Is fasting relevant today for Christians?

Q & A

Dr. Lewis Gregory


Q.  Is fasting relevant today for Christians?

A.  Fasting is the practice of forgoing food and sometimes even water for a specific period of time primarily for spiritual purposes. This practice has been common in many cultures and religions over the centuries. There are various instances of fasting in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 58:6 we see that the fast must be according to God’s choosing. “Is this not the fast that I choose: To release the bonds of wickedness, To undo the ropes of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke?” In other words, fasting must be more than a religious ritual. The problem was that for many, fasting had become a religious work, something they did in order to get God to do something for them. God’s fast was to be done at God’s direction for God’s purpose.

There are some misconceptions regarding the word fasting in the New Testament. Some people quote the Apostle Paul when he said he had been in fastings often, as proof that we must fast often. But let’s consider the context. “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:27). Clearly this is an incorrect understanding of the meaning of the word fasting in some translations. It also negates the context of the passage which is not a reference to spiritual sacrifices, but rather to suffering in the service of the Lord. Most translations do not even use the word fasting, but rather the phrase “often without food.” So, Paul was actually saying that he often had gone without food during his ministry. In like manner, Jesus mentioned that the people who were following Him had been fasting 3 days, but this was a reference to the fact that they had not had any food to eat in 3 days. “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (Matthew 15:32). These Scriptures about fasting have nothing to do with the spiritual discipline of fasting, but rather simply indicate that they had not had any food to eat for some time. 

On one occasion Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders because His disciples were not fasting. This is the explanation that Jesus gave as to why His disciples did not practice fasting. “And Jesus said to them, Can the children of the bridal chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast” (Mark 2:19).  For those today who have received Christ—the Bridegroom Christ Himself—is now not only with us, but within us, literally one with us through our spiritual union with Christ. And Christ will never leave us!

Too many Christians are still focused on the form of godliness (the religious ritual) and miss the substance of God (the life of Christ indwelling us). Today we have the bridegroom with us; Christ is literally resident within us by the Spirit. Therefore, the need to gain access to God, to get God to be with us, or to get closer to God, no longer exists. 

Under the new covenant, things have changed. We live in the new day of the new age of grace, as new creations in union with Christ. Upon receiving Christ, you become one with God through your union with Christ. And you can’t get any closer to God than that! Now Christ Himself is your meat and drink—your spiritual nourishment. You have meat to eat that the world knows nothing about. You are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10). Therefore you must partake of Him in your daily walk. Then you will be feasting on the Lord right here and now! Hallelujah, He is here! Oh the glory of His presence!

However, there may still be special times when God calls someone to fast, but that is an individual matter as the Holy Spirit leads. If you do fast, always remember that the power is not in the fast but in the Lord! However, if the Lord does lead you to fast then you must obey the Lord and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of what you do, it must always be from the heart unto the Lord. “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).

On a personal note: During the early formative years of my ministry between 1974-1976, as I was seeking the Lord, I engaged in fasting from all food with only water several times. Most of my fasts were for 3 days although a couple were over a week in duration. My final fast, which was in 1976 lasted for 11 days. The last few days I drank juice along with water to taper off. After 11 days the Lord showed me that was enough. Since then I have not gotten any further leading from the Lord to fast.

But that’s just me, as I said you must do what the Spirit leads you to do. If you do fast, hopefully it will result in a heightened awareness of God’s presence and a greater sensitivity to His Spirit, which is always a good thing.

The more important issue: When God Seems Far Away

Source Ministries © 2017

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