In today’s Bible Study, we continue The Sermon on the Mount, and we are going to study the passage from Matthew 6:16-18 – Fasting According To Jesus. This passage is the third illustration given by our Lord of how we should conduct ourselves in this matter of personal righteousness.
Thus, follow the pattern that the Lord Jesus has set in Matthew 6, we can divide Christian lives into three main sections. First is the aspect of our lives in which we do good to other – almsgiving. Second is the question of our intimate personal relationship with God – prayer. And the third is the one we are about to look at as we consider the Gospel according to Matthew chapter 6 verses 16 through 18 – fasting 8.
Additionally, from the very beginning of the same chapter, Jesus warns His disciples that they should not live their religious lives as the hypocrites do. Moreover, our Lord explains how His followers ought to act. Thus, He reveals the only pieties that are true and acceptable to the Father.
So, here is the content of today’s Bible study. First, we will answer the question of what is fasting according to secularism. Then we will consider the wrong ways of fasting. After that, we will look at some examples of fasting in the Bible. Lastly, we will conclude this study by learning what is fasting according to Jesus.
The Sermon on the Mount series:
I would love to glorify our Lord God, who blesses me with the knowledge, understanding, time, strength, and means to learn His Word and write the Bible studies. I pray that God’s Word will reach your heart and many other hearts that seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Also, you may be interested in my previous studies on The Sermon on the Mount:
- The Beatitudes – Jesus’ guidelines for Believers
- The Similitudes of Beatitudes
- Jesus Christ Fulfills the Law
- Angry Enough to Murder
- Lustful Mind is Corrupted Heart
- Divorce – Matthew 5:31-32
- Vows, Oaths And Foreswearing – Matthew 5:33-37
- Vengeance And Love – Matthew 5:38-48
- Giving of Alms – Matthew 6:1-4
- The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:5-8 – Part 1
- The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:9-13 – Part 2
What is Fasting according to Secularism?
Before elaborating on the question about fasting in the secular world, I decided to ‘google’ what secularism is and what fasting is according to secularism. Remarkably, the majority of the search results for secularism gave me a simple definition. Secularism is a doctrine that seeks the separation of religion and government. However, this definition is a lie and deception. And here is why.
During my research, I came across the article on the National Secular Society. Further in the article, it states that “the Queen is both head of state and Supreme Governor of the Church of England“. It is obvious to me that such a statement is not just hypocritical but even blasphemous, is not it? Also, it reminds me about another “Supreme Governor of the Church” – Vicarius Filii Dei – the Pope himself in all his glory. The one who dares to pervert the Word of God. Further, he took on himself alone all the religious powers. Moreover, he has tremendous influence in the political world.
Fasting for the sake of one who is fasting
The title of this section describes the definition of fasting according to the secular world. Although, secularism recognizes that fasting has some positive benefits on one’s mind (spirit). However, their main focus is the effects on the body. Here are some titles of the article that speak for themselves. First, From Religion to Secularism: the Benefits of Fasting. Second, I went on a non-religious fast – and so should you. Third, The monk’s guide to fasting. And the last one, The Diet From God.
The first two we can identify as the secular ones. Hence, they should have no importance for God-worshipping believers. But the last two authors wrote in the light of secularism. Thus they are deceptive, even though they use the Bible to “prove” their point. Ultimately, all of the above has one common thing about fasting – the benefits for one’s flesh and the one who is fasting.
The Wrong ways of Fasting
The influence of secularism in Christianity brings us to the next section – the wrong ways of fasting. And I am glad that you asked, what is wrong with fasting for the sake of the body and the one who is fasting? Nothing. It is not Biblical, and I would not call it fasting but rather a food diet or abstinence. Here is my point, God created your body, and your duty is to take care of it. Ultimately, it is not for the Lord – it is for you.
Evidently, there is always the wrong way to do something. And fasting is not an exclusion of the rule. According to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 8, there are at least three wrong ways of fasting. And one of them logically emerges from the question that you have already asked above.
1. Fasting for the sake of discipline
Here is the first wrong way to fast. As I mentioned earlier, the influence of secularism has distorted the true Biblical meaning of fasting. In the same way, it distorted the moral values of humanity. Although, some people might say that fasting on a certain day of the week or a certain period of the year is good in terms of discipline. We should never consider fasting as part of our discipline.
Therefore, it is wrong to reduce fasting simply to be a part of the discipline process. Rather, it is something that we must keep perpetually. We must always keep our bodies fit; we must always eat healthily and promote a healthy and godly lifestyle. But fasting is your intimate relationship with God, it is holy. Thus, it puts it into a totally different category 8.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).
