Why You Probably Don’t Fast and Why That’s O. K.

June 7, 2016

Matthew 9:14-17

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

CONSIDER THIS

All of the major religions of the world include fasting in their regimen of recommended and even required practices. Here’s my question: is Christian fasting somehow different than say Muslim fasting or Jewish fasting? Said another way, what makes Christian fasting Christian? I think this is the essence of what John’s disciples wanted to grasp about Jesus and his followers when they said,

“How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

Jesus gives a fascinating answer.

“How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

I think he’s saying something like, “Fasting is not about rule keeping but relationship; devotion rather than duty.” Fasting is about cultivating a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus despite his apparent absence. Jesus did not come to establish a new world religion. He came to reveal a new reality—the Kingdom of Heaven breaking in on Earth. This was a kingdom in which every subject could have a real relationship with the King himself.

Giving up food as an offering of faithfulness was the old wineskin. Fellowshipping with Jesus instead of going to lunch is the new wineskin. See the difference. There’s a way of being faithful to God without actually following God. There’s a way of being committed to God without actually being close to God. As we said yesterday, there’s a way of keeping up the form of religion while denying its very power. On the other hand, there’s no way to enjoy fellowship with Jesus without actually following him by faith. Fulfilling a sense of duty to Jesus bears no comparison to a heart that actually desires to know Jesus.

The old religious way cannot accommodate the new relational reality. Fasting is not about a stronger “commitment” to Jesus. It is about a deeper “consecration” to Jesus. The New Wine is the Holy Spirit, who brings the palpable presence of Jesus to us when he is physically absent from us. It’s why the legalistic, duty-bound, wearing one’s commitment to God on one’s sleeve, is like so many broken wineskins.

This is why some churches feel dead and it’s why so many confessing Christians aren’t really alive. This is why you probably don’t fast. You’ve had enough of the old way. You’ve tried it and found it empty; pointless even. And this is why it’s o.k. that you aren’t fasting. You just need the new way of the new wineskins.

Fasting is not about food. It’s about cultivating a quality of fellowship that nourishes and sustains the soul in a similar way that food nourishes and sustains the body.

It’s why I want to keep inviting you to join the Daily Text Fasting Community. We are baby-stepping our way into this new wineskin approach. I’ll send you an encouragement email every Tuesday for our Wednesday fast. Hundreds are now discovering a new and living way of following Jesus. The stories are starting to pile up.

Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.

Daily Text MATTHEW 06-07-16

THE QUESTIONS

1. What do you think about this distinction between duty and desire; faithfulness and fellowship; commitment and consecration? Try to articulate your understanding.

2. Are you trapped in the old model of duty and commitment?

3. What keeps you from trying fasting in the way of Jesus, in the way of the New Wineskin? (And if it’s a medical issue– there are other ways to go about it). Will you pray about joining us?

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Subscribe to receive the Daily Text email.

Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.

J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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