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The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
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November 28, 2021 7:00 am


The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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November 28, 2021 7:00 am

Fasting was responsible for two of the most significant events in early church history What were they--and does God still expect Christians to fast today? If so, what is its purpose, and how does it differ from the fasting of the Old Testament? Join Dr. James Boice on The Bible Study Hour to discover the answer to these questions on the elusive topic of fasting.

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The practice of fasting seems out of place in our society today. Yet Jesus taught his followers to fast. What did he mean by it.

Does God expect Christians to fast today. Fasting is often then the elusive topic get to the most significant events in early church history are linked to its practice is fasting still relevant in our modern era, and if so, what are its purpose and benefits welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boris preparing you to think and act biblically while the Old Testament faithful practice fasting as a means to mourn for their sins and reconciled with God. The exercise of fasting in the New Testament times at an entirely different objective. Join Dr. Boyce as he reveals the purpose of fasting in the early church and its relevance with a modern day believer. The first two examples of Christian piety that Jesus gives in the middle of the sermon on the Mount not seem particularly difficult. Most people alms giving in prayer makes sense and are familiar, even though they may not understand them completely or practice them. This is not true of Christ. Third example of the third example is fasting, which means abstaining from food for some spiritual land. Not only does this not seem necessary to most persons it made even seem quite foolish or absurd. Unfortunately for these views, Jesus assumed that fasting would be practiced by his disciples. What is more, he even gave instructions about it. He said moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance fully disfigure their faces that they may appear on the man to fast early I say and do you they have their reward. But now, when thou fastest anoint thine head and wash thy face, that thou appear not undemanding to fast but under thy father who is in secret, my father, who see it in secret shall reward thee openly know the easiest but also the most superficial way to make fasting come alive to a Christian living in our time is to tell stories of some who've practiced fasting for some definite financial goals. That is, those who have used the money saved by fasting to help others. One such story comes from the days I spent studying in Switzerland was an American couple in Switzerland whom I got to know during the first year of my program. They were probably the most financially pressed of any Americans I encountered they had an abiding concern about finishing the program and was well justified for their resources were very limited and if they should've run out of money before the end of their three years.

There was no adequate university grants or scholarships for them to fall back on one point, however, this couple learned of the far greater difficulties of an Asian student who was also in the theological program is lack of means was so desperate that he was on the verge of being forced to abandon his program of studies and leave Switzerland when my friends learned of it.

They begin the Marshall help among the American community and then actually contributed themselves another friend who knew their situation asked them how are you going to find money to help the Asian student when you're so pressed for money yourself mansard will just last one day a week. I know one other case involving a girl that was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. She had been very much impressed by a series of church services on missions and as a result, wanted to contribute to the support of the girl her own age. He was going out to North Africa didn't think it was right for her to take the money. Her father was giving her for education to do this, however, so she skipped lunch twice a week in order to send lunch money later in another school. She worked on the telephone exchange in order to maintain her commitment no.

Both of these stories tell of those who fasted for a specific reason makes sense, but unfortunately they are not a great deal of help to most of us personally.

One thing many of us are so far from the level of need revealed in these stories that fasting doesn't even enter into the picture we can generally meet the needs to which we become sensitive out of income, not to mention our investments or our savings.

Moreover, when we read of fasting in the Bible is here, in the words of Jesus. It's clear that financial reasons for doing without food for a period of time or not really under consideration well in what does fasting mean the first real clue to what fasting should mean today comes from a study of the Bible as it should for the clue is seen in the fact that in the Old Testament. Fasting had an entirely different purpose than it does in the new one is more the pivotal text upon which this change takes place as the text we are studying in Matthew now, what was the purpose of fasting in the Old Testament.

The answer is that fasting was always connected with morning for sin and repentance of it. Thus, the entire Hebrew nation was the fast on the day of atonement.

This was the day in which they were to mourn for their sin and look for the reconciliation God provided to the sacrifices. This was the only occasion in which Israel was specifically commanded by the Old Testament to fast for this. However, the practice spread to occasions of national disaster or morning. In the book of Joel, it was part of God's call to the people to repentance.

Nineveh repented with fasting after hearing the preaching of Jonah, Israel fasted following the Civil War with Benjamin. The death of Saul and Jonathan and also was part of the national revival under the prophet Samuel. The Hebrew word for fasting even suggests the repentant humbling of the soul before God help anyone doubts that this is the central characteristic of fasting in the Old Testament era, the definitive proof is to be found in two other texts where it's mentioned. The first is Matthew nine verses 14 and 15 were Jesus is speaking to the disciples of John the Baptist, who practiced fasting. These came to Jesus to ask what his disciples did not fast. Jesus answered and the sons of the bride chamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them other words, the disciples did not fast because fasting implied sorrow in the years of Jesus ministry were joyous. The other text is a great one, is probably the most extensive discussion of fasting in the entire Old Testament. It occurs in the 58th chapter of Isaiah verses one through seven. Here, the people of Israel are talking, reminding God that they had fasted, but complaining that fasting cannot produce the results they were seeking. So God answers by saying the whole D fast for strife and debate disliked with the fist of wickedness, not this the fast that I've chosen to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free, that you break every yoke is not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house when I see is the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself, for mine own flesh.

In other words, God says that ceremonial fasting means nothing.

The only fasting that is a any value is that which involves repentance of sin resulting in a transformed and charitable life.

This is what fasting implied before Christ's coming after Jesus came, fasting was conceived of differently. The early Christians were aware that their synod been forgiven so they didn't mourn for it in the way men did before Christ's death and resurrection. They didn't fast for their sin is not fast in sorrow and yet it is true that they did fast.

What was the reason the reason was their desire to set aside the normal distractions of this life in order to seek God's clear direction for their lives was a discipline by which they waited upon God while asking him to reveal his will to them and to lead them in new ways.

How do we know this. For one thing, and the way Paul links fasting to watching in writing to the Corinthian Christians here.

He speaks of the apostles, who he says conduct themselves as the ministers of God and much patience and afflictions and necessities and distresses and stripes and imprisonments into molten labors in watching Zend in fasting is saying that fasting was a spiritual exercise by which he waited upon God to reveal his will to him. Someone might well say I know well is there any evidence that God actually responded to the fasting of these early Christians by revealing his will to them. Did it happen is this theoretical purpose that you've mentioned borne out in practice.

The answer to these questions is yes and what is more, the instances themselves show that fasting was linked to the two most significant advances of the gospel in the ancient world following Pentecost. What were the two major advances of the gospel after it had been first proclaimed in the Holy Spirit and come on the believers.

Well, certainly the first was the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles through Cornelius by the ministry of Peter was fasting connected to this great advance. Yes, it was according to the words of Cornelius so we read in the 10th chapter of acts that after Peter had received his vision of the great sheet let down from heaven containing all kinds of animals and after he had gone in the basis of that vision to the home of the Gentile Centurion really is. Spoke to explain the reason he had called Peter, this is what he said four days ago I was fasting until this hour and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard and 9 ohms or had in remembrance in the sight of God and therefore to Joplin call here Simon, whose surname is Peter, who, when he cometh shall speak today to say it was while he was fasting.

Cornelius received this important revelation. The other great example is found in the 13th chapter of acts. The chapter that recounts the start of Paul's missionary journeys. Here we read that as the church at Antioch ministered to the Lord and fasted the Holy Spirit, said separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work under which I have called them and when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them. They sent them away.

In other words out of that prayer meeting, coupled with fasting, there came a revelation from God. This resulted in Paul's lifelong ministry to the Gentiles throughout the Roman world. Here is a great change in the use and purpose of fasting and the change may be traced to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are studying.

What did he say he did not say that fasting was a form of outward piety. He did not consider it an exercise for the subjugation of the body.

It was not a means of social protest. He taught that it was to be up personal exercise between the soul of the individual and God, thou now fasters knowing thigh and head and washed my face, that thou appeared on the mend. Fast but underlying father who is in secret by father who see it in secret shall reward thee openly. Reward is not the money.

Of course, sudden office promotion. It's the reward of the father's presence and the revelation of his will. Jesus taught that fasting was valuable. To that end, as long as we do it before the Lord and not on demand. I must add that once this has been said the truth about fasting may then be used, to help us go a bit further to see if this is what fasting is not then external religious exercise but a period of abstinence in which the Christian can seek God's will will and it is also true that the essence of fasting can be achieved in other ways can be achieved by abstaining from things. What is more for us. This may be for more important than not eating.

Dr. O. Hollis Bay is one writer who seen this clearly and he has written. Fasting is not confined abstinence from eating and drinking. Fasting really means voluntary abstinence for time from various necessities of life such as food, drink, sleep, rest, association with people and so forth. Fasting in the Christian sense does not involve looking upon the necessities of life which we've mentioned is unclean or unholy fasting implies merely that our souls at certain times need to concentrate more strongly on the one thing needful and at other times.

