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Jesus & Fasting: A Biblical Understanding Of Fasting

Lighting Your Way / Lighthouse Baptist
The Truth Network Radio
November 23, 2022 6:25 am

Jesus & Fasting: A Biblical Understanding Of Fasting

Lighting Your Way / Lighthouse Baptist

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November 23, 2022 6:25 am

November 20, 2022 – Message from Pastor Josh Bevan

            Main Scripture Passage:  Matthew 6:16-18

            Topic: Prayer, Fasting

            Download SCRIPTURE REFERENCE

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If you would turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew Chapter number six, and before we stand and read, I wanted to give an update on the situation many have asked me about and kind of what our church is doing in response to the situation that has arisen. Some of you may be familiar. Some of you may not be familiar, but we've been friends of the YMCA.

Here in Xenia. We've so appreciated them as the neighbors to our church and and so glad to see them go in and we've always enjoyed that and we've partnered with them on different things, but it has come to our attention from both people in our church as well as our own experience that they are now allowing biological men into their female locker room and because we've supported them publicly through the years. I felt it necessary to get up and make a public announcement that that is the situation and and what you do with that information is is up to your family, but but you just need to be aware of that that there has been a situation where biological male who identifies as a female is being allowed into the girls locker room in a changing area. This person has also been known to have fully undressed in front of minors that have been in members of our church here and so we have taken this to their leadership at the YMCA from the VP and other leaders and they've defined that they've defended that person's right to be in there and so we have I've approached this from a legal standpoint that is there is there an option. I said if because the attorneys that I've talked to they said it's a legal thing they have they they can't their hands are tied and so I've talked to David Gibbs is a Christian attorney from Florida and other others as well as the Green County prosecutor and they said they are not required by law to do that. They're using that they've taken a very liberal approach to this and so you have a law that you can't discriminate, but it doesn't mean you can allow biological men in the female locker rooms and changing area where children are that's absurd at the highest level and so we want to we want to approach this not in a hateful way not in a mean way, but in a in a logical way and trying to use a legal route. So we've set up a meeting and we're trying to get that set up this week with Christian law attorneys that are lawyers for our church as well as the YMCA.

Attorney's attorneys and say can we find a way to transition this situation to where we can protect the girls and the guys from you know, having this you don't have to be bound to this. So just be in prayer for that. There's a lot of stuff going on with that, but we're we're trying to take this in a way that you stand with both truth and grace. Amen and approach these things and so just be in prayer for that. We we don't hate a certain group of people in our country, but we do believe that the truth is truth and we need to stand on the word of God. Amen and you don't affirm things that are wrong.

You need to stand up to the truth and and if there's ever a group of people that you need to stand up and protect isn't it children isn't it isn't it even small young girls and it's just so so be in prayer for that and we'll trust God for a good outcome. So in your Bible, Matthew 6 verse 16 through 18 is our text this morning. I do find it interesting as we stand to read that God has perhaps humored us to have me teach on fasting.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving. So if you've not been convicted in the last year for sin you'll be convicted this morning. Okay you say I'd really be convicted if you preached on this next Sunday preacher.

So let's let's read our text. We've been doing a verse by verse study through the Gospel of Matthew and we want to exalt the Word of God. Verse 16 Jesus says moreover when ye fast be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you they have their reward. But thou when thou fastest anoint thine head and wash thy face that thou appear not unto men to fast but unto thy father which is in secret and thy father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Father we thank you for your word today because it is your word and we rejoice that you are our Savior. Lord I praise you that the two adults who came this morning in the early service and called out to Christ for salvation we rejoice in your saving work. We rejoice in these two young hearts who got up and shared their faith in Christ who will be getting baptized.

Thank you for the family and friends who've come out to support them. God I pray that you would bless your word to our hearts this morning. Give us ears to hear. Give us a heart to obey what we've heard. Be glorified in all that's said and done. Receive with meekness the engrafted word that is not only able to save but to sanctify. In Jesus' name and God's people said. And you may be seated this morning. Well this morning this study on fasting is a convicting area because Jesus had just been teaching on prayer which is an area that if we were all honest we fall short in our prayer life at times.

Anybody with me? We could do better praying and I've been looking at that for a couple months now. But in the area of fasting we also find an area that we could be doing more in a better job in our life. And so fasting is spoken of at least 50 times in the Bible. There's at least 17 instances of fasting in the New Testament. By example Moses fasted 40 days at least twice. Elijah fasted for 40 days. David fasted for his dying child. Nehemiah fasted for the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem who needed their walls rebuilt.

