I like it when people are real, honest…transparent. You know what I am talking about? I love those who just say what they mean not what they think you want to hear. David Hogan is like that. Some may not like his style or delivery but you can’t argue with fruit and he has lots of it. He sometimes says things that are very honest and very personal. He isn’t hiding anything. Sometimes what He says makes you pause and scratch your head. Sometimes I have the “what!?!?!?” moment. As an example he makes this comment: “I’m only human but I’m working on that.” I love that! It is a concise description of our walk.
We are stuck in human thinking and limitations. I want to break free from my human limitations. I have the mind of Christ so I want to use it instead of my earthbound logic center. So now I approach things differently. I don’t limit the answers like a multiple choice test. If our list of answers is A through D but the answer is found in S, we will miss it. Likewise when the solution to our problems lies just outside the possible, I will need to reach into the impossible bin to get it. If my path forward is blocked by natural laws then supernatural law breaking may be required. God breaks the rules all the time. Dead people are supposed to stay dead, right? Withered hands can’t regenerate? Food can’t multiply? Alcoholism and drug addiction are genetic prisons? Poverty is reaping what is sown? Limited thinking is a thinking of the past. Up and up we go to the heavenly places. Religion wallows in the quagmire of reason and self-righteous knowledge. Jesus likes to hang out in the unpredictable, supernatural place. I really love Him so that is where I want to be.
All that was an intro for this question from a dear friend: what are your thoughts on fasting? Does it seem like an unrelated question? Nope. Same issue. Can we look outside our human, law-inspired thinking to see what Jesus says from God’s perspective? Let’s make an attempt.
Did you know that fasting was not part of the Law of Moses? It isn’t in there. The first mention of the word in the Old Testament is Judg 20:26 (Not the Torah or Pentateuch).
David used fasting to seek God.
2Sa 12:16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. (ESV)
This is when he had an illegitimate child with Bathsheba. David was waiting to hear from God and fasted while he waited.
I believe David’s example is exactly what God intended with fasting. Somewhere along the way we humans messed it up. For the religious it became a rite of passage or penance. It was a tool to impress God. It was like “I’ll give you a cookie if you clean your room” or “get better grades and I’ll give you more allowance” or “better fast unless you want God’s wrath on you.” Here is an example:
Luk 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “ Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘ God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. ’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘ God, be merciful to me, a sinner! ’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESVST)
So what is the purpose of fasting now? Is there any at all? Jesus actually gives us the answer.
Mat 9:14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (ESVST)
The word used here for fasting is nésteuó and it means…wait for it…to not eat food! Yep, there are no hidden meanings in this one. So what is Jesus saying? First the obvious answer is fasting is denying yourself food. Depriving yourself of food is not fun. It is not a celebration. It is painful to be honest. So when you are “hanging out with the bridegroom” i.e. hanging out with Jesus then it is time for a party not fasting.
But then He says they will fast when He is gone.
“But Pastor Lance isn’t Jesus with us all the time? Isn’t He in us, you say that all the time.”
Yes that is correct and yes I do. I wrote a series of posts starting here that talked about the “second coming” as a continual revealing and personal visitation in power for today. When we “wait on the Lord” we are waiting for “Jesus to show up.” His appearing in our midst in power is like a thief in the night. Fasting is a tool to prepare us for His appearing. Check out the verses that follow:
Matt 9:16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (ESVST)
Can you see it now? WE need to be prepared. We are the new wineskin. He is the wine. His robe of righteousness is what we wear. Our patchwork of self-righteousness won’t cut it. We need a new robe. He supplies the robe. Fasting is an opportunity for God to do stuff to us and for us. Jesus did it to prepare for the temptation.
Something happens when we fast that is outside my thinking. It is not to please God but because God is already pleased. It is waiting on an answer. God doesn’t speak because I am fasting but instead I hear because I am fasting. I am “working on my human” like Hogan would say. I am moving me, not moving God. It may have been religious self-effort in the Pharisaical way but now it is a supernatural agreement with the power of God.
Jesus even said that some kinds of unbelief need to be addressed with prayer and fasting. This was His response to the epileptic boy issue (Matt 17:21). The disciples couldn’t get rid of the demon. The demon wasn’t stronger. The disciples did not believe in something. When we do not believe in something, then prayer and fasting will give us the belief. When we need an answer, prayer and fasting opens our ears to hear. When we need more of Jesus, prayer and fasting prepares us to receive Him. It isn’t a magic lamp that we polish or a slot machine that we put in a quarter. It isn’t penance or payment. It is surrender to being less human and more Jesus. It is stepping from the natural into the supernatural. I don’t understand completely for sure. Still it is something powerful and we get to agree.
So if you feel led to fast, go for it. Ask God a question and expect an answer. How do you know if you are being led? How many times this week, month, day, hour have you heard about or thought on this topic? That is your answer.