One Day Fast – December 18th

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

– Jesus (Matthew 9:15)

 

In the sermon on Sunday, Dec 8, in the parable recorded in Matthew 25, we saw Jesus allude to himself as “bridegroom.” To his original hearers, this would have seemed an incredibly audacious claim, since the Old Testament instances of the “bridegroom” consistently refer to YHWH.
 
But our sermon passage isn’t even the first time in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus refers to himself as bridegroom. In Matthew 9 (see above), Jesus picks up the bridegroom metaphor in response to disciples of John who are confused about why his disciples don’t fast. In response, he alludes to a day in the future when his disciples will fast – namely, when the bridegroom is taken from them.
 
We disciples of Jesus are now living in those days. Do we fast?
 
In Western evangelical circles, the practice of fasting is too often neglected. But in Matthew 6:16-18, it is not a question whether we will fast – Jesus assumes we will! The question is how we will do it.
 
The seventy-seven or so biblical references to fasting show us the merits of fasting in various situations, including intensive intercession, worship, repentance, and seeking guidance. Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology, 390-1) surveys the biblical texts and synthesizes six benefits of fasting:
 
  • Fasting increases our sense of humility and dependence on the Lord (for our hunger and physical weakness continually remind us how we are not really strong in ourselves but need the Lord).
  • Fasting allows us to give more attention to prayer (for we are not spending time on eating).
  • [Fasting] is a continual reminder that, just as we sacrifice some personal comfort to the Lord by not eating, so we must continually sacrifice all of ourselves to him.
  • Fasting is a good exercise in self-discipline, for as we refrain from eating food, which we would ordinarily desire, it also strengthens our ability to refrain from sin, to which we might otherwise be tempted to yield.
  • Fasting heightens spiritual and mental alertness and a sense of God’s presence as we focus less on the material things of this world (such as food)… This enables us to focus on spiritual realities that are much more important.
  • Fasting expresses earnestness and urgency in our prayers… in a symbolic way, fasting says to God that we are prepared to lay down our lives that the situation be changed rather than it continue.

 

This Advent, as we prepare for the return of Christ, we want to put Matthew 9:15 into practice together. For that reason, we are going to conduct a one-day fast as a church on Wednesday 12/18.
 
All who are able are invited to refrain from eating food on Wednesday 12/18 to devote ourselves to prayerful preparation for Christmas, and especially for Christ’s return. As has been our focus during this “Make Ready” series, we want to pray that we would be ready individually and corporately for our bridegroom to return. We desire that our hunger will remind us of our need for God and will drive us to fervent prayer. As we allow God to show us aspects of our lives in which we are not prepared for his return, we intend to respond in faith and repentance to any conviction that he brings.
 
There are, of course, exceptional situations. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to fast for the whole day, you may consider fasting for one or two meals, or conducting a sundown-to sundown fast. Kids may only be able to fast for a single meal. Some with medical conditions who may not be able to fast from food may instead choose to fast from electronics or coffee for a week – some exercise that brings the same benefits listed above.
 
Church leadership won’t be checking up to see if you are fasting; this isn’t meant to be done under compulsion. Instead, we see this as an exercise we are privileged to participate in together with joy.
 
Similarly, you won’t see us make this a social media campaign; it must not be a “look at us” moment (Mt. 6:16-18). We want it be a time of quietly dedicating ourselves to the Lord, declaring our dependence on Him, focusing on Him a week before nearly everything in our world (last-minute shopping, travel plans, entertaining guests, navigating family conflict, etc.) conspires to draw our attention away from him.
 
Blessings to you as you join us in the fast. May it help us prepare our hearts for Christ’s return.