Esther fasted for God to deliver the Israelites from genocide. Daniel fasted in expectation of Jeremiah's prophecy to be fulfilled. John the Baptist and his disciples fasted and has served God the Bible says in Luke 2 with fasting day and night. Cornelius fasted and prayed and God sent an angel to him which resulted in Peter coming and his whole household being saved in Acts 10. The New Testament church at Antioch fasted and prayed over both Paul and Barnabas before they sent them out on their missionary work.

Paul fasted. The word fast comes from the Greek word nestuo which means to abstain from food and drink for a short time for that day but if it was an extended period of time it could be abstaining from a certain kind of food or drink if it was a long fast. Fasting in the Bible was associated with mourning over sin, longing after God's presence, a deep earnest need for God to intervene in some way and it was a way as Martin Luther said for the purpose of checking the flesh by the Spirit. Today we will examine this text in Matthew 6 but expanded also throughout scripture as we're going to see five truths that Jesus taught about fasting as well as seven warnings about fasting and then seven benefits that come from fasting.

Don't add up all those points you might get worried. So five truths Jesus taught about fasting first of all Jesus taught fasting was not an if you fast but a when you fast. If you notice in verse one through four Jesus taught in Matthew 6 on giving and then he talks about prayer in verse five and then he goes moves into fasting in verse 16 but notice back in Matthew 6 verse two.

He says therefore when thou doest thine alms and he talks about giving and then verse five he says and when thou prayest and then verse 16 he says moreover when ye fast. And so what you find is Jesus expected as a natural course of spiritual living is that a person would be giving that they would also be someone who would be a praying person and they would also be someone who fasted. Jesus saw fasting as a natural part of the person's spiritual life. Now I would ask the question when is the last time that you fasted from food or even from some other earthly thing in order to make God a higher priority or to grow spiritually. Secondly Jesus taught fasting revealed our dependency if you flipped back to Matthew chapter four just a couple chapters back. The Bible tells us here Jesus launches his goes into launching his ministry in chapter five but before he does that in chapter four it says after he was baptized it says in verse four verse chapter four verse one. Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil and when he had fasted 40 days and 40 nights he was afterward in hunger.

If that was said of me it would say he had been dead three weeks ago. Here the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to face the combat of temptation with Satan he had faced 40 days of fasting and notice what the first temptation Satan brings to Christ in verse number three. And when the tempter came to him he said if thou be the Son of God command that these stones be made bread. He tempted Jesus in the place where Jesus had the greatest physical longing. He knew what Jesus's flesh longed for the most.

Do you think Satan knows what our greatest physical weaknesses are? Do you think he will bring temptations that line up with those desires? If he did it with Christ how much so he would do with us. And what was Jesus's response to the temptation of Satan? We hear the notable words in verse four but he answered and said it is written.

What a great response. He says man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. What Jesus says here did not originate in Matthew 4.

What he says in Matthew 4 verse 4 originated in Deuteronomy chapter number 8. This is a chapter that is the most quoted book by Christ in the Old Testament. God had allowed the nation of Israel to spend 40 years in the wilderness to teach them a central truth.

Listen to what Deuteronomy 8 verse 2 and 3 says. And thou shalt remember all the way which Yahweh or the Lord thy God led thee these 40 years in the wilderness. To humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart. Whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or know. And he humbled thee and suffered thee to hunger and fed thee with man in which thou knewest not. Neither did thy fathers know.

If you read the rest with me church. That he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only. But by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. According to the scriptures, God allows external trials to come against our life to reveal internal faith. It is not what we say that reveals what we believe.

It is what we reveal through the trials of life. Jesus was offered food. He declared in that temptation, that external temptation, I would rather have the word of God to sustain me than physical nourishment. Even after he had fasted for 40 days, he chose the word of God over food.

The spiritual food of the believer is the word of God. You know the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness of God teaching them this truth. And it was a truth that Jesus exemplified that he believed in 40 days. I would ask you, have you learned the infinite value of God's word to sustain your life? It was such a valuable reality that God spent 40 years teaching them this.

Did you hear that? 40 years to teach them that man doesn't live by bread only, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. That's how big of a deal that truth is. The total dependency of the believer on the very word of God. We need the word of God more than our daily food. It was so important that even Jesus exemplified it with his life.

Thirdly, fasting not only reveals our dependency, but it reveals our priority. In John 4, Jesus is traveling to Sychar, city of Samaria, to meet a woman at the well. He shares the truth of salvation with her. She becomes a believer in Christ as the Messiah. The disciples in the meantime had gone away into the city to buy meat.

