A book about fasting should be written by someone who practices fasting. I am an unlikely candidate, as I was born with a cup of hot cocoa in one hand and a donut in the other. [I enjoy life’s delicacies.] However, fasting makes makes me feel great in my mid-40’s: my joints are no longer weak and sore, and I feel healthy from the inside, out. I have even lost a lot of weight from fasting, but none of these side benefits explain why I fast. Fasting is a spiritual endeavor that can only be conducted for spiritual reasons. For me, fasting is a lifestyle. I fast because I want to obey the Lord Jesus in everything, and fasting strengthens my focus upon the Lord and His will for my life. The wisdom of God is that fasting translates to increased self-control and improved, spiritual decision-making in every area of life.
Here is my definition of a spiritual fast:
Conducted solely by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, acknowledging that He alone has power not only to save, but also to sanctify [cleanse from all unrighteousness]
Authored by the Holy Spirit’s guidance
Any fast that is not conducted according to these two, well-established, Biblical principles is unprofitable and vain, as no exercise of the self-will is an acceptable substitute for reliance upon God:
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head Christ, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Paul warned that false teachers who only desire to glorify themselves would enter the church in the last days, inventing clever fictions by twisting the meaning of scripture in ways contrary to divine intent (1 Timothy 1:5-11). All heresies share a common root–encouraging reliance upon and faith in the efforts of man [dead works]–rather than reliance upon and faith in the finished work of Christ. For this reason, the followers of false teachers are said to have a form of godliness but denying the power and to be ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:5-7). They deny that only faith in the blood of Jesus has the power to both save us and empower us to live holy lives, teaching men to place their faith in other things and misrepresenting the atoning work of Christ.
In fact, it was for this very reason that the apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
–2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Pointedly, fasting by any means other than faith in the finished work of Christ and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit results in deception, pride [self-righteousness], and enslavement to a condemning, legalistic spirit of bondage.
At all points and in all things, let us hold fast to the Head from Whom the whole body draws its strength and each member gains the ability to do all things, fasting by faith in Christ, according to the Spirit’s leading (Romans 6:14-18, 7:18-25, 8:1-2,11-15; Colossians 2:19).
Created to Fast
We were created to fast:
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
–Genesis 2:16-17, 3:22
Notice, a fast is not simply abstaining from certain foods, but also partaking of certain foods, according to the direction of God [a partial fast]. Therefore, a fast encompasses both the prohibitions and affirmations of the Lord [what we should and shouldn’t do].
[Now, we are to fast carnal kinds of knowledge (1 John 2:16) and partake of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22).]
Of course, the full, physical fast [completely replacing natural fare with spiritual fare] is the only means by which we may live out the truth of Matthew 4:4, as imitators of Christ (1 Peter 1:13-16):
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
This physical dependence upon the word of truth [Holy Scripture] is a natural illustration of our spiritual dependence upon God–and an example of the supernatural power and provision of the Holy Spirit as revealed through the word of God–a truth made evident in the life of the prophet Elijah:
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
–1 Kings 19:5-8
Whenever we submit the very act that sustains life to the Lord’s leading [allowing Him to guide us in when to forgo, partially partake of, or fully enjoy His abundance], our bodies are supernaturally strengthened: and we receive a grace beyond natural understanding that pervades every aspect of our walk with Christ.
Why is this?
If we are temperate in eating, we are likely to be temperate in all things.
Fasting requires faith; and faith leads to a transformed, obedient lifestyle [an increase in spiritual knowledge, fruit, and works]–for it builds temperance [self-control, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites]–which builds patience, godliness, kindness, and Christian charity, as the following verses attest:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
–2 Peter 1:2-9
Notice, this dependence upon the Holy Spirit to provide every natural need is evident throughout Elijah’s life: when the Lord commands a drought upon the land, He directs Elijah to a brook in Cherith where he feeds him morning and evening with ravens [now, that’s a fast]; later, when the stream dries up, he directs him to the home of a widow and multiplies her bread (1 Kings 17).
