- By Rev. Devadosan Sugirtharaj
- Posted 02/17/2021
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Ash Wednesday Sermon
Biblical Purpose of Fasting
- Fasting is one of the Spiritual disciplines of faith. It is underestimated or ignored by many people.
- There are two types of fasting in the Bible. Private and Public
- God calls his people and the world to fast and pray for God’s forgiveness and restoration. In the bible, fasting is mentioned in 70 times.
- The Hebrew word for fasting is Sum and it is used for religious exercise and conveys the explicit meaning ‘to abstain from food’.
- The Greek word for fasting is Nesteuo and it is used for the similar meaning of Hebrew as abstaining from food.
- In the Bible, fasting is described as the spiritual discipline and religious exercise in the context of prayer and repentance.
- The biblical purpose of Fasting is focused on God. Matthew 6:16
- Matthew.6:16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the [a]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.
- Isaiah.58:1-3:“Cry aloud, [a]spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;They take delight in approaching God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And [b]exploit all your laborers.
- Joel.2:12-14:Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him— A grain offering and a drink offering For the Lord your God?
- Ezra.8:21:Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.
- Fasting is not drawing attention to ourselves for the act of abstaining from food. It is focused on God and attends to his presence.
- “Fasting is the most feared and misunderstood of all the Spiritual Disciplines. We fear that fasting will make us hollow-eyed fanatics or odd for God. We worry that it will make us suffer dreadfully and give us a generally negative experience. For some Christians, fasting for spiritual purposes is as unthinkable as walking barefoot across a fire pit or handling poisonous snakes in order to prove their devotion.”- Anonymous.
- The Biblical purpose of Fasting is focused on the right reasons. Matthew 6:17
- Matthew.6:17-18a: 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting,
- Isaiah.58:4-Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. 5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness. To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are [d]cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
- Acts.14:23:1 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
- Exodsus.34:28-29: So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
- Jesus is very concerned with the internal motivation driving His disciples’ actions and we see from His teaching that doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is not acceptable.
- Let’s remember that when we obey Jesus’ instructions about living life we actually find a life worth living. When giving, prayer and fasting are practiced based on Jesus’ instructions and within the framework of the rest of biblical revelation
- Christian fasting seeks to take the pains of hunger and transpose them into the key of some eternal anthem, whether it’s fighting against some sin or pleading for someone’s salvation, or the cause of the social injustice, or longing for a greater taste of Jesus.
- The Biblical Purpose of Fasting is focused on Breakthrough. Matthew 6:18
- Matthew 6:18b: but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you [b]openly.
- Isaiah 58: 8-12: Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, The [e]pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your [f]darkness shall be as the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of [g]Streets to Dwell In.
- Acts.13:2: 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.”
- Esther 4:3: And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
- Fasting teaches us to deny ourselves and choose the way of Jesus in every area of our lives. Fasting is physically painful and uncomfortable yet so is following Jesus. Let the physical hunger pangs remind you to hunger and thirst after spiritual righteousness (Matthew 5:6).
- Consumer culture disciples us to change our external situation through purchasing to bring pleasure, meaning, and happiness to our inner world. Contending takes the opposite approach. Personal renewals begin in the hidden places, often driven by solitary prayer and self-examination, examination, communion with God, fasting and the habits of secrecy, the uprooting of sinful patterns, and confessions with trusted leaders and pastors. Eventually, this inner change of the heart will overflow out into our external lives, creating a potential for renewal in the social world around us. (Reappearing Church: Mark Sayers)
We begin the Lent season of fasting and prayer on this Ash Wednesday. We learn the biblical purpose of fasting from the teachings of Jesus Christ, our Lord as follows.
1.Biblical Purpose of Fasting is focused on God. Matthew 6:16
2. Biblical Purpose of Fasting is focused on the Right Reasons.Matthew 6:17
3. Biblical Purpose of Fasting is focused on God’s Breakthrough. Matthew.6:18