christ (53) than any other book in the Bible.  

ü Isaiah also contains one of the Old Testament’s clearest statements on the Trinity (48:16).

ü Isaiah 53 is probably the most important chapter in the Old Testament, as it is quoted from or alluded to 85 times in the New Testament.  Jesus said that Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him (John 12:41). 

ü Isaiah makes the Old Testament's clearest prophecy about an individual. The Persian King Cyrus and his decree are both mentioned by Isaiah 150 years before Cyrus was even born! (See Isaiah. 44:28; 45:1.)

 

Should New Testament saints know Isaiah? Certainly we should if we want to be grounded in Biblical doctrine! So what does Isaiah 1 say? Please stand, follow along and hear the Voice of God as we read Isaiah 1:1-4 (NKJV):

1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me;
3 The ox knows its owner
And the donkey its master’s crib;
But Israel does not know,
My people do not consider.”

4 Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.

Pray

Walk back through the text of God's Word with me this morning, starting in Isaiah 1. What we see is a description by God Himself of what it looks like:

 

When a Nation Abandons God

Here are those fives questions in the context of God's Word:

1.     What happens when a nation with a long and deep Biblical Heritage turns its back on God (Isaiah 1:3-6)? How about a group of formerly devout followers of the Lord who mostly have abandoned genuine worship, and godly behavior (Isaiah 1:11-14)?

2.     What does God's Word prescribe when a nation that formerly honored Him, slips into Eastern mysticism and new age errors (Isaiah 2:6a), accepts and dabbles in witchcraft and occultic errors (2:6b), plunges into materialism and greed (2:7), and allows idolatry and false worship to thrive (Isaiah 2:8)?

3.     What does God's Word prescribe when a formerly God honoring nation chooses the pathway of greedy over development of its land (Isaiah 5:8), allows and enables a culture of alcohol and drug fueled addictions (5:11), with a bent towards unrestrained spring-breakish partying among its people (5:12,18)?

4.     What does God's Word prescribe when a nation that formerly revered God's Word becomes a place where truth is replaced with lies, and absolutes with relativism (Isaiah 5:20), where cultural and educational elitism begins to rule as pride and arrogance are promoted at the highest levels (5:21), and national heroes are actually people who are sexually immoral and often addicted to substances that control their minds and actions (5:22)?

5.     What does God's Word prescribe when a nation that was built upon the moral law of God descends into a place where injustice towards the poor and helpless reigns (Isaiah 5:23), and where the land becomes a place of growing lawlessness (5:24)?

 

God Calls His People to Respond Spiritually to a Ungodly Culture

The whole book of Isaiah is about salvation. That is also what the rest of the Bible is about.

God is appealing to the people that He has transformed. He explains to them how they can impact any culture.

No matter when in history we live, God's Word explains God’s desires for our lives.

No matter how dark, how evil, how morally decadent any people become, God’s plans for His [people are always the same.

God wants us as spiritually healthy and fit as possible. That is the only way to serve Him anywhere and anytime.

 

What is God’s Plan for Believers Operating in an Ungodly Culture?

As we open to Isaiah 58:6 we find a remarkable statement from God Almighty to the people of Israel in the 8th Century before Christ. He says: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen”. God had designed a fast to shape their lives. They had chosen to ignore and replace God’s plan with their own.

But God continues and explains for those who have ears to hear, just how God wants to impact our lives through Biblical fasting. This morning, before we read Isaiah 58, trace with me the way we got here.

We have been examining Biblical Fasting as Hungering for God over the past few weeks.

We have seen Christ's explanation of fasting, that it would characterize the longing hearts of His church as they lived, awaiting His Reutrn.

We also have seen how Biblical fasting frames the lives and ministry of the early church at Antioch, as well as Paul’s life and ministry.

Then we saw how the early church guarded their longings for Christ's return as they fasted and denied their flesh the upper hand.

Most important is the clear emphasis in the New Testament on the results of fasting, not the methods of fasting. Let me just warn about the hucksters that always prey upon tender hearted believers. Paul warns of those to come who would make money off the church by pitching their various methods of “abstaining from food”. As humans we like to get our list of rules, and follow them. We like someone that we trust to tell us what to do, and do it.