They come back, they find Jesus there. John 4 verse 31, it says, in the meanwhile, his disciples prayed him saying, Master, eat. We know you're hungry, you're hungry. We had gone and gotten lunch and now we come back, you need to eat. Verse 32, but he said unto them, I have meat to eat that you know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, hath any man brought him out to eat?

Let me just, can I put a pin in this right now for just a second? Sometimes people promote what's known as transubstantiationism. Anybody know what transubstantiationism is? Right?

Heard that word. That is a teaching among certain groups, even in our town, that believe that the communion table turns into the actual body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. And they cite John chapter 6 where Jesus says, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part of me. They say, well, he says there, if you don't eat his flesh and drink his blood, so therefore the body and blood become the actual elements in the Lord's table. Well, what Jesus was saying there was not literal. Because he goes on to say in John 6, he says the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life. He says the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak are spirit and life. In the same way he spoke here, he said I have meat to eat that you know not of and they thought he was speaking about physical food.

They got it wrong, so he clarifies it. Jesus said in verse 34, my meat is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work. And the sustaining priority of Christ's heart, what satisfied him more than physical nourishment, was to do the will of the Father. He was so caught up in doing the will of God that he would forget to eat.

Or he would willingly miss eating. Let me ask you, when is the last time you made the work of God such a priority you would miss lunch over it? When's the last time you so hungered after the work of God that you missed a meal for it? This is what Jesus is doing here. Fourthly, fasting reveals a longing and mourning for God's presence.

Matthew chapter 9, just a couple chapters in front of chapter 6. In verse 14, listen to what the Bible says. Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them.

What's the rest of it say, church? And then shall they fast. A couple things to highlight from this passage. First of all, the disciples of Jesus were not fasting. That was not something they were doing.

They were not naturally doing this. According to Jesus, fasting was associated with a certain thing according to that passage, and it was associated with what? With mourning. He says, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? And he likens himself as being the bridegroom later of the church, that he's the husband of the church. In the Old Testament, God pictured himself as the husband of Israel. But in the New Testament, Jesus likened himself as the bridegroom of the church. The point is simply, you don't mourn for the bridegroom if he's with you.

You're not longing after him if he's in your presence. But Jesus makes clear that there will come a time when you will mourn after him. And when is that time when he's taken away from you? And when was he taken away? It was after he ascended into heaven in Acts 1.

And we know that's what he's talking about, because the only other time he talks about himself as being the bridegroom is when he's talking about coming back for the church. And so, Jesus assumes that there would be a mournful heart, a desperation, a broken heartedness after God that would result in people, and believers specifically, so longing for God that they would go without food longing for him. It would stir up in them such a desire that they couldn't even eat, they longed for God so much. One man said, the birthplace of Christian fasting is homesickness for God. Homesickness for God.

Are you homesick for God? What does your fasting or lack of fasting show to God? Think about Joel chapter 2 verse 12, it says, Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning, and ruin your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord.

He will be gracious and merciful, slow to anger, a great kindness, and repent of him of the evil. God saw seeking him with all the heart and fasting as being knit together. And then number five, Jesus taught not to fast hypocritically. And he says that here in verse number 16. The opposite of being hypocritical is to be sincere, to be authentic. The word hypocritical comes from the Greek word, hupokrites.

It was the same word used as someone who played a part, who read a script, who performed. He said, don't be a performer, be genuine, be authentic. That brings me to my second set of points, seven warnings when we fast. Now you notice in Matthew 6 verse 16, if you see in your text, he says, Moreover, when ye fast, so it's expected you would do this, the next two words are what, church? Okay, that's where you guys all chime in.

See, we make you too lazy, don't we? You're all so used to having the verses up there, they're like, it's not up there yet. How can I read it?

I'll take one son. The only reason we put them up here is because I go through 50, 60 passages, and it's just, I can't wait for you to get there. So, but you need to be able to, you better have your Bible open to Matthew 6, all right? Open your Bible to Matthew 6, all right? It's like dad's scolding you, open that Bible up. Some of you all are like, all right, all right, all right preacher, get all fired up up there. Say Matthew 6, now let's go back, see, now I have to go back through all this stuff. Look at verse 16.

It says, moreover, when ye fast, what's the next two words, church? See how that worked? You're like, but it's up on the screen.

Why did you put it up on the screen, Doug? It's testing them though, I'm teasing you, kind of. So, so he says, be not, there is a warning that immediately comes after he says to do this. So when you fast, be not, don't, there's something you need to be warned of. And this goes along exactly with what he taught on giving in verse 1 through 4, and praying in verse 5 through 15, and now in fasting in verse 16 through 18. In verse 1 of chapter 6, he says, take heed that you do not your alms before men to be seen of them. And what he highlights here is, do not have wrong motives. Do not have wrong, do not fast, first of all, with wrong motives. And giving, he says in verse 1, don't give so people would see that.

