Wednesday Night Bible Study


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Spiritual Disciplines


  • Of the four Inward Disciplines (Meditation, Prayer, Study), fasting is the one that gets left out the most
    • We hate denying ourselves anything, and because of that, we tend to stay away from fasting.
      • I use Sunday mornings as a fast, but in many cases the following is true, even with me trying to practice this discipline
    • Those that do fast, in a lot of cases do it for the wrong reasons.
      • For me, I don’t like to eat before I preach because my digestive system doesn’t alway cooperate
        • I do try to use it correctly, even though the start of my practice of it on Sunday mornings was more practical in nature
      • Others see the weight loss benefit, and therefore they participate in a fast. 
      • Or they do it, just like we mentioned before with the other disciplines, so that they can claim their are more righteous that others that don’t fast.
    • In the past, fasting was subjected to the most rigid regulations and practiced with extreme self-mortification and flagellation
      • Modern culture reacts strongly to these excesses and tends to confuse fasting with mortification
  • Scripture has so much to say about fasting that we should do well to look once again at this ancient Discipline
    • The list of biblical characters who fasted is almost .ike a “Who’s Who” of Scripture
      • Moses the lawgiver, David trekking, Elijah the prophet, Esther the queen, Daniel the see, Anna the prophetess, Paul the apostle, Jesus!
    • Fasting in the Bible
      • Throughout Scripture fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes
        • Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes.
          • It’s got to be about getting closer to God for any true benefit (spiritually speaking)
      • Jesus fasted in the wilderness during His temptation after His baptism
      • Esther 4:15-17
        • 15 Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” 17 So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had commanded him.
      • Acts 9:9
        • 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.
      • Fasting is generally a private matter between the individual and God
        • There are times of corporate or public fasts
        • The only annual fast in the Mosaic Law is the Day of Atonement when the people were to be in sorrow and afflictions as atonement for their sins
          • Gradually, other fast days were added until now there are over 20
        • In times of group or national emergency, group fasts were called
          • When Judah was invaded, King Jehoshaphat called the nation to fast (II Chronicles 20)
          • In response to the preaching of Jonah, the entire city of Nineveh, including the animals, fasted
          • Before the trip back to Jerusalem, Ezra had the exiles fast and pray for safety while traveling on the dangerous road (Ezra 8)
        • Regular fasts also developed throughout history
          • By the time of Zechariah four regular fasts were held (Zechariah 8:19)
            • 19 The Lord of Armies says this: “The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth will become times of joy, gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah. Therefore, love truth and peace.”
          • The boast of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable described a common practice of the day (Luke 18:9-12)
            • 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
              • The Didache prescribed two fast days a week: Wednesday and Friday
              • A frequent practice of the Pharisees was to fast on Mondays and Thursdays because those were market days and so there would be bigger audiences to see and admire their piety
          • There simply are no Biblical laws that command regular fasting
            • Since there are no laws to bind us, we are free to fast on any day
      • Is Fasting a Commandment
        • There is no clear cut answer, but there is evidence from Jesus 
          • Sermon on the Mount
            • His teaching on fasting is directly in the context of His teaching on giving and praying
              • It is as if there is an almost unconscious assumption that giving, praying, and fasting are all part of Christian devotion
            • Matthew 6:16-18
              • 16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
            • We must realize that these words of Jesus do not constitute a command. Jesus was giving instruction on the proper exercise of a common practice of His day. He did not speak a word about whether it was a right practice or if it should be continued. So, although Jesus does not say “If you fast” neither does He say “You must fast.” His word is, very simply, “When you fast.”
          • John the Baptist’s disciples
            • Matthew 9:14-17
              • 14 Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one patches an old garment with unshrunk cloth, because the patch pulls away from the garment and makes the tear worse. 17 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
              • This is perhaps the most important statement in the New Testament on whether or not Christians should fast today.
                • There would come a time for His disciples to fast although not in the legalism of the old order.
                • The most natural interpretation of the days when Jesus’ disciples will fast is the present Church age.
                • There is no way to escape the force of Jesus’ words in this passage. He made it clear that He expected His disciples to fast after He was gone
            • Although the words are not couched in the form of a command, that is only a semantic technicality.
              • It is clear from this passage that christ both upheld the Discipline of fasting and anticipated that His followers would do it.
          • The purpose of fasting
            • It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive
              • Matthew 6:16-18
                • 16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
              • How easy is it to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want
              • At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands
            • Fasting must forever center on God
              • If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights—these must never replace God as the center of our fasting
            • Once the primary purpose of fasting is firmly fixed in our hearts, we are at liberty to understand that there are also secondary purposes in fasting.
              • More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us
              • Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)
              • Food does not sustain us; God sustains us. In Christ, “All things hold together” (Colossians 1:17)
              • Therefore, in experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is Feasting
                • That is the reason for His counsel on fasting in Matthew 6. We are told not to act miserable when fasting because, in point of fact, we are not miserable. We are feeding on God and, just like the Israelites who were sustained in the wilderness by the miraculous manna from heaven, so we are sustained by the word of God.
              • Numerous people have written on the many other values of fasting such as increased effectiveness in intercessory prayer, guidance in decisions, increased concentration, deliverance for those in bondage, physical well-being, revelations, and so on. In this, as in all matters, we can expect God to reward those who diligently seek Him.

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