That is easier, simpler, and also dangerous.

 

Beware of Bondage to Dietary Laws

God does not say what we are to eat or not eat as New Covenant believers. Here is an example from John MacArthur’s blog that sums up the current Christian fads that border on legalism:

A friend recently sent me a link to a popular website promoting fasting. A self-appointed fasting guru gladly tells readers how to fast, when to fast, what to eat—and oh by the way, would you please post a favorable review of my book at amazon.com?

How bad is that website? Really bad. In the name of biblical fasting, you can find advice on “Tasty Breakfasts,” “Savory Soups,” and “Satisfying Casseroles.” If you can stomach still more, the author will treat you to gems like this in the comments section:

Semolina is a processed flour and the bran and germ have been removed leaving the starchy endosperm, so it’s not allowed on [the fast]. Stick with simple whole wheat pasta.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Trust me: a teacher alerting you to the dark dangers of semolina and starchy endosperm is nowhere near the galaxy that is remotely connected to what God means by what He says in His Word.

What’s sad is the effect these self-appointed authorities have on those who follow them. They bind consciences with false guilt. Setting themselves up as judges of what goes into your mouth, they oppose our Lord Jesus Christ, who declared all foods clean and said that nothing should be rejected if it is received with gratitude (Mark 7:19; 1 Timothy 4:1-5)[2].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How’s Your Hunger for God Today?

Several weeks ago we began to study about Hungering for God and saw this longing after Jesus with a heart of love and devotion is called Biblical Fasting. And Biblical Fasting, or the voluntary abstinence from good and right things such as food, is a spiritual discipline, which has fallen upon hard times in modern Christianity. So this morning I repeat our task:

In the Old Testament we can see that Biblical Fasting was an urgent call to get serious about Knowing God.

In the New Testament we see Biblical Fasting was an ancient spiritual discipline to reschedule my life with God at the center instead of dining, relaxing, amusing, accumulating, advancing, securing, and a multitude of other things that are not wrong - just deadly to intimacy with the Almighty.

The Early Church of Acts and the Epistles demonstrate that this Hunger for God shaped their lives, their ministry, their worship, and their outreach. In the Early Church we see Biblical fasting is a powerful way to yield every part of my life to God's supremacy.

Biblical Fasting is an immediate way to declare your allegiance to God's way and glory in every day of your life! Listen to this brief glimpse from Early Church History as we jump into our study this morning of God's Word's New Testament portrait of the Early Church's Hunger for God.

 

Early Believers Focused on Eternal Ministry

About A.D. 133 Aristeides[3], a teacher of philosophy, presented a defense of Christianity to Emperor Hadrian. From it we get a glimpse of what the early Christians were like and why the church grew the way it did—like wildfire—in those centuries.

Now the Christians, O King…have the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ himself engraven on their hearts, and they observe, looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. They do not covet men’s goods; and love their neighbors; they despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof and rejoice over him, as if it were their own brother; for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God…. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food. For Christ’s sake they are ready to lay down their lives. So it was spread abroad, “Behold how they love one another.” What shall we be known for? Let it be that we are willing to die for Christ and, even more, that we are willing to live for him in loving his people—and his enemies. The early Christians fasted so that they would have more to give to the needy, which means they did not have a lot stored up. O Lord, help us see Christ, be satisfied with Christ, and to show Christ as they did.

 

Accounts like that from history are interesting, but how do we know that we need to fast as a born again Christian? Jesus gives us the answer in our text we have been studying for the past few weeks. In Mark 2:18-22 Jesus said His children would long for Him until His Return.

So when do we need to fast? When we have lost the intense longing for Christ's Return!

 

Longing for Christ's Return

Then, Christ's words this morning are for you. Our text contains the most important words in the Bible on fasting. And these words can change your life if you understand them!

Mark 2:20-22. Lets read them as you follow along in your copy of God's Word.

20 “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them,

(Here is one of the many prophecies Jesus made pointing to the Cross, and His ascension to the Father's right hand for the period of time we call the Church Age. Jesus was away and we await Him.)