Verse 5, he says, and when thou prayest, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogue in the corners of the streets that they may be seen of men. Now, I feel a little convicted, because this morning, I had my offering thing in my hand, and they didn't pass it down my road, and I was like, oh, no. And so I had to yell at the guy, I said, hey, come back up here and get this. So it was like, now everybody knows I'm giving something, you know.

So I just had to, anyway, it was whatever. So, but praying, you don't pray to be seen of men. And then notice, he ties this right in to fasting as well in verse 16. He says, moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces, notice, that they may appear unto men to fast. Now, the wrong motive according to Christ in giving and praying and fasting is so that other people would what?

Yeah, you want the notice of them, you want their applause. Charles Spurgeon said, we have a choice, and we snatch at the minor reward, and when we do that, he says, we leave the major reward. He said, may it never be said of us that they have their reward. Jesus highlights the desire to be seen by men as such a problem that we should take necessary steps to protect ourself from that. And verse 1 through 40 says, don't even let your right hand know what your left gives. When you pray, he says, go into your closet, have that kind of a spirit when you pray. And he says, when you fast, make sure you wash your face and point your head, verse 17 and 18.

He says, don't walk around mournful, so the people's like, oh, you look really down. Well, I'm in the middle of a long fast right now. You know, that was what they were doing in the Lord's day, and he says, don't do that. Don't let them even know. Charles Spurgeon said, fast from vainglory.

Fast from ambition and pride and self-glorification. That's what the Christians should fast also from. So we should not publicize the fact we're fasting. We should be doing it for spiritual motives. Sometimes people have asked me this question.

I think it should be at least addressed. They say, you know, pastor, if I were to fast, you know, my wife or my spouse, they make me meals. Should I, you know, should I not let them know, and then they, you know, they cook supper, and then, you know, I'm not able to eat.

Well, why not? Well, just because, you know, and so there's nothing wrong with letting your spouse know you're fasting. In the same way, it's no more wrong than praying in front of your spouse or giving in front of your spouse. Fasting in front of them, there's no difference in that as well. It's not that they would see you. It's that you would not have the motive to be seen.

Does that make sense? You can give where somebody may see you, but that's not the issue. Are you giving to be seen? Are you giving because you want to honor Christ?

Are you praying to honor the Lord? And so secondly, so first of all, don't have the wrong motive. Secondly, do not fast focused on meeting external regulations.

Sometimes people ask this. If I fast, can I drink water? Can I take vitamins? Can I eat breakfast and not lunch, or can I eat lunch and not dinner? What people are asking is, what are all the external regulations to fasting? But in the Bible, you don't find external regulations being dealt with.

You find internal motive being dealt with. Because anyone can obey rules, but God wants the heart of the person. So what are the rules for fasting?

You want to know them? The rules for fasting are whatever you feel led by God to give up for God. What's the rules? Whatever you feel that God wants you to give up for Him. And how long should I fast? The answer is fast until you are done. But yeah, then you search your heart, and you get before God, and you do business with God until business has been done with God.

Does that make sense? Let your love for God lead the parameters, not some external list of rules. Thirdly, do not fast simply as a ritual, but with a sincere heart. Among the Jews, God had only required one fast a year. But when they went into the Babylonian captivity, they elevated four fasts. They would fast in different times of the year. They would fast the fourth, the fifth, the seventh, and the tenth months. They started off being very sincere about these fasts, and they were honoring to God because they did them out of repentance of sin. But then it moved into a place of ritual.

It moved into a place of insincerity, where they were worn out by this. And God comes to them in Zechariah 7, verse number 5. God says, speak unto all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast even unto me, even unto me? God says.

And so he tells them, you fasted, but in this passage, God is telling them, you didn't fast to me. This was just out of duty. This was a ritual that you did. So be careful. To have routines in life can be both safe and dangerous. Routines can be safe and dangerous. And I was actually talking to somebody before church about routines. And the older I get, I like routines. Anybody else with me? I don't like to have...

When I was in college, I could live off the whim. I could stay up late here or go to bed early. But now I'm like, I'm regimented. Come around 9 o'clock, we need to start heading to bed.

You're like at 9, yeah. But then I like to get up early, and I like to get the day. I like to do a lot in the mornings. So you begin to build these routines in life. And so routines can be very good, but they can also be dangerous. If you just get in a routine, well, I'm always reading one chapter. Well, make sure that... Or two chapters.