2. Fasting for the sake of fasting
Another wrong way to fast that many Christians are doing, including me in the past. As a new believer, especially with a Ukrainian Orthodox background, I was fasting for the sake of fasting. Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls it mechanical fasting. This kind of religious practice makes fasting an end in itself. Here is the logic: “Now, because I have become a Christian, I have to do this or that because it is a part of the Christian religion.” That is the wrong motive, and if that is your case, you might as well not fast at all.
A routine is a form of false conduct found in many areas of the Christian life. Many believers simply make up a program for the week to fill their spare time with religious rituals. Thus, it makes such a relationship with God similar to that of a robot with its creator. Moreover, fasting is not the only rite that falls in that category. Christians do mechanical prayer and mechanical Bible reading. Even Sunday service became a part of their weekly routine. And now my question is: if you are a true believer, can you call such conduct worship? Can you call it holy?
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 4:8).
3. Fasting for an immediate result
The last but not the least wrong way to fast is for the sake of controlling your blessings. And I was guilty of that one too. As for me, this is more dangerous and fraught with God’s punishment. There are some people to whom God is like a parent that we can bargain with. For instance, “Hey, dad, I will wash the car if you let me borrow it on Friday.” Or another one, “Mom, I will do the laundry if you let me sleepover at my friend’s place.” Sound familiar, right?
But, you might hear people say that they gathered on overnight prayer meetings or fasted for a certain number of days, and the revival broke through. Sure, that happens. Praise the Lord! But what if not? Then they will say, “well, you did not pray/fast enough.” Or this one, “you have lack of faith.” However, I would point them to 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.
Paul’s prayers and spiritual gifts brought physical healings to many people, yet he could not heal himself. Definitely, it pleases God to answer prayer, but it must always depend on His will and purpose for us 1. Thus, fasting in order to manipulate God is a direct insult to the authority and sovereignty of the Almighty.
Nevertheless, miracles do happen! And the more we learn how to thank God rather than complain, the more we see them happening all around us. That is because God’s grace is sufficient for you!
Examples of Fasting in the Bible
After considering the wrong ways of fasting, it is a good idea to look at examples of the true ones. Of course, the best source for this would be the Bible. Furthermore, we will see not only the correct way of fasting but also its intent and purpose.
- To seek God’s mercy. Moses prayed and fasted 40 days and 40 nights so God will have mercy on the Children of Israel (Deuteronomy 9:18). While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving Ten Commandments from the Lord, they make a golden calf to worship. Thus, Israelites broke the 1st and 2nd commandments (Exodus 20:1-5).
- In repentance. In the Book of Jonah, God commanded him to go to preach to the people of Nineveh. When the word of the Lord came to the king of Nineveh, he proclaimed a fast for all his people. As a result, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them. (Jonah 3:5-10)
- To prepare for ministry. After being baptized, the Lord Jesus went into the wilderness. Christ spent there 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting. Moreover, three-time Satan attempted to test the Lord. However, all three times Jesus Christ rebuke the wicked one with the power of the Living Word of God (Matthew 4:1-17; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-14).
This is your homework, find other examples of fasting in the Bible (see Judges 20:26; Ezra 8:21-23; Nehemiah 1:1-4, 9:1; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Matthew 9:14-15, 17:21; Luke 2:37, 18:12; Acts 13:2-3, 14:23).
What is Fasting according to Jesus?
Before concluding today’s Bible Study on Matthew 6:16-18, it is necessary to go back to where we started. Specifically to the question about fasting according to secularism. Do you remember how do they define fasting? Yes, it is the practice that benefits the body foremost with some effects for your spirit and mind. Thus, it is a total upside-down concept to the one according to Christianity.
According to the Bible, fasting is a discipline of denying the body its nourishment and fleshly desires for a time to devote oneself to seeking God. Although Jesus said to be not as hypocrites, we should not jump from one extreme to another. That is to say, that we should not act to be different than the world. But, if you are a true follower of Christ, to be not a hypocrite means to be natural, to be genuine in your heart before the Lord God.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, Jesus said. That was a daily routine for the first-century Jewish. And not doing so would advertise one for the public. Thus, it suggests that the one who is fasting must have the motivation not to appear spiritually to others but to serve more single-mindedly to God. Again, Jesus emphasizes to do it in private to be rewarded openly by thy Father who sees it in secret.
- How To Know If We Are Spiritually Healthy?
- How Does God’s Wrath Differ From His Discipline
- Worshipping According To One’s Eyes
If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, why not now!? Please, do not wait until it is too late! Embrace God’s Grace, Mercy and Love now – Accept Jesus Now!
Useful Study Materials:
- The Henry Morris Study Bible – KJV
- The Matthew Henry Study Bible – KJV
- The MacArthur Study Bible – ESV
- ESV Study Bible
- Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible KJV
- The Complete Bible Commentary – George Williams
- The Moody Bible Commentary – a one-volume commentary
- Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- NASB Zondervan Study Bible
- Chronological Life Application Study Bible – NLT
- Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Time Lines
- The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible
- Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary