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As Passover once again approaches, and with it the ceremony that Jesus asked us to do in memory of him, fasting assumes a more important role than at other times of the year. When asked why his disciples didn’t fast like John the Baptist’s, Jesus said that while the bridegroom was with them, they had no need to fast, but when the bridegroom would be taken away, then they should fast.
So while fasting is not something we should neglect as born-again believers, it’s also not something we should rush into on a whim. As with everything else we do, we should first wait for the green light from God, and then we should fast for the right reason and in the right way.
But what is the right way to fast?
In Isaiah 58: 5-11, we learn the right reason for fasting and also the right way to do it.
If you break the passage down, you see that fasting isn’t about abstaining from food, but abstaining from evil. It’s about disciplining your soul, not your body. It’s about choosing to do what’s good and right in God’s eyes, rather than what’s good and right in the eyes of the world.
This is the fast that has value to God – to fast from doing evil, which Jesus so aptly summed up as treating all others as we’d want to be treated.
And just look at the rewards you get for doing it!
“Thy light shall break forth as the morning”
“Thine health shall spring forth speedily”
“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer”
“Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am”
“And thy darkness be as the noonday”
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually”
“And thou shalt be like a spring of water, whose waters fail not”.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have even just one of those rewards than all the money or accolades or pleasures in the world. To have God’s Holy Spirit like a spring continually welling up inside of you, with the joy and insight that brings – nothing on Earth can rival that. To have God’s protection, to have his constant presence, to have his guidance, to have our worst moments be no darker spiritually than noonday (that is to say, not dark at all) – there is nothing on Earth better than that, and all we have to do to earn those rewards is to spend at least $250 before tax in a single purchase (not to be combined with any other offer) – KIDDING!
All we have to do to earn the only rewards that have any real value in this life is to fast from doing evil.
Well, you say, I don’t do evil. Where are my rewards?
And here’s where it gets tricky for us mere mortals.
Very few people like to think of themselves as doing evil. And yet God in the Isaiah passage above is very clear about what he considers as doing evil – accusing people, whether falsely or otherwise; pointing people out as doing this or that or the other thing wrong; standing in judgement of someone; having the ability to help someone who’s come to you for help, but making excuses why you won’t do it; gossiping; and being rude and mean-spirited, either outright or in your heart. For many people, this is all in a day’s work, and yet to God, it’s evil.
Jesus taught us that we have to be careful about what comes of our mouth, as what comes out of our mouth reveals what’s in our heart.
I guess we should start first with giving our heart a good scrubbing, and then we won’t have to worry so much about what comes out of our mouth.
This is why the desire and necessity to fast from doing evil is so important for us born-again believers. It’s like renewing our rebirth state. Remember the passage where Jesus tells his disciples that certain demons can only be cast out by prayer and fasting? I’m pretty sure the kind of fasting he meant was the Isaiah kind of fasting, not fasting from food. The Pharisees and Sadducees fasted all the time, yet I doubt they would have been able to cast out demons the way Jesus did. Jesus cast them out by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and we know the Spirit only works through those who have a clean heart, those who, in other words, fast from doing evil.
I hope that, before Passover, you seriously consider doing an Isaiah kind of fast rather than a Pharisee or Sadducee one. I hope you scrub your heart right down to the rebirth state and enjoy all the rewards that come with a more powerful presence of God’s Spirit, because that’s what Isaiah is describing. Fasting from doing evil brings you back into alignment with God, just like sincere repentance and spiritual rebirth do.
We need to realign periodically. God will let us know when.
There is no greater joy than living fully in God’s presence.
Fasting from doing evil will get you there.
You know the one I mean – the one that most Christians don’t want to hear and would rather you not mention. In fact, that four-letter f-word is all but censored in most churches these days so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities. Jesus, on the other hand, was a huge fan of the f-word, doing it whenever he found time and reminding his followers that they’d be doing it someday, too. (more…)