I always pray this amount of time. Well, those are really good, and keep those things. But make sure that you don't just get into a rut. Routines can also lead into ruts. Number four, do not fast for the flesh over the spirit. Do not fast for the flesh over the spirit. In our culture, there's a lot of dietary fastings. There's very great benefits that you can get from dietary fasting. And I won't get into all the details of that, but there are people that can find freedom from diabetes, all kinds of wonderful benefits that you can get from fasting. And so also, if you fast, it's one of the cheapest diets. Yeah, save a lot of money.

And you can do it at any time, right? It gives you mental clarity. There's a lot of benefits that can come from that. But my point here is if you're going to do a spiritual fast, and you say, I'm going to fast because of this spiritual thing in my life, maybe I'm wanting victory over this sin, maybe I want to see God work in my life here, do this thing for our country here, your first desire in the morning shouldn't be to get on the scale. You can't wait to find out how that fast is turning out. So it's one thing to fast for the flesh. It's another thing to fast for the spirit. Does that make sense?

Make sure you have the right motive in doing that. Number five, do not fast in order to earn favor with God. Some think, well, if I pay the debt of going without a meal, God owes me.

He owes me an answer. I mean, if I went without supper tonight, Lord, you're going to have to show up and do something special because that's a big sacrifice on my end here. So we need to realize that God both saved us by grace and sustains us by grace. We don't earn God's favor. Fasting doesn't do that. I like what Edith Schaefer said. She said, is fasting ever a bribe to get God to pay more attention to our petitions?

No, a thousand times no. It is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the creator of the universe. Then number six, do not fast with a self-righteous attitude. One of the dangers when people get serious with God is they can both grow spiritually, but if they're not careful, their pride can cause them to be self-righteous. Maybe you have experienced that in your life. I have felt that throughout the 30-some years of my salvation where there's been times where I got real on fire about reading.

I remember times whether in college or different times in my life praying or sharing the gospel or memorizing verses. And then it would be easy to become critical of other people that were close to me in my life because, man, you need to do this and then kind of become critical of them. And I can tell you that's not an evidence of spiritual growth. Being critical of people is not an evidence of spiritual growth. And people can do that when they fast.

Well, I've been fasting. You know, you should do this. And if you don't do this, you know, and they become critical. And that's not the Spirit of God that produces criticism like that.

And I've seen people do that in a lot of different areas. But you find this in Luke 18. The Pharisees stood, it says, and prayed with themselves, God, I thank you that I'm not as other men.

I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all I have. And he begins to boast to God about himself.

Who does that? But that's what he's doing. And he began to be critical of other people. When you grow spiritually, it should cause you to both want other people to have what's allowing you to grow, but you should be burdened and do it in love as you promote those things, not in a critical spirit. And then number seven, do not fast with willful, unrepentant sin in your life. Isaiah 58, the Bible says in Isaiah 58 verse 1, cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression in the house of Jacob their sins. And God says, tell them, Isaiah, that they are in sin and they need to repent of these things. And notice what the people did in spite of their sin in verse 2.

This is fascinating. Again, the Jews, like religion is a part of their culture. Some of us grew up in a religious culture of our families. There's a blessing and a danger in growing up in a religious type of culture. If you go into a Jewish culture, a Muslim culture, a strong Christian culture, sometimes people can just, they just grow up around them. And they can do the Christian thing or the spiritual thing even if they have no spirituality in them. And so God says in verse 2, even though they're in sin, it says in verse 2, yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways as a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God.

They're like that kind of a nation. They ask of me the ordinance of justice. They take delight in approaching to me. Verse 3, wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul? And you take no knowledge. And they're thinking they should have earned some of God's favor. You should have relieved the oppression of these other nations against us.

We're doing these things. Listen to how God responds in verse 3 and 4. He said, Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure.

In other words, you're still living your fleshly desires out. He says, and you exact all your labors. What that means is you're not forgiving people.

You're requiring them to pay all their debts and everything they owe you without any mercy. Verse 4, Behold ye fast for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of the wicked. They had all kinds of contentions and fightings while fasting. He says, Ye shall not fast as you do this day to make your voice to be heard on high.

So their fasting was no benefit to them. God would not answer that because they had known sin in their life. Let me ask you a question. Can it really be said of me that I'm seeking after God while I'm still holding on to known sin?

There is no way. Jesus said, If you come after me, you deny yourself. There is a repentance, he says, involved.

Repentance, metanoia, it is a turning of the mind that results in a turning of the life. You cannot come toward Christ while it's still coming toward sin. And so what he's saying is, make sure your heart is right with God.

Make sure you're clean on the inside. In Jeremiah 14, 12, God says, When they fast, I will not hear their cry. And the reason for that is because they had known sin both in Isaiah and Jeremiah's day.

