Lesson Seven • Fasting
Devotion 6: Hypocritical and Authentic Fasting
Pastor John Carter
If we go back and review some of the primary ideas associated with fasting in Scripture, we start to really see how the element of humility directly correlates with it.
Fasting has an expression of mourning.
Fasting has an expression of repentance.
Fasting has an expression of seeking God.
Fasting has an expression of seeking God’s protection.
Fasting has an expression of loving your neighbor.
Fasting has an expression of prayer.
Every single aspect of fasting points to a relationship and dependence on God. As one mourns and weeps for loss or pain, they need to rely on the person of God to sustain them through that time of grief. When we walk through repentance and forgiveness, we need to rely on the cross and the person of Jesus to cleanse us from all of our iniquity. When we are lost and have no idea what direction we should be walking, we need to go to God and trust the guidance the Holy Spirit gives us. When we are afraid and anxious, we need to depend on the power and grace of God to get us through those scary moments. When we engage in walking after the things God desires for us, we need to be clear on how we are to love our neighbors. When we talk to God and have those intimate conversations that are just between Him and us, we need to remember who is God and who He is not. The whole element is designed to help us know God. Fasting is a good thing. I would encourage you to try it. Do it with the leading of the Holy Spirit in you. Seek direction, protection, forgiveness, comfort, love, and relationship in the process of drawing close to your amazing Lord and Savior. I am certain that God will show up in ways you cannot even fathom when we authentically walk through fasting the way Jesus laid it out for us. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make life personal. They desire a very close and intimate relationship with you and they want you to draw near to them. Fasting is one of the ways we can participate in worshiping the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The warning of Matthew chapter 6 is to ensure that it is in fact genuine and authentic.
Matthew 6:16-18 says, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
The comparison between one who is a hypocrite versus one who is genuine and authentic in their fasting is pretty straightforward in Jesus’ own words. Today, rest in this aspect of fasting; it is an element that God has set up. It is a way for us to express our humility to God. It requires our dependence on Him. It shows that we value closeness with Him over anything else, even the feeding of our bellies. It reminds me of James 4:7-10,“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
Jesus desires our humble hearts to draw near Him. He wants it to be real and not just something you do for the show and for boasting. If you have not examined this passage, please spend some time reading this example Jesus Himself gave us. I am only going to give you the response Jesus gives to the devil when He is tempted in the flesh. Pay close attention to the words of Jesus. He teaches us some really important things that have to be at the forefront of our worship of the Father.
- “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’’” Matthew 4:1-4
- “Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’’” Matthew 4:7
- “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’’ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” Matthew 4:10-11
Jesus’ use of God’s Word to resist temptation is very powerful. We see Jesus affirming the Scriptures as one of the most important elements of our worship of Him. It is not just passively reading the Scripture, but intimately knowing it and how it applies. He also establishes this element of not testing God the Father. As we engage in fasting, the devil knows how to attack our flesh and its weakness. Jesus shows us that we rule over our flesh through the power of the Spirit. The promise that He resides in us should be a very real and powerful encouragement. Lastly, Jesus expresses the importance of ensuring that our worship is solely devoted to the Father and nothing else. Our service to Him must be singularly focused and not allow other things to distract us from that. Today, take some time to focus your worship on God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.