Luke 5: And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”  And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”  He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Yesterday we noted from Luke 5 that Jesus expects His followers to fast now that He has left and will one day return. Here are just a few observations about fasting that I hope you find helpful.
1. We do not fast to earn points with God. We can earn nothing from God and fasting does not make us holier or special.
2. We fast with purpose
a. Luke 5 – fast for the return of Christ. Do you want Jesus to return? Do we mourn the fact that the world is a mess because it needs Jesus? Do we long for an end to all that sin has done to the world?
b. Isaiah 58 – Fast for the sake of sharing with others. In other words, we give up something for the sake of giving it to someone else so that they can use it.
c. Matthew 9:15 Fasting is mourning. Fast as a mourning for sin. Going without food is not a pleasant experience. Hunger hurts, even for us who have never really been hungry but only eat late occasionally. We are willing to endure the absence of food because we want something more – holiness. Sin bothers us so much that we take time to go without food for the sake of petitioning God to be free from sin. Of course this means that since we are mourning for our sin, it will lead us to repentance. We pray repentantly and get up from our prayer and fasting and make things right with those we have sinned against.
d. Fast as a spiritual discipline of forsaking, for a brief time, necessary food because there is something more needful.
e. Matthew 6:16-18 Fast secretly. Don’t blog about it, make it known, or speak of its great value to others. Don’t look sad or complain about being hungry. Why? Because we are so prone to bragging about almost everything we do. Don’t use fasting as an opportunity to draw attention to yourself. This, of course, applies to every spiritual act we can perform.
f. Acts 13:1-3 Fast with others. Agreeing with others to fast does not mean that you are not doing it secretly. The privacy principle that Jesus laid down is to keep us from bragging about our fasting. And a group can keep this principle as well as a person. Individualism is a curse upon the church. None of us can do good all by ourselves and we need the encouragement and support of others. It is one of the reason why God saves into communities of believers called churches.
g. We can fast from things other than food. A fast from television, blogging, and other legitimate activities, for the sake of prayer, can be of great value in the lives of believers. It can help break the addictions to some of these activities.
h. If there are medical reasons people have that prevent them from fasting they should practice some other form of fasting.
Fasting is not a magic wand. It does not force God to do what we want. But it does demonstrate to Him that we are serious about our commitment to Him. It helps demonstrate it to us as well.