601 SFL - Essential discipleship: Fasting

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601 SFL - Essential discipleship: Fasting

  1. 1. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald S. Whitney Wednesday, 4 September 13
  2. 2. Fasting...for the purpose of godliness Chapter 9, Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Wednesday, 4 September 13
  3. 3. "Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, & self-discipline usually its friend & generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person's appetites are linked: full stomachs & jaded palates take the edge from our hunger & thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God." Cornelius Plantinga Jr Wednesday, 4 September 13
  4. 4. "Fasting is like a silent prayer: simply turning away from human sustenance, toward the Sustainer of all, is a quiet & real means of beseeching Him to take our need seriously. It signals to God our commitment to Him & our conviction that human means are totally inadequate. We are begging Him to send the presence of Christ." Douglas Kelly Wednesday, 4 September 13
  5. 5. "Fasting tests where the heart is. & when it reveals that the heart is with God & not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan. For then Satan does not have the foothold he would if our heart were in love with earthly things like bread...Every time we fast we are saying with Jesus, "Not by bread alone, but by you, Lord. Not by bread alone, but by you, Lord.'” John Piper Wednesday, 4 September 13
  6. 6. How often do you fast? Why do you fast - is it important? Does your church practice regular fasting? Who are your role models in fasting? When did you last hear a sermon on fasting? (it is mentioned 75x in the Bible compared to 74x for baptism!) Wednesday, 4 September 13
  7. 7. How often do you fast? Why do you fast - is it important? Does your church practice regular fasting? Who are your role models in fasting? Wednesday, 4 September 13
  8. 8. Jesus taught and practiced fasting - yet, according to Whitney, it is the most feared and misunderstood of all spiritual disciplines - Many fear it will make them “too fanatical”, that it will make them suffer and give a negative experience. - For some Christians fasting is almost unthinkable. - For many they think about it...and then go no further! Wednesday, 4 September 13
  9. 9. Fasting explained “A Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes” Whitney It is Christian in being God centred, voluntary and it is for spiritual purposes. Richard Forster, “the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity” Here fasting is not only about food but could include people, media, telephone, talking, sleep etc. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  10. 10. Fasting explained "Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting." Martyn Lloyd Jones Wednesday, 4 September 13
  11. 11. Strictly speaking the Bible only refers to fasting as abstaining from food - Whitney saves his comments for this area. A normal fast - all food but not water - Matt 4:2 talks of Jesus being hungry but not thirsty, Lk 4:2 that he ate nothing in those days but again no mention of water. Some Christians also drink fruit juices during this type of fast. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  12. 12. A partial fast - limiting your diet but still eating some food - Daniel and his companions in Dan 1:12 ate only vegetables - JTB ate locusts and wild honey Matt 3:4 (maybe because he was in the desert!) This could be done by eating smaller portions or only certain foods. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  13. 13. An absolute fast - avoiding all food and liquid (even water) - Ezra 10:6, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9 A supernatural fast - Moses on Mount Sinai ate no bread and drank no water, Dt 9:9 - Elijah 1 Kings 19:8 - such fasts require God’s supernatural intervention and cannot be repeated unless he specifically calls and miraculously provides An private fast - referred to by Jesus Matt 6:16-18 Wednesday, 4 September 13
  14. 14. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  15. 15. Congregational Fasts involve the Church participating together. Joel 2:15-16; Acts 13:2 A National Fast is a call to the nation to fast. 2 Chron. 20:3; Neh.9:1; Jonah 3:5-8 There was one Regular Fast under the Old Covenant, Lev. 16:29-21 - on the day of atonement - though in exile the Jewish leaders instituted four other annual fasts Zech 8:19 Wednesday, 4 September 13
  16. 16. Pharisess fasted twice a week Lk 18:12 - John Wesley would not ordain a Methodist unless he fasted every Wed & Friday Occasional Fasts which occur on special occasions as the need arises - shown in Esther and Jehoshaphat’s cases, also possibly Mt. 9:15 Wednesday, 4 September 13
  17. 17. “Why else is this a valuable weapon in our warfare? What are we saying to the World, flesh & Devil when we fast (this is the key)? We are saying, screaming out at the top of our lungs - ’ want God, I want Christ more than I want to please myself!' "The birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God... Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God... Wednesday, 4 September 13
  18. 18. “Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of a superior satisfaction in God; it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away...when I say that the root of Christian fasting is the hunger of homesickness for God, I mean that we will do anything & go without anything is, by any means, we might protect ourselves from the deadening effects of innocent delights & preserve the sweet longings of our homesickness for God." John Piper Wednesday, 4 September 13