Let me go to the last set of thoughts. Not only seven warnings that the Bible gives about fasting, but let's look at some benefits, seven benefits of fasting. First of all, fasting allows us to fulfill Christ's expectation. We saw Jesus taught in verse 16 and 17 of Matthew 6 that when you fast, he says, When you fast, he saw fasting as something that would be a natural part of our life, just like praying and giving would be. He says in Matthew 9, 14, When the bridegroom's taken, then shall they fast.

He saw this as something that would happen. Let me ask you, in this last year, do you feel like you have, do you feel like in the last year that you have fulfilled God's expectation in the area of fasting? For me personally, I failed in this. I confessed this to the church. I have not fasted like I should over this last year. And this has grieved me as I've taught, as I've studied through this. And I realize there's things I can fast from at times, but I don't treat fasting like I do my prayer life and my giving life. I mean, this is definitely not on par with those things.

I think it's because it's more painful. Amen? I don't know about you. Maybe you're better in your spiritual disciplines, but this old flesh likes things. Food tastes really good. I eat good. I mean, my wife's a fantastic cook.

My daughter's a great cook. I mean, they made this cake last night. I was, like, so tempted. I said, I'm going to go to bed with the sugar high. I will sweat through the night if I eat that thing. I wanted it so bad, I had to figure out something else. I mean, my sin nature was craving that thing, man.

I'm like, I want to at least wait till lunch today, get it midday. So I think we need to realize this is something that needs to be brought into our life, because we live in an overindulgent day, don't we? And it's hard because God didn't make everything bland. He made the sky blue and the grass green and the leaves change and the beauty of the horizon and all these beautiful colors of flowers, and he could have made everything khaki or gray, but instead he gives us beauty, and then he gives us taste buds that are just fantastic. I remember getting COVID, and he's like, I lost my smell, but I didn't lose my taste, baby.

I was like, Lord, if one goes, please let me choose one or the other. I can handle not smelling, but if I can't taste, that would really be an unfortunate result. But we are blessed with taste buds, and then God gives us such a spread of food. I don't have time to go through it today, but when you study the foods of the Bible, I mean the nuts, the seeds, the fruits, the vegetables, the different animals, God has given us all things richly to enjoy. Aren't you thankful for that? I mean, we get to enjoy these things.

Now, we create things in America that are made out of plastic, and they don't have any calories, but they have cancer. We fill our bodies, and we enjoy the taste, and we can praise God for those things. We just have to make sure those things don't have more power over us than God, right? Secondly, fasting is beneficial because it reflects the believer's longing after God. Fasting was attached in the Bible, again, to that longing after God. And we understand that because if you ever had someone in your family that passed away in a very unexpected way, maybe you even lost a child, maybe you had somebody pass away, and what happens is your appetite goes with them, doesn't it? You say, I can't eat. I have no appetite.

And people have to come along and say, hey, no, you need to eat. I can't eat. My wife's in the hospital. I can't eat. My child's in the hospital.

How can I eat? You feel like David who lays before God and says, I fast, with mourning and longing for God to move, and I've seen people whose spouses leave them, and they can't eat for many days at times, and it just lingers on for months because of that heartache, that longing for a restored relationship, that longing after that person that you miss. And God says, there should be a time, Jesus is teaching in Matthew 9, that when the bridegroom's taken, that there should be that longing after God. Joel chapter 2, 12 says, therefore also now saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart and with fasting. Daniel 9, 3, Daniel says, I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplication with fasting, and begins to go into his prayer. Think about Psalm 63, 1 and 2, he says, O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee. My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, as in a dry and thirsty land where no water is, to see thy power and glory as I've seen thee in the sanctuary.

Thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Psalm 42, 1 and 2, he also goes and says, as the harder as the deer pants after the water brooks, my soul pants after thee, O God, after the living God, when shall I come and appear before God? This craving after God, this hungry soul for God, and I think we find in the Scriptures very clearly that God is saying there should be that longing, that homesickness for God in the heart of people, and God's people for God's presence. Thirdly, fasting can be an expression of sorrow over sin. Has anybody been grieved over maybe not only your own sin, but the sins of others and the sins of a nation? You're just grieved, you just feel like, ugh. Has anybody this last year been brought to tears over sin at some level, maybe the nation's sins, people's sins, personal sins?

It just grieves, doesn't it? And in the Bible, you find this grief causing fasting. Deuteronomy 9, verse 18, Deuteronomy 9, 18, Moses of him, it says, Moses said, And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first forty days and forty nights. I didn't either eat bread nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.

