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1. What do you want? I have been asking that question from this pulpit for many years now. What do you want? What are your most heart felt desires? Revival, it is written in a very good book that I once read, is a matter of getting your wanters fixed. We will be more conformed to the image of Christ, more obedient, more holy, when we chase after that which gets us closer to God. We will be revived when we hunger and thirst for righteousness more than all that the world tells us is important. And we will be filled. Filled with what? Filled with what we hungered and thirsted for – righteousness. But until we really chase after it, until we really put it higher up on our list of priorities, until we, in the words of the old hymn have the things of the world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace, we will not grow, or become more like Christ or progress in holiness. So – what do you want? Fill in the blank, dear one – What I want most of all is ___________________. And answer it with ruthless honesty.
a. My wedding day to be a smash hit?
b. To have a wedding day?
c. To be the pastor of the fabulous, influential, sought after TBC?
d. To write a best seller?
Nothing wrong with any of those things (well maybe c.). You shouldn’t want your wedding to be a dud. You should want to get married. Nothing wrong with being so skilled at writing that the world buys it up. Nothing wrong with pastoring a church where people are being saved and discipled properly. But they can all become wrong when they occupy too high a place on the ladder of priorities.
2. But we’re not done yet. The want list is often related to the pain in our lives. We want the pain to end, the unending, relentless pain that has come with the surgeries, the arthritis, the back, the headaches … It gets frustrating. There’s the pain of the spiritual stubbornness of our loved ones. They heard the Gospel. They can recite the Gospel almost as good as you can, perhaps even better, yet they refuse to believe. There’s the pain of the cruelty and abuse and neglect and suffering of all kinds in the world. There’s the pain of waiting for the autopsy report, of seeing your children ill, of getting that final notice, or an eviction notice, or a pink slip, or a pay check that won’t begin to pay the bills.
And what bodies in such situations need is not a preacher telling them that their concerns in these matters is not spiritual. Paul talked about his pain of loneliness, the pain he knew of caring for the churches under his care, the pain of people rejecting the Gospel he was commissioned to give.
So when he would have been asked to fill in the blank “What I want most in the world” he would certainly have said for God to be glorified in his life – but it didn’t mean that those other things were not there.
3. Disciples of Jesus Christ are those who know who Jesus is – the real man who is the promised Messiah and the God Man who is the eternal Son of God. Disciples are those who willingly take up their crosses daily and follow Christ. And disciples are those who love other disciples of Jesus Christ. That is what we have seen so far from the Gospels from the mouth of Jesus about who and what those who follow Him are and what they believe.
II Matthew 9:14 – Jesus is asked about Fasting
1. The setting – Matthew 9:9-17
a. The calling of Matthew – verse 9
b. The meal – verse 10
c. The question re: fasting – verse 14
i. Note the context – while Jesus is eating (verse 10). Mark tells us that John’s disciples were fasting at the time (Mark 2:18-22). Beautiful. Jesus is going to a banquet and a group of fasters tag along. “How come they never do what we are doing right now?” Or perhaps “How come they get to eat and we do not?” Or, and this is more likely – why are your disciples not as committed as we are?” Are they the disciples from John 3:25-30? Possibly. We cannot be sure but the attitude is the same. Makes you wonder why they were fasting in the first place.
ii. John’s disciples – In Luke (5:33-39) it is the Pharisees themselves who ask Jesus the question. Which was it? It was the disciples of John acting on behalf of the Pharisees. Some of the disciples of John have gone into cahoots with the Pharisees. Their resentment at losing influence with people because of Jesus has put them right over to the enemies of Jesus.
iii. “We and the Pharisees fast…” – “We and the Pharisees fast” – How people love to parade their religion. If you brag about your church attendance, your tithing, your prayers … . If you look down on others who do not do as you do with your faith – then you have the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and these disciples of John. If we come out of this text today knowing that fasting is a proper practise for the disciples of Jesus we must also remember that it was practised by hypocrites and godless men. It is no mark of holiness to practise holy activities. The fact that the Pharisees did it does not mean that we should not but it does mean that we must not fall into the same trap that they did. Don’t leave here this morning thinking that if you fast that you will necessarily be a better Christian or that God is pleased with you. See Amos 5:21.
