Lent experiences?
Lent is a period of 40 days, excluding Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter
Represents Jesus’ time in the wilderness
Supposed to be a fasting period
Lexham Bible Dictionary defines fasting as
A ritual of abstaining from food and/or drink for a predetermined period;
Biblical basis
Leviticus 16:29 NIV
29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you—
The word for deny yourself is one of the two words used to describe fasting
This is the only command in the law to fast
However, fasting became a common practice throughout the old testament and Jewish tradition
By the time we get to Zechariah, there were four common time of fasting
Zechariah 8:19 NIV
19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
We have several examples of fasting the in OT
Deuteronomy 9:9 NIV
9 When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water.
Daniel had at least a partial fast
Daniel 10:3 NIV
3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
Esther to Mordacai before going to the king
Esther 4:16 NIV
16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
King Jehoshaphat calls for a corporate fast
2 Chronicles 20:1–4 NIV
1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. 2 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
Ezra 8:21 NIV
21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.
Joel calls for a corporate fast
Joel 2:15 NIV
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.
New Testament
Prophetess Anna
Luke 2:37 NIV
37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Paul after the road to Damascus experience
Acts 9:9 NIV
9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Early christians would use the teachings of something called the Didache (dee di cay)
There is controversy over where these originate, some believe the apostles, but is lays out two days of fasting, Wednesdays and Fridays.
John Wesley was so passionate about fasting that he refused to ordain anyone who wouldn’t commit to fasting for two days, per the didache teaching
The question is begged, do we have to fast?
Well, Jesus never commands it, however, he makes it seem as if it should be practiced
There are two main passages where Jesus deals with fasting.
The first is in His teaching one the sermon on the mount
Matthew 6:16 NIV
16 “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.
Thus, he give instructions on how to fast, but technically does not command or forbid it
Matthew 9:14–15 NIV
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 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.
Jesus implies here that the disciples need not fast while He was with them, but a time will come when they will fast again....when Christ ascends...
We see them fast again in Acts 13:1-3
Acts 13:1–3 NIV
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Since we are still in the same church age of awaiting the coming of Christ, we too should fast...
As Jesus points out, we wait the coming of the bridegroom
“Although the words are not couched in the form of a command, that is only a semantic technicality. It is clear from this passage that Christ both upheld the Discipline of fasting and anticipated that his followers would do it.” - Richard Foster
So, what does fasting do?
Fasting is like a “reset” button...
It resets the priorities in our life back to Christ
Fasting does at least 4 things for us

1. Humbles Us

Psalm 35:13 (NIV)
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting....
When we don’t eat and deny our flesh, it humbles us
It helps us to see and remember the things that are important in life

2. Brings Out What is Within

“Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear - if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.” - Richard Foster
The things that we are enslaved to will be faced when we fast
Paul reminds us that we are in control of our bodies and should keep our bodies in check
1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV
27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Likewise, he reminds us to not be enslaved to anything
1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

3. Health Benefits

Just a reminder that fasting is to focus on the blesser not the blessing…when we seek after the things of God for the blessing rather that God Himself, we miss the point
That being said, there are many benefits that can be gained from fasting including:
“increased effectiveness in intercessory prayer, guidance in decisions, increased concentrations, deliverance for those in bondage, physical well-being...” - Richard Foster

4. Reminds us that God sustains us

Matthew 4:4 NIV
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
When we fast, it will do us well to replace the food with the Word of God.
It is common practice that during the times that we would be eating, we should spend time praying and reading the Word
The goal of fasting is to strengthen our relationship with God!
I want to close this morning with a progression noted in the book. He references a gentleman, who committed to fasting once a week for two year...
Notice the progression in the notes from the superficial to deeper things:
“I felt it a great accomplishment to go a whole day without food. Congratulated myself on the fact that I found it so easy...
Began to see that the above was hardly the goal of fasting. Was helped in this by beginning to feel hunger...
Began to relate the food fast to other areas of my life where I was more compulsive…I did not have to have a set on the bus to be contented, or to be cool in the summer and warm when it was cold.
…Reflected more on Christ’s suffering and the suffering of those who are hungry and have hungry babies...
Six months after beginning the fast discipline, I began to see why a two-year period has been suggested. The experience changes along the way. Hunger on fast days became acute, and the temptation to eat stronger. For the first time I was using the day to fid God’s will for my life. Began to think about what it meant to surrender one’s life.
I now know that prayer and fasting must be intricately bound together. There is no other way, and yet that way is not yet combined in me.”
When we begin to fast, we begin to refocus...
If you have never fasted, I would encourage you to check out this chapter before you do. He lays out exactly how to start and how to progress to longer fasts.
As we depart this morning, I encourage you to practice the discipline of fasting!
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