Fasting in order to Treasure Christ
On Good Friday Christians around the world will be fasting together. We invite you to join! Christians have fasted as a spiritual discipline for 2,000 years. There are a myriad of reasons why Christians fast both individually and as a church family. The greatest missionary endeavor recorded in scripture was launched from a place of communal worshiping, fasting, and praying (Acts 13:1-3). We fast for the reward of the Father (Matthew 6:16-18), which is ultimately to delight in him and depend upon him more both now and eternally. We fast for the coming of King Jesus because we long for the redemption and consummation of all things (Luke 2:36-38). We fast to grow our empathy for the poor, the homeless, the oppressed, and the hungry that we might be spurred into action to care for our neighbor in both body and soul (Isaiah 58). We fast in mourning, in repentance, for revival, and to seek the Lord’s guidance and intercession by his Holy Spirit.
Space does not permit me here to expand on all the reasons why Christians fast or ought to fast. So, I will focus on one – in order to Treasure Christ more!
Fasting is not a magic formula in order to put God in our debt. What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) Food is a gift and so is fasting. Fasting is a helpful discipline to draw us near to God so that He is your strength, portion, and good (Psalm 73:25-28). However, it does not “work” automatically and our wicked hearts are even prone to use good gifts from God to puff up ourselves. Yet, this is a danger with any gift from God so fasting should not be avoided simply because it carries with it sinful temptations. Fasting is a means of pursuing God, but we must seek him or our fasting is in vain. Commenting on Isaiah 58 John Piper noted, “Fasting that is not aimed at starving sin while feasting on God is self-deluded. It is not really God that we hunger for in such fasting. The hunger of fasting is a hunger for God, and the test of that hunger is whether it includes a hunger for holiness.” God is the longing of our fasting!
Food is a good and necessary gift from God. We need it to survive. Skip even one day and our stomachs and heads can start to ache. Fasting in prosperous America sounds insane – we are programed to experience the good life by consuming, not by abstaining! Fasting makes no sense in a self-centered consumeristic society unless it is simply used to consume its health and well-being benefits in order to bolster self-image. This is the culture we live in, which is why fasting is such a helpful spiritual discipline in a culture such as ours. This world is not our home. The good life is not found by chasing after the world, but by drawing near to Christ. “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:13–16) Jesus is found in the difficult places – the places of service and sacrifice for the sake of others. The places of abstaining from the world in order to seek the Kingdom of God. Read all of Psalm 73 – we are all tempted to look upon the world with envy thinking they have it better than us, but the Lord reminds us that their end is destruction. But for us it is good to be near God! We fellowship with Christ when we abstain in order to draw near to him!
Is your hunger for the world or for God? Fasting can be a good revealer of our hearts so that even when sin is exposed we may repent and seek Jesus anew. As good and necessary as food is – God is infinitely more so. May our fasting be a small picture of our need for him and the goodness that he offers us in himself as we experience the difficultly of life without food for a short period! Do our hearts ache when we miss a day with the Lord as much as our stomachs and heads do when we experience a day without food? I pray they do, but even if they do not the Lord can use that revelation of our hearts’ dullness to bring repentance and increase our longing to feast upon him.
Kaleo Church – fast in order to treasure Christ more! He is your strength and portion and good. He gave up the glories of heaven in order to save sinners like you and me. He entered into our broken world abstaining from all its sinful delicacies (even after fasting for 40 days!) so that his perfect fellowship with the Father is now extended as an invitation to us to enjoy that same fellowship! He willingly went to the cross to experience all its horrors so that we need not ever experience the wrath of God or eternal separation from the Father because of our sin. He has risen victoriously and ascended to the right hand of the Father to intercede for us. The bridegroom has been taken away and so we fast to treasure him now so that when he returns we may sit down to the wedding supper of the Lamb and feast on his presence with us for all eternity (Matthew 10:15; Revelation19:6-9)! Come Lord Jesus! Our hearts ache for you more than the stomach for food! You are the bread of life and in you all our hunger will be satisfied forever!
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. - Psalm 73