Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"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. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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" (Matthew 6:16-18).

IDEA: If we fast, it should have the purpose of helping us concentrate on the Lord.

PURPOSE: To help listeners think about why we might fast.

Do you fast?

Have you fasted?

Do you know Christians who fast?

Why?

I. Does the Old Testament say a great deal about fasting?

In the Old Testament, the people were called to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement. While the people had many feast days, they had only one fast day.

In the Jewish calendar, people also fasted on the Jewish New Year.

Individuals might fast at other times, allegedly to exercise moral and religious discipline or as a sign of repentance.

The Pharisees fasted twice a week—on Monday and Thursday.

They did it for both pious and impious reasons.

II. The New Testament does not command Christians to fast.

In Mark 19-20 Jesus explained why his disciples (in contrast to the Pharisees and John's disciples) did not fast: "Jesus said to them, 'Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.'"

A meal, rather than a fast, stands at the heart of our worship. The good news brings joy, rather than remorse.

Do you think it is wrong for Christians to fast today?