Monday, March 2, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Care (1 of 4)

Many people have participated, at some level, in most of the Spiritual Disciplines this series has covered so far. Previous posts have included Bible Intake – which has several components, including hearing, reading, studying and memorizing, meditating, and applying God's Word. Other Disciplines have been Prayer, Worship, Serving, Stewardship, and also Evangelism. (Each of the links is to the first post for that given week’s worth of posts.) However, this week's topic is another Discipline that is expected of us, yet few do – at least for spiritual reasons. The Discipline – Fasting. Many have had to prepare for some blood-work to be done, and in advance of that, have been asked to fast. But most of us have not chosen to fast to seek the heart of God.

So, this week, I will provide thoughts on the Discipline of Fasting. It is often misunderstood. So in my third post this week, I will post a summary of what Fasting is according to the Bible. But first, let me attempt to explain biblical fasting.

Fasting Explained

Fasting is a believer's voluntary absence from food for spiritual purposes. Some believe only food (and water) is true fasting. Others believe any kind of fasting can count. Let me make two quick points on this.

1) The Bible only mentions fasting from food and water. BUT...

2) ...I don't believe fasting from television or something to be a matter of sin, so this debate is similar to the one in Romans 14. Thus, 14.5 applies (“Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.”).

Now, regarding the definition – fasting for spiritual purposes – remember, this series is about Spiritual Disciplines. Spiritual Disciplines are disciplines empowered by the Spirit of God as we train ourselves in godliness (1 Timothy 4.7). Thus, the fasting I am speaking of only relates to Christians. Others may fast and be better off emotionally, and perhaps physically. Other religions might say better off spiritually for them as well. But I am making an exclusive statement here – biblical fasting is only beneficial for followers of God. Just like others may give an offering or serve others in some capacity (both within and without the church), these acts may help others, but do not benefit them spiritually. And the same is true with biblical fasting.

So, why fast? Well, before I answer that question, I provide you with the following quote:

“Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person's appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God.”
– Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Are you hungry for God? Well, if not, it might be because your belly is too full. I know I am not as hungry for God as I should be, and frankly, as Paul wrote in Philippians 3.19, it may be because my stomach is my god far too often. So should we fast? On Wednesday, I will answer that question in Part 2 which looks at two specific instances when Jesus discussed Fasting.

*This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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