And then they will fast in those days

(Now comes the New Testament fast, it is for those who await the One they love, who is taken away to Heaven. While we wait for the Son we fast. Because we long for Him, we fast!)

21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth

(Christianity of the New Covenant Church after the Cross)

on an old garment;

(The Old Testament Judaism)

or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

"The patch of unshrunken cloth and the new wine represent the new reality that has come with Jesus - the Kingdom of God is here. The Bridegroom has come. The Messiah is in our midst. And that is not temporary. He is not here and gone. The kingdom of God did not just come with Jesus and then just vanish out of our world. Jesus died for our sins once for all. He rose from the dead once for all. The Spirit was sent into the world as the real presence of Jesus among us. The Kingdom of God is the present reigning power of Christ in the world subduing hearts to the King and creating a people who believe Him and serve Him in faith and holiness. The Spirit of the Bridegroom is gathering and purifying a Bride for Christ. This is the gospel of Christ and the "mystery of the Kingdom", this is the new wine.[4]

 

 

 

What are you longing for?

 

 

 

 

Most of us have caught the enthusiasm of the Early Church in Acts and the Epistles. They were contagiously in love with Jesus, and fearlessly proclaiming His truth. Most of us also have caught that bu the time two generations passed, the grandchildren of Pentecost were different. On our way to our text in Titus 2 later today, go to the very end of your Bibles.

The secret to what deadened, dulled, chilled, and dissipated the power of the early church is found in the Doctor’s Report of Revelation 2-3. Jesus the Great Physical came to visit the churches of Asia Minor. He went to see how the grandchildren of the Apostles and early church were doing and found a very weak pulse. They were very ative, very busy, very wealthy: but spiritually anemic, sickly, powerless, and distracted.

Revelation 3:

 

 

One of the key attitudes we find displayed by the 1st Century editions of God's saints is that they considered themselves exiles on earth, and citizens of Heaven.

This attitude didn’t produce a detachment from earthly life or other people, rather it led to such a lacking of love for things that these early saints actually had abundant and overflowing time to love and seek and win their neighbors.

 

Focused on Why We Are Here

Now for a moment, think of all the time we spend gathering, protecting, and caring for our THINGS. Then think of what value that collecting, protecting, and caring will have in Heaven at Christ's Throne versus the same time, energy, and strength poured out in loving passion for the souls of our neighbors.

Would Kalamazoo be shocked if the hundreds of families at Calvary Bible Church started thinking of others more than their own THINGS! As one man well stated, "The absence of our fasting is the measure of our contentment with the absence of Christ."[5]

 

 

Mastered only by Christ

God's Word says we must be Mastered only by Christ and nothing else. The evidence of being brought under the power of something is that we need it to make it through our day.

What do you need to make it through a day? That will be a list of the items that have cast their influential mastering power across your life.

What pushes out your hunger for experiencing the intimacy of fellowship with the Lord in your life?

Do you seek food first?

Entertainment first?

The latest news first?

The status of your investments first?

The web and your computer first?

The television, radio, music first?

Your collections, investments, and shopping first?

Your sports, body building, health needs first?

All of these are alone good and worthy of time but not at God's expense, He is to be sought first and deepest of all!

Biblical Fasting uncovers and exposes what ever it is that has mastered our lives in place of Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

 

Our Hunger for Jesus Should Grow

The more we experience intimacy in fellowship with Jesus Christ the more we hunger for Him, and the greater our longings become to be with Him in Heaven.

Then we see our focus in our lives begins to change, the more we long for our Great God and Savior:

The Greater becomes our Looking for our Bridegroom's Return from Heaven

The Greater becomes our Hating any beachhead of sin in our lives,

The Greater becomes our Investing our time is Christ's Body, His Church,

The Greater becomes our seeking the Evangelizing of Lost People around the World,

The Greater becomes our Sensing of Satan's Lies in the Media and Culture of this World,

The Greater becomes our Asking for God's Kingdom to Come on Earth,

The Greater becomes our Walking each day Pleasing God,

The Greater becomes our desiring to be filled with the Knowledge of God's Will

 

And on and on it goes in our lives. Actually, anything less that this growing surrender to the Lord through spiritual hungering and thirsting after God, means that our appetite has been ruined through all the little things that have filled us up. It means we have neglected the greatest food - Our Father and His Kingdom for the lesser food of His gifts in life. That spells spiritual famine, weakness, and failure.

