Most of the outward features of worship life in the Old Testament have passed away (like the blood sacrifices of animals, burning up of the first fruits of farm produce, and the turban and ephod of a high priest). One aspect has persisted somewhat, and that is the custom of fasting.
In the New Testament era, it is just that—a custom, not a law or rule. Denial of food to oneself for a brief period of time can be used as a spiritual aid, to practice the urgently important skill of self-denial and to bring focus to God’s agenda instead of your stomach’s.
Jesus fasted from time to time; so did the early church leaders in Antioch as they prepared to send off Paul and Barnabas on their first mission journey. Paul did, too, as he chose and ordained congregational elders in Galatia.
Fasting should not be done if it makes you feel self-righteous or if you are trying to impress other believers with the passion and loftiness of your spirituality. Jesus said, “When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:17,18).
It’s good now and then to be really hungry. It’s even better to be hungry for Christ.
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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