It is this same [fasted] dependence upon God that grants Elijah the grace to shut and open the heavens by prayer and to run ahead of Ahab’s chariot for 14 miles to Jezreel:
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees. And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
–1 Kings 18:41-46
By faith, we see that all the things that are made are sustained by the things that are not seen, even His eternal power and Godhead (Romans 1:20)–and that, the same wisdom that flowed through Elijah’s life–flowed through the life of Elisha, his son in the faith:
Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber. And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
–2 Kings 6:8-17
Though the enemy conspire against us and his great number confound us, yet will we be saved [and our spiritual eyes opened], if our hearts are set upon God through fasting and prayer. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Notice, when our enemies oppose us, our weapons are not of this world, but of Christ:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
–2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Only through fasting, prayer, and scriptural meditation will we be able to wage a good warfare against wickedness, as a testimony of Christ’s power and patient faith in the midst of His sufferings on the cross (1 Timothy 1:15-20). [Did not Christ fast when He forgo God’s blessing in order to partake of His wrath against all ungodliness?]
Our war is against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, victory is impossible, if we trust in our own natural strength and ability [for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God–James 1:20]: we are only able to faithfully return good for evil when we trust in the arm of the Lord (Job 26:2; Isaiah 51:9, 62:8; Luke 1:51).
Fasting starves the flesh [our natural inclination to indulge carnal notions and wanton self-interests] and feeds the spirit, strengthening us to obey difficult commands:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The wisdom of fasting is evident in the conclusion of the account about Elisha that we began earlier:
And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
–2 Kings 6:18-23
The Spirit-led fast opens our spiritual eyes to the heavenly realm–so that we may walk in the spirit of love–and not the spirit of fear:
Understanding the visions of the Lord and His teachings concerning this time
Recognizing the spirit of error and apostasy
Gaining power over the demonic realm to fulfill our spiritual calling, ministering good for evil
Elijah faced the same temptations as us:
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Moreover, the same power that was available to Elijah is still available to us, so that we are without excuse, if we deny that power.
Fasting is a work of faith.
The Command of God
It is as natural for believers today to sorrow to see Jesus face-to-face, as it was for the disciples to sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane [knowing they would soon be physically parted from Him].
Jesus explained that this deep grief is to be expressed in a particular way:
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
To fast is to sorrow after Christ’s bodily presence, humbling ourselves before God in remembrance of how Christ’s body was beaten, scourged, and pierced on our behalf.
When I first started fasting, I ate a Matzo cracker [unleavened bread that tastes like unsalted cardboard!] every day at lunch. I ate it slowly, breaking off one, small piece at a time while meditating on how the Lord’s body was broken on my behalf. I was going through a difficult period in my life, and this was one of the most emotionally powerful, spiritually intimate experiences I have ever had with the Lord.
Fasting reminds us that a greater day is coming when the Lord shall return [without warning and in great wrath]–for which cause, by faith, we are to chasten our flesh [swiftly conform our thoughts, words, and actions to His commandments]. Fasting helps us to steadfastly focus upon Christ, so that we may lead purified, holy lives, being ever ready for His quick return:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
–2 Peter 3:10-12
Since all of Christ’s teachings are personal charges, how we feel about Him is revealed in how we respond to His commandments (1 John 5:3). Solomon wrote that wisdom is the principal thing to be desired in life (Proverbs 4:7): and all wisdom is the fruit of simple obedience to God’s clear commands. Jesus told us as much when He explained the source of His great knowledge concerning the things of God:
And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
As we believe and act upon those truths revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, we grow in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom (Proverbs 8:32-35). Consequently, it is as we practice fasting that we are most convinced of its usefulness:
Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in how to fast: remember, according to John 14:26, Christ sent the Holy Comforter to teach us of all things that we have need of to know.
While fasting, meditate upon how the Lord was beaten, scourged, and pierced on our behalf, thanking Him for His sacrifice (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; 1 Corinthians 15:3).
The Lord’s Fast
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
With these qualifications, it seems clear that we can trust the Lord’s leadership: and it is important to consider the whole counsel of scripture in determining a firm, Biblical context for how to fast. For example, having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have a fit and proper need to rejoice and to enjoy the fruits of our labors before God, as they are received from God:
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Clearly, we are to enjoy the fruits of our labors at home (Ecclesiastes 3:13) and to share communal meals with the brethren, including when taking the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Corinthians 11:17-22).