 

The Enemy of Misplaced Desires

Jesus warned that a great enemy to His children would be "desires for other things" (Mark 4:19). Jesus left us with the only weapon that will lead us into a victorious deepening hunger for intimacy and daily fellowship with our Creator. That weapon is Biblical fasting and we can measure our hunger level for God by our hunger after those other things. God is only glorified by seeking Him first!

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

Philippians 3:8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

 

Enemies of Hungering for God

Insightful author and pastor John Piper says,

"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for Heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world.

It is not the x-rated video, but the prime time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the evil Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet of His love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20)

The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable".[6]

 

Spiritual Hunger Test

Are you incurably hungering after God or this world? Are you incurably delighting in God's Word or trivial pursuits? The greatest destroyers of intimate hunger for God may be things that are good and right in their place like coffee and lawns and hobby and travel and retirement planning and mall walking and TV watching and computer mastering. But any that take God's first place, and become easier to turn to than God and His Word and His intimate communion, they are then deadly destroyers of our hungering and thirsting after God.

 

Praying daily for Spiritual Hunger

So the Kingdom of God, the reign of God as Supreme over all of our lives is our goal in fasting. We want Him to rule our appetites not us, we want Him to rule our affections not us, we want Him to rule over our choices not us. 

We want God's Rule in this church, not ours. His goals, not ours. That is the test, that is seeking 1st the Kingdom, the Glory, the Rule, the Supremacy of our Father in Heaven.

Then we come before Him seeking His Glory not ours in praying, asking and fasting it changes how we pray.

Now when we ask for Him to lead us into the conquest of those old habits that grip and enslave us, the roadblocks that stand in our path to spiritual maturity - it is so that He may rule in our lives and be glorified.

When we cry out for wayward or unconverted children or spouses to come back maturity - it is so that He may rule in our lives and be glorified.

When we prepare for growth and plan for needs in our church as we fast and pray - it is so that He may rule in our church and be glorified.

 

First Century Focused saints

How did the 1st Century saints live that way and we so often don't? Do you remember from our study of 1st Thessalonians a couple years ago, what was the heartbeat of the early church? Expecting Christ's Return. Do we ever grow weary and lessen that passion? Yes. So what is Christ's way to get us to long for His Coming? Look for His coming? Wait for His Coming?

Stop eating, fast, deny ourselves, feel the pain of deprivation, show our allegiance to Him (demonstrated in fasting) as higher than even life (demonstrated in eating). Think with me about these verses, and ask yourself, do you really long for Jesus every day? If not, fasting is for you!

One of the key attitudes we find displayed by God's saints is that they were exiles on earth, and citizens of Heaven. This produced not a detachment from earthly life or other people, rather it led to such a lacking of love for things that these early saints actually had abundant time to love and seek and win their neighbors. Think of all the time we spend gathering, protecting, and caring for our THINGS. Then think of what value that collecting, protecting, and caring will have in Heaven at Christ's Throne versus the same time, energy, and strength poured out in loving passion for the souls of our neighbors.

Would Tulsa be shocked if 250 families at Tulsa Bible Church started thinking of others more than their own THINGS!

 

Biblical Fasting Reflects our Longing for Heaven

As one man well stated, "The absence of our fasting is the measure of our contentment with the absence of Christ."[7]

Listen to the fasting minded hearts of the New Testament saints:

Philippians 3:19-21 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

2 Timothy 4:8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

1 John 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

 

Christ's Words are the Vital Key to Fasting Today

This passage contains what may be the single most important words in the Bible on fasting. And these words can change your life if you understand them!

What was Christ teaching in our text? Let's go over these five verses and see. Mark 2:18-22. Lets read them as you follow along in your copy of God's Word.

Mark 2:18-22 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting.