The Pharisees and their disciples fasted twice a week. The Law of Moses required one day of fasting per year, on the Day of Atonement. And fasting had become what religious activities often become – a measure of one’s spirituality. We see it in Luke 18:9-14 and we note this. Luke 18:9 says that Jesus told the parable of the two men praying to those who trusted in themselves and treated others with contempt. That is the problem with these disciples of John and the Pharisees who sent them. And they have that attitude because of their faithfulness to religious practises.
(1) Let us not think that we cannot be like the Pharisee in the parable. We are abundantly able to be like him – “I go to Church twice a Sunday. I give more than 10%. I am in the church four days per week. And now the pastor is about to talk to us about fasting. Well, I’ll get into that as well”. Be very careful not to do right things for wrong reasons. It is right that we worship together. But we can turn it into something that is very wrong. We can make it something that we use to show how much better than others we are and we can then look down on them because they just aren’t as spiritual as we are. And there is no religious practise, no matter how biblical, how good, how much commanded it is, that we cannot do that with. It all turns on the heart. It is a matter of the heart. Why do we go to church? Why do we contribute to the church? Why do we give the Gospel? Why do we get involved in the activities of the church? And if, as a result of this message, we decide that fasting is an appropriate thing for disciples of Jesus to be involved in we must ask the question of that too. And we must never let it become something that we use to fill ourselves with ourselves and look down on others. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:16-18.
III Jesus Teaches About Fasting
1. Verse 15 – Fasting has to do with mourning. “Can the wedding guests mourn …” a wedding is a festive occasion. It is a happy occasion. Fasting is associated with mourning and such an activity is not suitable at a wedding. The bridegroom is Jesus. And when He was here doing His teaching and healing and confounding His opponents was no time to mourn. It was a time to rejoice. “But”, Jesus said “I will not always be with them. And when I leave, then they will fast”.
2. Verse 15 – “But the days will come …”
a. The first way that this statement of Jesus was fulfilled was at the crucifixion. When He was taken away they mourned and they likely fasted.
b. But that is not where the fasting ends. Jesus Christ is not here in the flesh. We are the women in the parable of the Ten Virgins who are waiting for the bridegroom to show up. We need to be ready for Him to come. But we long for Him to come. We want Him to come. It is time for Him to come.
3. So why will we fast?
a. Because Jesus is gone. And what is the point then of the fast? We want Him to come back. We want Jesus to return. Because they want to be with the bridegroom again. Because He isn’t here and we want Him here. In other words, disciples of Christ will fast because they want Jesus to come back. This is what disciples will do. The time is coming when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast. Dear ones. That time is now. Dear ones – do you want Jesus to come back? See II Peter 3:11-12; Revelation 22:20
i. Do you long for the return of Christ? Not all believers will answer “yes” to that question. There are many reasons, I suppose, why some may not look forward to Christ’s immediate return.
(1) The lost – they have a burden for their lost family members, spouses, children,
workmates, buddies etc.
(2) There are things they want to do – have a baby, graduate, … … .
(3) Sin – they want to make their mark in the world, they want to work towards world peace, environmental peace, … .
Christians want Jesus to return. We want to see Jesus more than we want the Leafs to win the Cup, more than we want to meet Mr. Right, more than we want to give birth to that first child, more than the day of the wedding to come. More than making our mark. More than seeing our first grandchildren. More than the conversion of our loved ones.
Disciples of Christ long for the return of Christ. And the answer to the question about all those who do not yet believe is this “Go tell them”. If you really are concerned about the fate of the yet to be saved – give them the Gospel. In fact – fast for their conversion. Do you really long for them to be saved? Does your heart aches for the sake of your loved ones who do not yet know Christ? Would you be willing to commit yourself to pray for them by skipping a meal to concentrate on prayer for them? Was that what was happening in Acts 13 when the leaders of the Antioch church fasted and prayed? It looks like it. Acts 13:1-3.
ii. Why did God come with that particular commandment? Could it not be because these leaders were praying about what to do and who to send to get the Gospel into the hearts of the lost?
b. Because we mourn
i. Mt.5:4 – we mourn the sin that has gripped the globe in ways that our forefathers could never have dreamed about. You need a reason to fast? Consider:
ii. Between 12 million and 27 million people live as the property of others in the world today.
