We made the case last Sunday for a new kind of fasting. Fasting would be, and always has been, one of many means by which we seek after God. But with Jesus having come to us as the Bridegroom–God, the lover, who betroths Himself in faithfulness to His people, the Bride–fasting would henceforth have to be undertaken with the Cross ever in view. No longer would fasting be in the hope that forgiveness would come, since in the Cross forgiveness had come. Never again would one fast to beseech God to enter into our condition, since Christ had already entered, and begun to redeem, our condition.
Fasting would still be seeking, still be an act of humility, still be a means by which we ask God to move. But it would always have to be done with an eye on what He’s already done.
That’s how fasting changed with the arrival of the Bridegroom. But we didn’t leave much time to chew on what fasting looks like in practice. Consider a few quotes from names you may know (with thanks to John Piper):
Let us say something about fasting, because many, for want of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous; while, on the other hand where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition. Holy and legitimate fasting is directed to three ends; for we practice it either as a restraint on the flesh, to preserve it from licentiousness, or as a preparation for prayers and pious meditations, or as a testimony of our humiliation in the presence of God when we are desirous of confessing our guilt before him. (Institutes, IV.12, 14, 15)
Of fasting I say this: It is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, or studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God’s Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not . . . be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting.
We fast to remember we live not by bread alone. We fast to feel our dependence sometimes masked by food. Mainly we fast to make time to pray, and for things God would be most pleased to do because the prayers themselves honor His glory.
We’re just over two years old as a community and we’re just now beginning to imagine how God might use our fledgling community.
Might I ask you to dedicate a fast–maybe once a month, or once a week–to pray for God’s use of us? As I’ll be sharing more with the Intro Class next weekend (there’s still time to register), our preliminary vision is to live as those “faithfully present” to God, to one another, and to our communities. Fasting paves a way toward being more faithfully present to God, as it enables us to then become more faithfully present to our world, wherever we find ourselves.
We may not hunger to see God work in and through us until we let our submit to the hunger that frees us to pray–that His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.