(We know that the Pharisees did this on Mondays and Thursdays [market days in Biblical Israel] to be seen by the crowds. So this question was probably asked on a Monday or Thursday)

“Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples ofJohn and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

(Wow, Jesus here calls Himself the promised Groom as in Matthew 25 coming to betroth His Bride and then returning later for the marriage. Biblical weddings were marked by an entire week of feasting. Brides and Grooms were treated like kings and queens and often given crowns to wear. For a poor country person, weddings were often the greatest days of their lives. And, in Christ's words, those were what the disciples were experiencing in His earthly ministry)

20 “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, .

(Here is one of the many prophecies Jesus made pointing to the Cross, and His ascension to the Father's right hand for the period of time we call the Church Age. Jesus was away and we await Him.)

“and then they will fast in those days…

(Now comes the New Testamentfast, it is for those who await the One they love, who is taken away to Heaven. While we wait for the Son we fast. Because we long for Him, we fast!)

21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth…

(That’s the Christianity of the New Covenant Church after the Cross)

on an old garment;

(That’s the Old Testament Judaism)

“or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

(In the context of Fasting, this means that there was a whole new attitude and action surrounding fasting on this side of the Cross. It surrounds our waiting and longing for Jesus.)

Fasting is hungering for God. We fast to cultivate a hunger that grows stronger and stronger, until we hunger the most for Our Great God.

Before we end this look into God's Word today, may I ask you again?

Would you like to revitalize your spiritual life?

Would you like to heighten your awareness of God?

Would you like to experience God in such a deep and intimate way that you find yourself absolutely satisfied and contented in a way God's Word calls perfect peace?

Then, Christ's words about fasting are for you.

Christ's Words are the Vital Key to Fasting Today

Our text contains the most important words in the Bible on fasting. And these words can change your life if you understand and obey them!

 

Grace Prompted New Testament Fasting

First, Biblical fasting joined with prayer surrounded the ministry of this church and was part how they sought out and followed the guidance of the Lord.

Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Second, Biblical fasting surrounded all the planning and preparation for the church sending out missionaries.

Acts 13:3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

Third, Biblical fasting surrounded the prayers for the raising up and launching of the next generation, and was a part of appointing spiritual leaders.

 Acts 14:23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Finally, Biblical fasting was part of the regular life of spiritual ministry in Paul's account of his life.

2 Corinthians 11:27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—

Pause and think. 

When Did you last Practice Biblical Fasting & Prayer?

Not for medical reasons, not for weight loss, not because you were too busy to make a meal, no, when was the last time you practiced the Biblical Discipline of fasting & prayer.

Jesus commended fasting as part of an amazing two-part set of tools: prayer & fasting. Those two go together. Jesus even said that some things won’t happened without BOTH tools.

Why Not Explore Prayer & Fasting?

Would you like to revitalize your spiritual life?

Would you like to heighten your awareness of God?

Would you like to experience God in such a deep and intimate way that you find yourself absolutely satisfied and contented in a way God's Word calls perfect peace?

Start longing for Christ's return so much that it draws you to deny other good things, so that you may focus more and more of your life upon seeking, knowing, enjoying, and pleasing Christ!

 

3:20 our citizenship. The Gr. term refers to a colony of foreigners. In one secular source, it was used to describe a capital city that kept the names of its citizens on a register. in heaven. The place where God dwells and where Christ is present. It is the believers’ home (John 14:2, 3), where their names are registered (Luke 10:20) and their inheritance awaits (1 Pet. 1:4). Other believers are there (Heb. 12:23). We belong to the kingdom under the rule of our heavenly King, and obey heaven’s laws. Cf. 1 Pet. 2:11. eagerly wait. The Gr. verb is found in most passages dealing with the second coming and expresses the idea of waiting patiently, but with great expectation (Rom. 8:23; 2 Pet. 3:11, 12).[8]

Shall he appear a second time to them that long for his appearin. Heb 9:28

 

Not to me only but unto all them that love his appearing 2 Tim. 4:8

 

 

 

[1] https://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Blog/B110114

[2] https://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Blog/B110114

[3] Drawn from the Godward Life.

[4] Piper, p. 39 quoting a bit from Ladd, The Presence of the Future, p. 225.

[5] Piper, Hunger for God, p. 93.

[6] Piper, Hunger for God, p. 14.

[7] Piper, Hunger for God, p. 93.

[8] MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1827). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.