Is fasting for today? (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post, we established that fasting is for today. Today, we want to ask why? What are the biblical motivations a Christian should fast?

First, some wrong motives:

  • We don’t fast to get attention from others.
  • This one may be a shock, but we also don’t fast to get God to notice us. God is not distracted. We are. Fasting doesn’t get God’s attention as much as it gets our attention, helping to refocus our hearts on Him.
  • We don’t fast as an attempt to earn God’s blessing. No spiritual discipline or religious activity makes us worthy of God’s grace – Jesus alone does that.
  • Fasting is not meant to be an act of self-punishment. Jesus took all the punishment for your sin on the cross already.

Now, the right motives:

  1. Mourning / grief. When a loved one would die, it was common in the Jewish culture to include fasting as another way to show their grief (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 3:35).
  2. Repentance / confession of sin. Fasting is linked to repentance because it is a sign of a humble heart (Joel 2:12; 1 Sam. 7:6, Jonah 3:7). It does not bring forgiveness of sin – only Christ’s blood does that. But when fasting is accompanied with sincere repentance and confession of sin, it is an expression of humility and deep grief over our sin and a sincerity to turn to God.
  3. An urgent prayer need. (Ezra 8:21; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23). Fasting does not force God to answer our prayers or force Him to give us the answer we want. Fasting is connected to an urgent prayer because it creates an urgency in us. Nothing like an empty stomach to get our attention, to remind us to put aside other things, to pursue God in prayer, to petition God, to desire Him and His will more than our own will.
  4. Worship / drawing near to God. (Luke 2:37; Matthew 4:2). Fasting helps us draw near to God because it helps us prioritizes our spiritual appetite over our physical appetite. As we draw close to God in prayer, in worship, and in fasting, our hearts become more detached to the things of this world and more passionate about the things of God.
  5. To give to the poor. This one is not usually thought of, but it’s clear in Isaiah 58. While some in Israel were fasting as a detached religious act, God rebukes them and tells them in their fasting they ought to give that food they would have eaten to the poor (Is 58:6-8).

The biggest and best motive behind it all:

Some people asked Jesus why he and his disciples didn’t fast regularly.

[15] And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matthew 9:15)

There is a picture of a wedding feast in view. Jesus is the Groom, and the church is His bride. His disciples would not need to grieve while the “Bridegroom” is with them. In other words, you don’t fast at a feast.

But, Jesus said, there would be a time to grieve, to fast, and that is when the Groom is taken away. That time is now. Jesus is no longer on the earth, but is on His throne in heaven, and for his followers – including His Church today – there is an element of grief.

But our grief is not despair. It is a longing assurance. Through things like fasting, our hearts learn to yearn – we begin to long for the return of the Groom Jesus Christ, the one who defeated death. We grow in longing for the One Day He will consummate His Kingdom and there will never again be hunger or sickness or pain or loneliness or darkness or death. Only light and life and joy and peace in His presence forever more.

Invite God to use an occasional empty stomach to increase your appetite for Him, to lift your gaze heavenward, and to cause your heart to long for Christ.

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