  19. 19. Fasting is expected Jesus, Matt 6:16-17 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  20. 20. Fasting is expected This is just after Jesus spoke about when you give, pray etc. - the commands about how to fast - and the promise - fasting is expected! Matt 6:16, 2ff - the first Christians also fasted Acts 9:9, 13:2, 14:23 - there is no command from Jesus about how often, how long etc. we should fast; it is not legalistic - it is your privilege and opportunity to seek God’s grace Wednesday, 4 September 13
  21. 21. Jesus, again(!), Matt 9:14-15 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  22. 22. Fasting is to be done for a purpose Without spiritual intention fasting is just like fasting for weight loss - a diet! It is not meant to be a man centred experience - not one purpose of fasting is to earn God’s favour, it does not impress him, or gain his favour - it has no benefit before you come to God through faith and repentance. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  23. 23. To strengthen prayer John Calvin, “whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.” Fasting sharpens our prayer and makes us more passionate, it creates greater urgency within us. Ezra 8:23 - he fasted along with the group of returning exiles asking for safe journey. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  24. 24. Neh 1:4, Dan 9:3, Joel 2:12, Acts 13:3 Fasting has a great effect on prayer - it is one of the greatest weapons we can bring to our prayer life Wednesday, 4 September 13
  25. 25. Arthur Wallis remarks, “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly earnest. Not only so, but he is expressing his earnestness in a divinely-appointed way. He is using a means that God has chosen to make His voice to be heard on high”. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  26. 26. Arthur Wallis, “In giving us the privilege of fasting as well as praying, God has added a powerful weapon into our spiritual armory. In her pride and folly the church has largely looked on it as obsolete. She has thrown it down in some dark corner to rust, and there it has lain forgotten for many centuries. An hour of impending crisis for the church and the world demands its recovery.” Wednesday, 4 September 13
  27. 27. To seek God’s guidance Judges 20 - the 11 tribes prepare for war against Benjamin - twice the large group lost to Benjamin, only when they fasted did they win. Acts 14:23 - Paul and Barnabas installed elders only after fasting “Fasting does not ensure we will receive clear guidance from God. Rightly practiced...it does make us more open to the one who loves to guide us” Wednesday, 4 September 13
  28. 28. To express grief Three of the first four refs to fasting in the Bible express this: Jdg 20:26 1 Sam 31:13 - mourning Saul’s death 2 Sam 1:11-12 - David mourning for Saul There are many records of people fasting because of sin in their life - note this is not for forgiveness or to pay the price 1 Pet 3:18, 1 Jn 1:9 Wednesday, 4 September 13
  29. 29. This is about voluntary heartfelt confession and feeling guilt for what has happened - it is not beating yourself up but grieving over your sin Also for the sins of others - Jonathan over the sin of Saul in trying to kill David - 1 Sam 20:34 You might choose to fast and pray for a person who has backslidden, or for the lack of spiritual passion in your church etc. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  30. 30. To seek deliverance or protection Jehoshaphat when he heard an army was coming against him - 2 Chron 20:3-4 Ezra asking for the Lord’s protection - 8:21-23 Esther 4:16 - appeal to God against the possibility of the kings wrath Wednesday, 4 September 13
  31. 31. To express repentance and a return to God This is similar to expressing grief for sin - however here fasting is not only about repentance but a commitment to obedience and a new direction in God. 1 Sam 7:6, Joel 2:12 Jonah 3:5-8 sows the response of the Ninevites - and God gave a great spiritual awakening. Fasting can be in vain if done without repentance, especially if we are hardened in our hearts to God’s voice about sin. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  32. 32. To express repentance and a return to God This is similar to expressing grief for sin - however here fasting is not only about repentance but a commitment to obedience and a new direction in God. 1 Sam 7:6, Joel 2:12 Jonah 3:5-8 sows the response of the Ninevites - and God gave a great spiritual awakening. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  33. 33. In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreakings thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again. Thomas Boston Wednesday, 4 September 13
  34. 34. To humble oneself before God A physical expression of our humility before God - just like bowing or prostrating yourself. King Ahab, one of the worst kings in Jewish history, showed this and it caused God to act - 1 Kings 21:27-29 King David did it too - Psalm 35:13 Fasting is expressing your humility here cf Pahrisee Lk 18:12 Wednesday, 4 September 13