And yet, we are commanded to sorrow after the Lord’s presence, remembering His sufferings and the price paid for our redemption, denying ourselves.
How then do we balance these two charges?
We can learn much about fasting by observing Christ’s example:
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
First, notice, a spiritual fast is an obedient response to the Spirit’s prompting: Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast for a divinely appointed length of time [being forty days tempted by the devil]. More specifically, notice that righteousness is associated with ordained seasons of abstinence and an acknowledgment that God alone is the source of all life [Genesis 2:7; Matthew 4:4].
The Holy Spirit guides our food choices: in this case, a full fast is nothing but water [he did eat nothing]. Secondly, the Holy Spirit’s leadership is an assurance of God’s spiritual provision [grace], that we will be strengthened by the Spirit’s might during our fast; therefore, acute hunger is an indication that God has removed His grace to fast, for a meal or many meals [he afterward hungered].
Fasting strengthens our ability to discern Satan’s devices and resist temptation, granting us power [through faith in Christ] over the demonic realm; moreover, fasting sharpens our ability to skillfully understand and properly apply the word of God. [And the devil said unto him, If thou … And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written]
As it is a form of chastening [spiritual discipline designed to hold our flesh in check], fasting produces a pervading comfort and peace to the soul in the midst of worldly adversity and conflict, even granting us short seasons of rest in the Spirit: And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
Fasting is foremost a ministry to God; yet, it sanctifies and prepares us for ministry to others [the fruit of a fast is often most evident after a fast is completed]: fasting facilitates the operation of the spiritual gifts; notice, Jesus was led into the wilderness, but He comes out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. [And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee … and he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all].
The Spirit of Fasting
Presently, we are preparing ourselves for the marriage supper of the Lamb. As John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ’s birth, we are also to make straight the way of the Lord, preparing the Lord’s people for His return and warning the world of the coming judgment of God against all unrighteousness. Therefore, the present church should be operating in the same spirit as that of John the Baptist, heralding the coming of the Lord:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
The lesson seems clear:
Preach repentance, warning of the Lord’s return
Sanctify ourselves through fasting
Fasting is the Holy Spirit exercising Christ’s authority over our flesh. Recall, Jesus told us that His disciples must deny themselves:
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
–Words of Jesus (Luke 9:23)
The emphasis here is not only upon what we are to do, but the manner in which we are to do it. Daily, we are called. Daily, we submit. Daily, we are transformed. Notice, for John the Baptist, fasting was a spiritual lifestyle, a means of daily remembering that we are to lay down our own will and put on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-8).
A deeper revelation of the power of fasting does not take place overnight–for the longer we practice fasting, the more our minds are renewed–and the more we are convinced of its New Testament [new wine] power:
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
The way of the Spirit is counter-intuitive to our natural inclinations. The flesh wants to hate our enemies; but God counsels us to love them. Self-preservation is a natural response; but God’s teaches us that we are to lay down our lives for our brethren.
Jesus came to show us a new way of living; yet, we naturally desire to cling to our former ways. Therefore, to have power over our flesh, we must strengthen our spirit: and fasting [by faith in Christ and reliance upon scripture and prayer] is the Spirit-inspired means of transforming our minds and adopting a New Testament lifestyle.
Fasting is not suffering [for we receive grace to fast], but a form of self-denial that the Holy Spirit uses to prepare us to be able to endure appointed sufferings, which are according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:19).
Sufferings are certain to come, for it is by our continued obedience in the midst of sufferings that we are conformed to the image [nature and character] of Christ: this is why James taught us to count it all joy when we suffer various trials and tribulations (James 1:2-4).
If we never suffer for Christ, there is no evidence that we are:
Following Him [“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21-23)]
Ceasing from sin [“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,” (1 Peter 4:1)]
Growing in obedience [“Although He was a son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,” (Hebrews 5:8-9)]
Fasting prepares us to endure both those afflictions common to this world–and great tribulation and suffering–such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matthew 24:21). In this time, nothing that the wicked devise in their evil imaginations to do will be impossible for them; and so every form of perverse and wicked work shall prosper, just as it did in the time of Noah (Genesis 11:6; Matthew 24:37-39).