For that reason, we renounce for the time being those things which in themselves may be both permissible and profitable. One thing for which we should lay aside our normal routine is Bible study old individual Bible study and that with other Christians. This is much to the point bridges in Bible study, more than in other ways that God speaks to us and reveals his way to us at this point I can speak personally for it was out of such a study with other Christian friends that my wife and I were led to establish an English-speaking church in Basel, Switzerland. As a result of the Bible study which met at our home every Friday evening. Christians began to grow spiritually and others who were not yet believers began to be attracted to the gospel in time, we felt the need for regular worship a church service was established to the regular Bible study in English was added another in German. Then the new group for secretaries last summer when I visited Basel again.

The group was still there changed but growing the evidence of God's blessing was apparent. Moreover, I know that the simple story could be repeated by many other Christians in many different parts of the world sometimes to our fasting will lead us away from such things as entertainment and perhaps from television.

This was the experience of David Wilkerson whose story is told in the cross and the switchblade Wilkerson admin. The pastor of a small Assemblies of God church in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, but all of the church and grown in the congregation had been able to erect several new buildings.

The pastor himself was restless.

One night, very late, as he sat watching the light show on television idea came to him that he might profit from spending the time he usually spent watching television praying the words he might fast from television and then see what happened well. Immediately a number of objections occurred to him. He was tired at night. He told himself he needed the relaxation was good for them to be in touch with things that most people were seeing and talking about these were not entirely convincing at the time so we prayed Jesus I need some help in deciding this thing so here's what I'm asking you I'm going to put an ad for that set in the paper and if you're behind this idea little buyer appear right away that them appear within an hour. I know within 1/2 an hour after the paper gets on the streets while his wife was not very impressed with the idea when he told her about it the next morning we put the ad in the paper anyway was a humorous scene the next day after the paper appeared.

Wilkerson sat on the couch with the TV set on one side is wife and children. On the other end. The clock in the telephone before him. After 25 minutes. Just as he was saying when it looks like you're right. I guess I won't have to the telephone rang. You have a TV set for sale. A man's voice asked. That's right RCA in good condition 19 inch screen two years old. How much you want for it. $100. Wilkerson said quickly. I'll take it was the reply. Have it ready in 15 minutes I'll bring you the money. Well, that was the beginning out of the times of prayer that followed David Wilkerson was directed by God to the plight of the teenage gang members in the heart of New York City, and out of his efforts to help them gain a work that God has blessed stand is continuing to bless, not only in New York but now also in many other cities.

Now I don't know how all of this will apply to you. You may be in a regular Bible study or not. You may watch television or you may not. You may fast from food but whatever your daily routine nor habits there are and delicately things that you may want to lay aside temporarily.

Perhaps in order to spend time with God. Probably you will not tell people about it yet, you should do it.

You really should do it for as you do will have the promise of Jesus that the father who is in secret and who sees in secret will reward you openly in our father there any listening today were so wrapped up in things that they cannot hear you speaking to them.

We ask that you will use these truths to begin to draw them once more to yourself and not let us become rich in things or activities but poor in soul.

Instead, fill us with yourself and bring great blessing we pray in Jesus name, amen. Listening to the Bible study hours featuring the teaching of Dr. James Boyce. Fasting is usually associated with abstinence from eating but it has a much wider application it's denying oneself often with the express purpose of helping others.

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The Christmas story can often bring tears to our eyes.

But the Christmas story is more than sentimental.

It's powerful and the main emphasis is not on Jesus infancy, but on his deity.

The Bible study our is offering the book, the Christ of Christmas by James Boyce to all of our listeners. The season that is special rate. This collection of Christmas messages makes for a meaningful Advent devotional for you, your family and friends.

Pick up your copy that's reformed, you know Dr. Boyce's impact reach far beyond the pulpit are Bible teacher was a prolific author and articulate spokesman for the reformed faith around the world. Audio input materials from Dr. Boyce's special event broadcast and writing ministries are by Mark Daniels thank you for checking you it's not very hard to find examples of people who've allowed the love of possessions to ruin their lives spiritually and nullify their witness.

Such stories fill the pages of Scripture and the melody is still with us today. Join Dr. Boyce as he addresses the question, do you in your possessions or your possessions you Mets next time on Bible study our hearing you to think and act biblically

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