That's an incredible thing. Moses was so grieved by the people's sins, he fasted forty days. Samuel fasted for the nation, it says in 1 Samuel 7, verse 3 through 6. It says in verse 6, And he fasted on that day, and said, We have sinned against the Lord. Nehemiah fasted over the sins of the nation. In Nehemiah, chapter 9, verse 1 and 2, it says, And he stood and confessed their sins and iniquities of their father, but he assembled the whole people together in fasting and sackcloth. Daniel fasted when he came to God in Daniel 9, and he confessed his sins and the sins of the nation.

I think about Nineveh. The people of Nineveh who Jonah came and preached to, that wicked city Nineveh, what's interesting is Nineveh was such a wicked city that they would decapitate an entire people and build pyramids out of their skulls. They would skin people alive. This was one of the most wicked cities and people. And ancient Nineveh is where present-day Isis was birthed in the same city, the same physical city. That's where Isis came out of. Nineveh was as wicked as Isis.

That's how vile these people were. And Jonah's like, I'm not going there. So he fled to Tarshish. And he's like, I'm getting out. He went in the exact opposite direction when God says, Oh, you want to flee from me? You think I don't know where you're going?

It's not a good idea. And gets swallowed by a whale, gets spit up on the shore of Nineveh. Just so happens to be the Ninevites worshipped the fish god. So your guy gets spit out by a whale on the shore.

Skin's probably bleach white from the stomach acid. He goes into the city and these people are like, we need to listen to this guy. This guy has something to say from God.

And he preaches to them. The whole city repents. And the Bible says that even the leadership of Nineveh called a national fast.

Would to God. Wouldn't it be great if President Trump before or President Biden now would have said, We as a nation need to fast before God. We need national repentance.

We need to call the Speaker of the House and the leadership of the governors of our state. To come before God and cry out for mercy. Because as a nation we have sinned. We have rebelled greatly before God.

And God's judgment is hanging over us. Would to God. God would raise up some leaders like that. Fasting for the sins of the nation. I think it would be good for us to maybe not only verbally speak about our heartache of the sins of a nation. But sometimes speak through fasting about it.

It should cause us to do that. Number four, fasting can help the believer gain victory over the flesh. You know there is a strength in fasting. There is a harnessing of the flesh, isn't there? The Bible says in Romans 7 verse 18, Paul says, In my flesh dwells no good thing.

He says in verse 24, I'm a wretched man. And there is a sense of crucifying the flesh with the affections and luster of when a person fasts. That's one of the benefits. You get your flesh back in control. That's hard to do sometimes. Sugar is addictive.

Anybody know what I'm talking about? And I think it's good to fast from different things in life. Food could be one of them.

Fast from entertainment, TV, social media, certain beverages. Sometimes say no to something just so you have the ability to say no to it. At night when you're craving that Big Mac, do they even make those anymore? I haven't eaten a Big Mac for years.

I'd probably be in the hospital if I did. But I do eat ice cream at night. And my mind knows exactly what it looks like and will taste like. And you know what happens? Right when you're like, I'm not going to eat that tonight.

I'm going to give that up. What does your body do? It's like, you've got to have it. Well, if I'm not going to eat it tonight, eat it now. Well, if I'm going to fast tomorrow, I will eat now. Your body's like, you need extra.

Fill the fridge. Being your body, fill this thing up. And your body just craves this. And I think there's a healthy denial of the flesh, isn't there? A healthy saying no to the things of the flesh. Number five, fasting allows the believer to grow in their dependence on the word of God. It's saying, God, I don't live by bread only, but by every word that proceed out of your mouth. Fasting is saying, God, I need your word more than my necessary bread.

Job 23, 12, Job says, Neither have I gone back from the commandments of his lips. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. The preacher said, reading is more important to me than eating. Number six, fasting can show our complete dependence on not only the word of God, but the God of the word.

I think about Esther, who called a national fast of the Jewish people when she was in Shushan, the palace. She said, if I perish, I perish, but we will go to God in fasting. Do not eat, do not drink for three days, and the nation did that, and God showed up and answered that. Fasting can show our complete dependence on God and saying, God, there's no way for me to do anything about this.

You're going to have to step in. That's what David did when his son was sick unto death, right? He fasted before God, 2 Samuel 12. And then finally, fasting can result in the moving of God. Fasting has been something that results in the hand of God moving in special ways. Do you know even in Acts 10, verse 30, Cornelius, when he was a first Gentile convert, God showed up to him through an angel and said, send men to Joppa for Simon Peter.

He'll come and tell thee whereby you and all your house shall be saved. And Cornelius, when Peter shows up, Cornelius said, I was in my house four days ago, fasting and in prayer. Isn't it interesting that fasting was a part of the first Gentile convert, and God supernaturally working to bring salvation to him.