(1) Internet porn brings in more money than all of professional sports and music revenue in the world combined. The top four teams in North America – the Washington Redskins, the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys are worth over 2.5 Billion dollars. Four teams. Sports around the world brings in hundreds of billions of dollars a year. In music Celine Dion alone earns around 60 million dollars a year. So it too is in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year – and internet porn makes more than both of them combined. Is it time to mourn?
(2) 800 slaves are year are estimated to be brought into Canada every year. The money from buying and selling human beings into and out of and within Canada every year is estimated to be bringing in profits of more than 30 billion dollars per year in Canada alone. Is it time to mourn?
(a) Well, the Olympics are coming to Canada. We should be proud. We should get out and cheer as the torch goes by. I’m serious. Maybe we should. But as it goes by and as we cheer for our hockey team and luge riders and skiers, think of this – I quote from a recent issue of Faith Today magazine – “A report authored by University of British Columbia law professor Benjamin Perrin points out that every time there is a world sporting event, there’s an increase in trafficking for sexual purposes” This means that young women and men are being sold as prostitutes to fans, athletes and officials. The article goes on “Rumours abound that plane loads of people are coming in from Asia.” Theses will be mostly young teenaged girls who will never be free because the debts they incur will never be paid. And Canadians and Americans and wealthy people of all stripes will pay their owners for sexual pleasures. Is it time to mourn?
(3) Since 1970 almost 3,000,000 babies had their lives taken from them in this country, mostly by government funded money. For every 100 births in Canada 30 will be aborted. That’s a rate of 23%. Is it time to mourn?
iii. We mourn the sin that marks us.
(1) And we are desperate to be finally clear of it. And fasting is not some magic formula that will erase all our struggles, but it is an indication of how badly we want what we are fasting about. Have you ever skipped a day of eating to focus on prayer to overcome your besetting sin? Have you demonstrated to God that you really mean business about this immorality, this gossip, this pride, this self righteousness? How serious are we about our sin?
(2) And doesn’t this apply to us as a church as well? The church in Antioch in Acts 13 thought it did.
(3) Isaiah 58. People were fasting but they were giving up nothing.
(a) To overcome sin – Isaiah 58 – God tells the people to fast so that they can share with those who have less. Their sin is that they neglect the poor and oppressed. So the fast that God calls for is a fast that will bring them to start thinking about and doing something for those people.
(4) What sin do we need to do similar things with?
(a) Is your sin pornography? Fast from television and on-line videos for a week and give yourself to praying for abused women and women forced into sexual slavery and prostitution and immorality. Pray for men trapped in the sin of voyeurism
(b) Is your sin neglect of a quality devotional time? Fast from the time consuming activities of games and TV and web-surfing and use the time that you normally do those things to develop habits of spending real quality time with God.
(c) Is your sin overeating? Fast from food and feed on the living bread in those times when you would be eating be reading and praying
(d) Is your sin an over-evaluation of entertainment? Fast from going to the movies, watching television, listening to your favourite music and the time when you would be in the theatre or the in front of the TV or listening to music – be inn prayer and the Word or in a Bible study.
c. But fasting is not just of sinful things. The fast of the sinful is a permanent fast. The reason fasting is related to food is because we are being taught that we surrender up even legitimate things for a time to petition God for the better things, the best things.
i. Hebrews 12:1-2
ii. I Cor. 7:5
1. “They will fast” Jesus said – but this church has not emphasized it. And what we need to stress is that there are things that ought ot be of such concern to us that we are willing to skip meals for a time in order to pour out our souls to God for them – the lost, the abused, our own sanctification. We need to demonstrate that we are serious about our holiness and the world’s conversion. We need to show that we long to see Jesus more than all the other blessings He could lavish on us. We want Him.
2. So what will TBC do? Well. I haven’t taken up this subject with the elders, so I cannot say. Suffice it right now to say that we believe what Jesus said when He said the time is come for His disciples to fast.
3. Whatever He wants us to do let us do it with great joy, even as we mourn for a world and ourselves to be conformed to the image of Christ.
In this text the children of God mourn because Jesus is not here in the flesh as He was in the days of His earthly life. Dear ones – this is now. It is now time to fast.