November 7, 2009 SOVEREIGN GRACEBAPTIST CHURCH Of Princeton, New Jersey
Matthew 6: 19: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
MEETING LOCATION Rocky Hill Firehouse, 2nd floor 150 Washington Street, Rocky Hill, NJ, 08553
SCHEDULE OF SERVICES Sunday 10 AM Bible Class 11 AM Morning Service Thursday 7:00 PM Mid-week Service
What is the purpose of fasting? Most know that fasting means to abstain from food and drink. At times, your physician may require you to fast before tests or surgery. That is not what the Lord is speaking of here. But physical sickness may help to illustrate a fast. When we are sick we have no appetite. We are turned from all desire to eat the things our bodies normally crave. Fasting is our body's natural reaction to sorrow and bodily affliction. A spiritual fast holds much the same significance.
There were many fasts called for in Israel, but the only fast required in the law was on the Day of Atonement. The believer was to do without all bodily food while turning all his attention to the High Priest and the Lamb as he entered into the holiest of holies with the blood to make atonement for the sin of the people. Fasting on the Day of Atonement was a deeply personal matter for the true believer. It signified what our Lord does in a sinner when he gives us soul-sorrow and godly repentance turning us from the appetites of sinful flesh, to Christ Jesus our soul-satisfying Bread from heaven.
Are believers required to fast in our day? At the time that our Lord said this, having not yet been to the cross, the Jews to whom he was speaking were yet fasting as required by law. Christ being the end of the law, the believer is no longer under the law. There are not now any set days required by law, for "fasting." We do find several instances in the New Testament where believers voluntarily fasted but a true spiritual fast is the result of a work of God's grace in the heart of the believer. There are seasons when God afflicts our souls in loving correction. The believer mourns his sin, desiring in earnest our Manna from heaven. Often these are seasons when no earthly food will do. But take note of how often our Father is said here to be "in heaven", "in secret", "which seeth in secret." Believers are instructed in the hidden man of the heart by our Savior. We worship from the spirit he has created within us, not to be seen of men.
FALSE AND TRUE FASTING Read Isaiah 58: 1-7
Hypocritical Fasting (v1-5.) The Lord Jesus Christ says that our heavenly Father sees in secret. The complaint of the hypocrite to God is, "thou seest not", "thou takest no knowledge." They kept track of all their labor, even forcing their servants to fast. Just as religious organizations do in our day, they made sure they marketed to the world how their ministry separated sinners from sin. Their show resulted in strife and debate: contentions and disputations over rites, ceremonies, forms of practice among their fellow religious showman. When any among them refused to receive their doctrines or submit to their form of godliness they would smite with the fist of wickedness, persecute (drive away) all who would not comply. Instead of fasting away from these sinful appetites of the flesh they took great pleasure in this molded fleshly bread; instead of shutting their mouths from this foul water they made their voices to be heard on high. In a true fast, the believer was called of God to shut his mouth, mourning his sin against God, to acknowledge his total inability, to cast all his well-fare on the LORD of glory. Yet, the hypocrite took so much pleasure in attracting men into his religious organization by marketing his fast to the world, that the LORD says instead of a fast it was a feast (Is 22: 12, 13.) We can be sure that if we make our voices to be heard on high, we may have a multitude following us, but our High King will not hear us.
True Fasting (v6-7) A true fast is not an observance of one day or a physical act of religious ceremony; it is perpetual, spiritual separation from the poison food of the flesh to Christ our Manna from heaven. These two verses include the bondage which every chosen child of God is in when the Spirit of grace brings us into this fast-of-separation to believe on Christ. As horrible as this bondage, it was the food we craved, the well of abominable water springing up from our evil hearts.
Yet, through his life and death, by his one sacrifice for the sin of his people, Christ Jesus put away our sin, fulfilled the law on our behalf, and conquered death. He delivered us from the bands of wickedness, the heavy burdens, breaking every yoke that kept us from our God. He set us free (Jn 8:36.) We were starved but he fed us the Manna from heaven. We were poor but he brought us to the household of God. We were naked but he covered us in his righteousness. When he drew us to call on him for mercy, he did not hide himself from us because we are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, the fullness of his own body.
In his amazing love and grace toward us, he separated us in this perpetual fast from poison bread giving us a hunger and thirst after Christ our Righteousness. He makes the believer to see their own sinful flesh in the poor, starved, naked, bound and oppressed sinners who are yet without Christ. His love toward us constrains us to deal with sinners the same way that he has dealt with us--to loose the wicked bands, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. By his grace, we long for sinners to be separated into this glorious union with our Redeemer. This is a true fast.
Be sure to make the connection between alms giving, prayer and fasting. In Matthew 6, the Lord goes right from speaking of alms giving, to prayer, to fasting. Christ Jesus is the Almsgiver as we just read in Isaiah. Christ Jesus is the Intercessor in whom we are joined in sweet fellowship with our Father in truth and in spirit. Jesus Christ is our Fast from the husks of sin and bondage to the Bread and Liberty of heaven. His effectual grace makes us to give, to pray and gives us a distaste by which he keeps us separate from that which we now hate. Yet, the outward working of this grace is a secret thing wrought in the secret man of the heart by God who is secret. The man of flesh knows nothing of it. For his own good and ours, we dare not attract the fleshly man into imitating what he knows nothing of by marketing these outward manifestations of what God has wrought in our hearts.
One last thing Compare Isaiah 58: 8 with Matthew 6: 18. Before this fast we had no light. Our health was horrible because we fed only on death. Yet, after the Spirit of grace makes us to fast from the death-bread to our Life-Bread then Christ our Light breaks forth as the morning, Christ our Health springs forth speedily, Christ our Righteousness goes before us and the LORD is our rear-ward (he has us hedged about.) This has to be what our Savior means when he says, "Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."