  35. 35. To Express Concern for the Work of God Just as a parent might pray and fast out of concern for the work of God in the life of their child, so Christians may pray and fast because they feel a burden for the work of God in a broader scope. This was the purpose of Nehemiah’s fast, Nehemiah 1:3-4, because the city of Jerusalem had no wall around it to protect its exiles. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  36. 36. To Express Concern for the Work of God Just as a parent might pray and fast out of concern for the work of God in the life of their child, so Christians may pray and fast because they feel a burden for the work of God in a broader scope. This was the purpose of Nehemiah’s fast, Nehemiah 1:3-4, because the city of Jerusalem had no wall around it to protect its exiles. Daniel 9:3 expresses the same type of concern in prayer and fasting. Today you might pray for Christians facing persecution, for workers etc. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  37. 37. To Minister to the Needs of Others Isaiah 58 is the most extensive passage in Scripture dealing exclusively with fasting. v. 6-7, emphasize fasting for the purpose of meeting the needs of others - in earlier verses (3-4) they complained to God that their prayers combined with fasting had not been heard (their lives were in hypocritical contrast to their fasting). God will not bless the discipline of fasting when we reject His Word regarding relationships with others. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  38. 38. To Minister to the Needs of Others Isaiah 58 is the most extensive passage in Scripture dealing exclusively with fasting. v. 6-7, emphasize fasting for the purpose of meeting the needs of others - in earlier verses (3-4) they complained to God that their prayers combined with fasting had not been heard (their lives were in hypocritical contrast to their fasting). God will not bless the discipline of fasting when we reject His Word regarding relationships with others. Are we feeding the hungry? Giving shelter to the homeless? Undoing the bands of oppression? Could you fast a meal, a movie, a book...and give the money to the poor instead? What is God calling you to do to lighten the burden of your fellow man? Wednesday, 4 September 13
  39. 39. To Overcome Temptation and Dedicate Yourself to God Jesus fasted 40 days and nights prior to His temptation in the wilderness. “One principle we can learn from this example is that fasting is a way of overcoming temptation and of freshly dedicating ourselves to the Father.” Wednesday, 4 September 13
  40. 40. To Overcome Temptation and Dedicate Yourself to God Jesus fasted 40 days and nights prior to His temptation in the wilderness. “One principle we can learn from this example is that fasting is a way of overcoming temptation and of freshly dedicating ourselves to the Father.” There are times we struggle with temptation, or we know we are going to find ourselves in a tempting situation, when we need extra spiritual strength to overcome. Such times of exceptional temptation means exceptional measures are required, namely fasting. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  41. 41. To Express Love and Worship of God The Bible says that fasting may be an act of sheer devotion to God. Luke 2:37 summarizes the life of Anna the prophetess, who devoted over 50 years of her life to prayer and fasting to worship God. Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God. Do you love God more than food? Wednesday, 4 September 13
  42. 42. Christians throughout history have fasted for this purpose in preparation for the Lord’s Supper - this shows repentance and humility before God and helps in worshipping Him. You might choose to spend the time when you fast in Bible reading, prayer or meditation - in all cases fasting must have a spiritual purpose, a God centered purpose, not a self centered one. Be careful not to become mechanical in fasting, making it a regular routine, in fasting you seek God and his grace, hoping he will bless you. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  43. 43. In Zechariah 7 we see that the Israelites had annually celebrated two fasts which had been performed since the destruction of the temple and now they were asking God if they should stop them. God questions the Israelites over their fasting - had they been really fasting to him? Such questions issue a challenge for us in our fasting. Remember to be aware that when our fast is rightly motivated, we can be sure that God will bless us, but perhaps not in the way we wanted. Wednesday, 4 September 13
  44. 44. More application Will you confess and repent of any fear of fasting? Some people would willingly give money rather than fast - are you afraid of fasting, (especially if you do it in your own strength)? Wednesday, 4 September 13
  45. 45. More application Will you confess and repent of any fear of fasting? Some people would willingly give money rather than fast - are you afraid of fasting, (especially if you do it in your own strength)? Will you fast as the Holy Spirit directs you? Jesus expected his disciples to fast - you can expect HSp to tell you to at times! Will you fast to show dedication and express your love to God? Wednesday, 4 September 13
  46. 46. Some quotes on fasting Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down. John Wesley Wednesday, 4 September 13
  47. 47. In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislike, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly, is really a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are-dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon." Hudson Taylor Wednesday, 4 September 13
  48. 48. If the solemnities of our fasting, though frequent, long, and severe, do not serve to put an edge upon devout affections, to quicken prayer, to increase Godly sorrow, and to alter the temper of our minds, and the course of our lives, for the better, they do not at all answer the intention, and God will not accept them as performed to Him. Matthew Henry Wednesday, 4 September 13
  49. 49. Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God. John Piper Wednesday, 4 September 13

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