We fast for the Lord.
Last week, we determined that fasting in the Old Testament is not necessarily incorrect, rather Jesus indicated that a new approach is taken. Fasting for spiritual enlightenment is still a good thing, yet it pales in comparison to the access we have in the Holy Spirit. It is good and useful for us to humble ourselves before God, and this too is not a new approach.
Here is a passage that supports this type of fasting from the newly formed Church. Acts 12:21-23 demonstrates that fasting to ensure humility and that God is with the new Church and its believers as they appoint new leaders. This was widely practiced but was not what was commonly practiced by the young Church outside of special Church matters.
Here is what a historian, Aristides, commissioned by Caesar Hadrian had to say in a letter about what made Christianity (called the Way at that point) distinct from every other religion.
“They love one another, and he who has gives to him who has not without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him into their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. Such, O king, is their manner of life, and, verily, this is a new people, and there is something divine in the midst of them.”
This is what the new church looked like: they loved each other. The way it was most notable was fasting to make sure everyone’s needs were fulfilled. This is entirely in line with what Paul talks about with the 2 Corinthians 8. The new and most common approach to fasting is not to regularly seek spiritual enlightenment. It is to serve and use that money to make sure someone in your life isn’t starving. This is what marks us as Christians distinct from other religions in the world.
Certainly, this is what God was talking about in Isaiah 58! Spiritual enlightenment might be a side benefit of fasting to serve someone else. Spiritual enlightenment is not, however, the goal. Imagine how stunning it would be for Church families to live this out. What if churches across America fasted to serve churches and people in other parts of the world? What could we do if we didn’t buy Starbucks for a month and, instead of being happy that we have more money in our savings account, gave it to starving children in Chicago or Los Angeles or any of our hometowns or across the globe?
Why do we fast, son? We fast to serve the purpose of the Lord and to seek His Gospel’s advance in the world around us, near and far away. Perhaps that is an advance in our own life through spiritual enlightenment, but that is certainly an advance in giving someone else a meal and engaging them in that Gospel.
Why do we fast Dad? (Part 4)
We fast for the Lord.