Fasting no way forces God's hand to move, but fasting can provide an opportunity for God to move in a very powerful way. It's been, it's probably been 15 years ago, 17 years ago, I would say I was a youth pastor and I had this, one of these kids in my youth group got saved and he was an influential kid and he's a preacher today and Nathan Woodworth over in Circleville, I preached at his church Tuesday at a preacher's conference meeting, and he had a brother who was an atheist and he said, I'm going to try to get my brother to go to this church camp. And so he told his brother, he said, man, there's a lot of pretty girls there, there's a lot of fun games, and so he's bribing this atheist brother of his to come and so Eric ends up going to the camp. Well, going into that camp, there was somebody in our church in Chillicothe, I remember, and they said, you know, I'm so burdened for him to get saved that this individual fasted for 10 days for that person.

Went without any food, just begging God to save them, begging God to save them. We went to that camp over 700 kids and then I remember the last night, all our entire youth ministry was on our knees at the altar praying for Eric. Eric's the only one standing in the crowd like and sold out atheist. I mean, you make his mom cry for going to church type of atheist. And so he came down, gave his life to Christ that night.

He went from being all out to all in. His girlfriend comes to church that Sunday. She gets saved. She came out of Mormonism. She gave her life to Christ. They're married today.

They're on the mission field over in Tugusagapu, Honduras, preaching the gospel this morning. Well, his wife, Ashley, she began to get burdened for her brother. Her brother was the president of the class and you know, to schools and and he was a very popular kid. He was he was a state athlete. I mean, this kid was big and strong football track.

I mean, he was just a beast. And she began talking to him about the Lord and he just had nothing to do with it. Wanted nothing to do with it. And so I said, why don't you just pray for him? And she found out what this other individual had done for her for for Eric. And so she said, I'm going to fast for my my brother for five days. I'm not going to say a word to him. She went up there and put a gospel track on his on his on his doorway and said, I'm not going to say anything to him. I'm just going to fast. She spent five days fasting in prayer for her brother.

Didn't say a word to him. This is a true story. At the end of those five days, this big old tough Randy came up to her with tears in his eyes saying, I've been reading this thing every day. Can you tell me how to be saved? I can tell you, friends, fasting can move the hand of God in ways that only he can move. What today do you say, man? I've been battling with this sin in my life.

I don't know how to gain victory. Why don't you give up something and fast over it and beg God to do what you and I can't do? Maybe there's a marriage that's on the rocks. Maybe there's a child that's wayward. Maybe there's a loved one that needs to be saved.

Have you fasted about it? Maybe there's maybe there's something in your life that you just are longing for God to do. God, give me direction. Why don't you set some food aside, set something aside and say, God, I'm not trying to earn your favor. I just want to be with you. I want to see your hand move. God, I want to see you be God in this situation.

God says, come unto me, call out to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you had no idea of more than what you would have expected. That's the God we serve. Amen. What's on your heart today you could bring to him?

Why don't you come and bring it to him? Let's all stand this morning. With heads bowed, knives closed, the altar is open. And if God's spoken to your heart, you're welcome to come, friend, and take a moment in prayer at the altar. Maybe you're here today with heads bowed, knives closed, and you say, Pastor Josh, if I stood before God and God asked you, friend, if he said, why should I let you into heaven? Let me ask you, what would you say? If God said, why should I let you into heaven? What would you say?

How would you respond? Are you ready for that answer? And if you're not, friend, I would love the opportunity to talk with you. If you're a man, we have men here that would pull you aside in the private room and they'll just show you from the Word of God how you can have that relationship with Jesus Christ, how you can know when your life's over, you'll be saved. If you're a lady, we'll have a lady do the same thing and answer any questions you might have and guide you to that truth. If you're here today and say, Pastor Josh, could you just remember me in prayer and I'm not sure if my life was over and I stood before God, I'm not sure heaven would be my home, but could you remember me in prayer and with heads bowed, knives closed, would you just raise your hand and I might know to pray for you?

Just say, that's me, Pastor Josh, could you just remember me? Thank you, I see it. Thank you, I see it. Thank you. Thank you, anybody else? I want to pray that if you're here today and you're not sure of that answer, we'd love to talk with you. Father, we thank you for your mercy, your love, and your grace. Today we cast our soul before you. We thank you for your word and its truths. I pray for families today that may be going through some different heavy battles, different areas of life, that you would intervene and show up in a great way. I pray for anyone that's lost today, those who raise their hand, that they might come and be saved, be glorified. In Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-02 05:53:05 / 2022-12-02 06:13:59 / 21

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