[Therefore, it is improbable that we can even imagine how bad the trouble that precedes Christ’s return will be.].
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service … these things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
When we are saved, we gain peace with God [for the blood of Christ has satisfied the penalty contained in the law of sin and death]; however, the peace of God is only available to us by faith [as we walk by faith] (Romans 5:1-2).
Fasting teaches us how to wa: a peace that is not of this world [for it is not a consequence of situation, but relationship with Christ].
Of course, Christ’s example of love is not easy to follow:
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps … therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin … although He was a son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.
–Hebrews 5:8-9; 1 Peter 2:21-23, 4:1
True dependence upon God is fashioned out of self-denial, even a willingness to suffer according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:19).
While we receive grace to fast, fasting [self-denial] strengthens us spiritually, so that we are prepared to endure suffering: for suffering is the means by which He prepares His Bride for the marriage supper of the Lamb:
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready; and to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held … and they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
–Revelation 6:9, 12:11
He did not deny us.
We must not deny Him.
Those fitted in white robes [glorified saints] were first fitted for hardship, as good soldiers [of the Lord Jesus Christ] who loved God more than their natural lives (Philippians 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:3-6). Like Christ, their testimony was not by word only, but also by deed–for they were willing to suffer according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:19)–and by their patient endurance were made wholly fit and mature for every spiritual work (James 1:2-4).
Before Christ returns, His bride must be purified, being made without spot or blemish: for a perfect Bridegroom is deserving of a perfect bride (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Peter 2:12-22). Like Christ, His bride will be made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).
Fasting is a spiritual work, an outward expression of our inward faith (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:24; Revelation 20:12). As we fast, we discipline the flesh and strengthen the spirit, learning to patiently endure hardship through faith in Jesus Christ:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This essential training by the Holy Spirit prepares us for great tribulation, so that we may avoid the deception that will come upon the whole world at the end of the age, patiently continuing in the faith:
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.
How can some lose their heads, yet not have a hair of their head perish? First, the phrase indicates the close watchcare God maintains over His children [the very hairs of your head are all numbered–Matthew 10:30], noticing every nuance of their present situation and condition. Secondly, He will restore us at the last day when we receive our glorified bodies.
In the time of great trouble immediately preceding Christ’s return [such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be–Matthew 24:21], many believers will be martyred for refusing to worship the anti-christ and take his mark.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Notice, this time of great trouble and deception is preceded by 2 premier events:
A general, growing apostasy among the Lord’s people, marked by a spirit of rebellion against God and His words: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Wolves in sheep’s clothing enter assemblies, confirming evil desires as good [a spirit of witchcraft], causing many to embrace depraved lifestyles (Ezekiel 13:6; Matthew 7:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3). The Lord will call His faithful out of these synagogues of Satan to prepare them to endure great tribulation and stand resolutely in the day of battle (Ezekiel 13:5; Revelation 2:9, 18:4-5). Notice, Christ’s warning against the influence of idolatry [what Paul referred to as preaching another gospel and another christ–2 Corinthians 11:4] is to awaken us to the fact that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17) and that those who follow after false prophets will suffer a similar fate (2 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works,” (Revelation 2:23).
Those cast into a bed will be given over to the strong delusion that the Lord sends upon all those who rebel, as reprobates for whom there is no longer any hope of salvation because they have repeatedly refused to receive the love of the truth or have lost their faith (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). These will not repent and live by faith in Christ’s atoning work; and by their wicked deeds, they tempt many–whether to unforgiveness by their many offenses–or to partake of their sins (Matthew 24:12).
The revealing of the anti-christ, the man of sin (Mark 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Fasting is a principal means that the Lord has given us to guard our hearts against sin, so that we, as overcomers, may endure until the end and partake of the Lord’s reward (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 24:13; Revelation 2:25-29).
Moreover, it has long been the means by which believers prepare themselves to be received by God:
Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
And yet, many brethren today refuse the command to fast, throwing off the counsel of God to follow after the wisdom and traditions of men:
Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
Because they do not fear God, they are not focused upon the joy set before them, but rather, present pleasures and tribulations, for which cause, they invite the Lord’s judgement against them:
It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.
