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It is Not Obvious that Fasting is Christian (Fasting Edition #161)

  • Broadcast in Spirituality
Daniel Whyte III

Daniel Whyte III


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Our fasting quote of encouragement today is from John Chrysostom. He said: "Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives us wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation! God, like an indulgent father, offers us a cure by fasting."

Our fasting devotional today is titled "IT IS NOT OBVIOUS THAT FASTING IS CHRISTIAN" from John Piper, author of the bestselling book "A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer".

This is a crucial question for at least four reasons. First of all, fasting, as a deliberate abstinence from food for religious, cultural, political, or health reasons, is "a practice found in all societies, cultures and centuries." Virtually every religion in the world practices fasting. And even non-religious people fast for political and health reasons. So why should Christians join this pagan parade of asceticism? Second, even if fasting was practiced extensively by God's people in the Old Testament, does not the arrival of the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus make this practice obsolete? Can you put the new wine of the kingdom into the old wineskins of external form and ritual? Third, does not the finished triumph of Christ on the cross, and the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in the church mean that the victorious Christ is so powerfully among us that the dominant spirit of life should be celebration, not mortification? And besides these three objections, does not the triumph of fasting over the body's appetites lead to pride and self-reliance, which is even worse than gluttony?

So it is not at all obvious that fasting is a distinctively Christian thing to do. If it is, we need to see how it relates to the Center. And the Center is the triumph of Christ in dying and rising and reigning over history for the salvation of his people and the glory of his Father.