In the past few weeks, I have been preparing two messages on the subject of fasting. As you know, the method of preaching in the pulpit ministry at Berean is to take the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse. We have been studying the Gospel of Matthew on Sunday mornings for over one year and it is likely that next year and the year after we will still be in Matthew’s gospel. The progress is slow and there are times when you may not think the subject matter of the sermon is all that important.
I am determined that we will not skip any part of the scriptures, so we will continue as we have and take whatever subject that comes as we go through each chapter. We have now reached a place in the Sermon on the Mount that most people are very unfamiliar with. The subject is fasting and it is not spoken of often in churches and what is said is, quite frankly, mostly wrong. Just to simplify the matter without too much explanation, whenever a preacher stands in the pulpit and declares a church-wide fast, for whatever reason, he is not following the practice of the New Testament.
Fasting is an intensely personal matter. It is not something you announce; it is not something that churches can demand, for nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to fast. Much is said about commands for giving and there are many demands concerning prayer, but neither Jesus nor the apostles insisted upon fasting. I have learned in my preparations that there is a wide diversity of opinions about fasting. Some say fasting applies only to food, others say the principle is the most important thing and so it can be applied to any area of life that we decide to deprive ourselves for a time so that we can more fully concentrate and devote ourselves to God.
I tend to believe the principle is the most important part of it because it seems this is the way Jesus presents the subject in Matthew 6. Fasting represents personal devotion. What is our worship to God like in relation to self? Are we putting on a religious show or do we truly have deep conviction in our hearts that we desire to serve God? Are you here on Sunday morning to keep the preacher off your back, or is it because you can’t wait to offer corporate worship by singing, praying, and contemplating the preached word of God? The pastor can usually weed out the two attitudes very quickly. The complainers have one motive and the consecrated have another. Which are you?
Pastor V. Mark Smith