Sunday, October 27, 2013

Should We Fast Or Not?

Is Fasting A Compulsory Commandment We Must Obey In The New Testament?

Question : Please tell me, Is fasting compulsory?

Answer : Greetings to you in Jesus name! In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to observe only one set time of fasting through the law of Moses on the Day of Atonement
(Leviticus 16:29-30; 23:27-31; Numbers 29:7). This custom resulted in calling this day “the fasting day” (Jeremiah 36:6) or “the fast,” (Acts 27:9). It was a very solemn and holy day with a lot of elaborate ritual (Leviticus 16; Hebrews 10:1-3).

In the instruction that God gave to afflict the soul of a person in the law of Moses, it does not directly speak about fasting, but we know through the tradition of Israelite's and from other Scriptures that the affliction of soul is a symbolic way of saying to fast and seek the Lord with a intention to receive His goodness and be thankful for the sacrificial way God supplies His forgiveness for all their sins
(Psa 69:10). Fasting is explicitly the means of “humbling” oneself in their soul (Psa 35:13) and that is relatively spoken by God Himself when He asked the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah, "Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?." (Isa 58:5). In the above verse we see that fasting and affliction of one's soul is connected. Even during Old Testament times God has clearly revealed that the fasting that pleases God is the one which has repentance as the focus of it, and fasting without any intention to repent of one's sinful behavior has no value before God (Isa 58:1-4).

For New Testament believers, fasting was neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible. But we know when Jesus said,
"16 Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matt 6:16-18). In other words, Jesus expected sincere spiritual seekers of God to fast and pray, then He assured them that God surely will publicly reward their fasting prayer which was done with the right motive privately in secret before God, and therefore wanted them to expect God the Father to reward their sincere seeking openly before men. Jesus did not discourage men from fasting, but only said that those who make a show of their fasting before men will have that show as the only reward that they will get for their fasting. So though fasting was neither commanded nor forbidden, yet we know the value of it when it is done with the right motive before God. To do fasting as religious discipline has no spiritual value with God, though it does have physical and soulish value to it if it is done properly within its limit (Luke 18:12). Actually such religious discipline is discouraged by the apostles as it will turn people in to self-righteous zombies rather than a God pleasing righteous persons (Col 2:18, 21-23). Our fasting should have right motives behind it always to have spiritual value before God (Jer 14:12; Zech 7:2-7; 8:6).

Jesus implied that His disciples who will seek for more of His presence and intimacy after His ascension to heaven will fast to hear from His heart and submit to His will and ways
(Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35). He also emphasized the combined power of fasting and prayer is the only way great faith can arise in our lives to help us destroy the demonic powers in the natural world which is controlled by it (Matt 17:14-21).

One must understand that fasting is not a end in itself through which we can make God do what we desire, instead it is just a means to an end through which we humble ourselves before God and seek for His perfect will to be understood and be done in the circumstances we face or the decisions that we take in our lives.

We should understand how God supernaturally led Anna the prophetess who served God with fastings and prayers night and day to see the Savior of the world
(Luke 2:36-37). And also the gentile Cornelius who sought God honestly with fasting and prayer was supernaturally met by an angel sent by God, who thus through his guidance led him and his household in to true salvation (Acts 10:31-32).

We see in the life of Jesus, how He prayed and fasted before the Spirit of God could take control of Him completely to make Him face Satan and experience the supernatural victory of heaven on earth, which finally made Satan to flee away from Him until the opportune time would come
(Mt 4:1-2; Lk 4:1-2). We know prophetically in a Messianic Scripture of the Old Testament Psalms by David, it was prophesied how the life style of Jesus would involve fasting often that even his knees would become weak because of it, but that at the end of all weakness he would rejoice because the mighty hand of God will fight for Him and justify Him against all the accusations of the enemy (Psa 109:24-31; Mark 9:29). This has happened exactly through out the life of Jesus and the zenith of its fulfillment happened when Jesus died and all hell broke loose against Him, but yet it could not prevail over Him as He came alive and well to be seated at the right hand of God with all authority over the whole universe (Matt 28:18; Eph 1:20-21). O what a victory because of a sincere lifestyle of fasting and prayer that Jesus practiced!

Again for example, Paul the apostle was a man who passionately lived for God and sought for His will to be perfectly done in His life. At the end of his life on earth he was able to say valiantly,
"7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Tim 4:7). How was Paul able to live in the perfect will of God until the end of his life? The secret behind it was seen in his life of fasting and prayer, he fasted prior to his baptism (Acts 9:9), he fasted as a part of his victorious ministry (2 Cor 6:4-10; 11:23-28), then after seeing the miraculous breakthroughs in his personal life and ministry he described how fasting might be appropriate for others (1 Cor 7:5).

We must also understand that members of the early first century church at Antioch served the Lord with fasting and prayer
(Acts 13:1-2), they did this with expectation to find the perfect will of God for the ministers and send them to supply the precious Gospel to the needy people in all the world. God spoke through a prophetic word among the brethren and clearly directed the apostles Paul and Barnabas whom He had chosen to go to the places of need and supply heaven's abundance to affect the world and turn it upside down (Acts 17:6). Elders were appointed in the churches of Galatia with fasting (Acts 14:21-23), so that the Church might be led in the perfect will of God. So there is a place for the Church to come together to fast and pray for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to spread in all the world and for the needy souls to be saved. He who wins souls is wise and therefore there is a great wisdom and reward for those who seek God through fasting and prayer for His perfect will to be done through their lives, ministries and Churches on earth as it in heaven (Prov 11:30; Matt 6:10).

Our fasting may be abstinence from certain foods that we like or it may be a partial fast in a day or even a full day of fasting from food and water. It all depends on our spiritual desire to know God in a deeper way through the word of God and the Spirit of God, and also our good health that God has given to us and the way we maintain it is a clear indicator to know what we can or what we cannot but just wish we could
(1 Tim 5:23). We should look for the right balance and be led by the Spirit of God. There is no right or wrong rule in this because fasting was neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible, but from the way the Scriptures presents fasting and prayer, we can understand that we need a spiritual discipline in this area of seeking God, humbling ourselves before Him and to receive His guidance clearly to understand the exact voice of God from the voice of the flesh of ourselves or the voice of the demons speaking through our fleshly lusts.

John Wesley said, "Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason, and others have utterly disregarded it." This above statement of John Wesley who was a man who turned the world upside down in his generation conveys to us to find the right balance to do fasting and prayer. It is totally unprofitable if we totally neglect it or go to the extremes of thinking that we can bend the hands of God the way we want through using fasting and prayer. Fasting and prayer doesn't move God to our way, but it actually moves us to get positioned in His perfect will and way that He desires for us to walk. As we seek to exercise ourselves unto godliness
(1 Tim 4:7), consider the practice of fasting as an appropriate complement to prayer and meditation of the Word of God.

Much Blessings....


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1 comment:

Brydon Nisbet said...

Yes - great word on fasting - there is grace movement going around that mocks fasting as a waste of time and declares Jesus has done it all already on the cross (which we know HE has) but as was stated fasting positions us and is extremely good in subduing the flesh for a time as we seek God afresh in our lives.
Brydon NZ

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