Fasting is the wisdom of God made perfect in man–a preparatory work of the Holy Spirit designed to keep us from the deceptions common to this world–and also the great deception that will come upon all the world at the end of the age.
The Fasted Life
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We are the candlesticks [lamp stands] of God: our whole life is to emanate His glory.
Yet, sometimes, we entertain dark thoughts and evil inclinations. [If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us–1 John 1:8].
Notice, it does no good to struggle or rail against the darkness [for many hate the sin that binds them]. The only way to overcome darkness is with light:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
–1 John 1:7
Notice, where there is spiritual intimacy with God, there is also fellowship with others: for hidden [prayer closet] acts of obedience are openly rewarded and revealed as love for the brethren. Whenever we do not find this love, we find wounded hearts with other [secret] loves.
This is the context of Isaiah 58: the people of God were entertaining secret [dark and forbidden] sins behind the posts and doors of their house, while still retaining an appearance of love for God. Paul warns us of a similar people in the last days who will retain an outward appearance of faith in Christ, while denying the true power of His cross [to not only redeem, but also to sanctify].
We were created to live holy lives.
Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Notice the description given of the people:
They are in need of rebuke.
They continue to retain a knowledge of God and an understanding of His commandments, even apparently delighting in learning His truths; yet, they refuse to submit themselves to the authority of His statutes.
They practice lawlessness, yet seek the benefits of righteousness.
They accuse God of unfaithfulness, blaming Him for the fruits of their witchcraft. [Witchcraft implies that they have chosen to make sacrifices of their own choosing, rather than obeying God’s commandments–1 Samuel 15:22].
They are filled with a consuming zeal [but in pursuing their own interests, instead of the interests of God].
They ask for God’s favor, but ask amiss, so that they may consume it upon their lusts, fulfilling their carnal desires (James 4:3).
Their great danger is this: they practice a form of obedience [which falls short of true submission], passing themselves off as true disciples; in so doing, they indict God, misrepresenting His true character and nature]. Whenever we attribute our sinful works to God [or His righteous works to Satan], we are in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
As practitioners of witchcraft, they fast out of the strength of their own will.
As we fast, light spills out of our spirit into our soul and darkness flees. Yet, a physical fast profits nothing, if it is not conducted by faith in Christ, which implies not only a general acknowledgment of His authority, but also, a pervasive desire to obey Him in all things.
There is no such thing as a half-hearted obedience to God:
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
How can fasting profit, if we are simultaneously rebelling against God in any area of our lives? Fasting is a Spirit-inspired work that humbles our soul and exalts our spirit. As we fast, God illuminates our transgressions by the light of His commandments, convicting us of sin and tempting us to righteousness (John 16:7-11).
Brethren, we are called to difficult works. Fasting prepares us obey God in the hard things–to do the meat of the word–and to endure the agonies of our individual crosses. Commandments like the one that follows are impossible to follow without denying our carnal inclinations and submitting our will to His:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
As we fast, the pull of the flesh is weakened, and the light of Christ spills forth into our souls, purifying us of the impurities of sin, so that we, as the lampstands of God, cast for the truth of God’s word into the surrounding darkness.
In Isaiah 58, God describes the fasted life that He desires from His disciples:
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Fasting helps us die to self, so that we can live to God (John 12:24). These are the fruits of a spiritual fast:
To cast the light of His word into the darkness of this present world.
To strengthen feeble hands.
To seek after justice.
To live holy lives.
To serve the people of God.
To care for our families.
And when we live by faith, we receive the rewards of righteousness:
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Fasting is a prophetic declaration of the manifest power of His word working in us to prune the carnal nature and produce spiritual works, so that our eyes are opened to the truth that God alone determines our outcomes, as our Source for all things. It is how our desires are conformed to His own (Psalm 37:4):
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
What is the reward of righteousness? Those who live fasted lives, enjoy God’s favor, good health, and provision, prospering where others perish:
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
A fast is a laying down of our own will and a taking up of the will of God.