What is fasting? Why should we do it? What does Jesus say about fasting? In this sermon, Dan Kent explores these questions, and wrestles with the practical implications of fasting in our world that is overcome by the pursuit of pleasure.
What does fasting look like within the Kingdom story that Greg has been speaking about over the previous weeks? So many times, fasting is just seen as a rule that we follow because it is something that will help us. However, there is much more to it. It is actually a way that we join in what God is doing. We read that, “Jesus came to destroy the works of the enemy” (1 John 3:8). Jesus came to confront the chaos that keeps us from God’s presence. If this is the case, then spiritual practices are much more than ways to be a good disciple. They are actually warfare tactics that help us enter into God’s agenda of defeating the enemy. In a world that is full of noise, stimulation and indulgence, fasting serves as a way for us to grow in our awareness of the presence of God in the midst of all the chaos.
When we look at what Jesus said about fasting in our focus scripture, we see two things. First, Jesus said, “When you fast …” It was assumed that the people who listened to him were fasting. Dan ties this to the story of Exodus. When the Israelites left Egypt, they were no longer in that foreign land, but they still longed for it. They could not get Egypt out of their heart. They had to fast from the comforts that they had grown accustomed to so that they could enter into the Promised Land. Fasting is a way to get the pleasures of this world out of our souls. We need this more than ever today. It is far too common in our modern world to be addicted to pleasure instead of living in a way that is truly fulfilling. Fasting helps us not to be conformed to the world’s pleasures so that we can be transformed by what we truly need to experience.
The second thing Jesus says is that we should not show others that we are fasting. This is a confrontation of the common pattern that we evaluate ourselves according to what other people think about us. This is a type of bondage that keeps us from having an authentic relationship with God that is free and true. We end up doing the right things because of social pressures instead of out of a life of love.
Practically speaking, Dan provides specific direction for our relationship with food. First, we can shift our stride. We can think creatively about how we eat our food so that it is not full of sugar, fats and salt. This will free us from the fixation on pleasure so that we can experience a sense of flourishing that meets our true needs.
Secondly, we must keep our eyes fixated on Jesus, and the fact that fasting helps us focus on where we are going in our relationship with him. It is not a rule to follow so that we can be spiritual, but a means for connecting to the love that God has for us.
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