About your article on fasting: Jesus said WHEN, not IF you fast.  He used the
same word WHEN in Luke 14:12-14 WHEN thou givest a dinner or a supper (when
you lay out a big feast).  That can’t be construed as Jesus ordering people
to throw feasts, Jesus was addressing the attitude of the heart for why you
do things.  If fasting is so important, why is it NEVER commanded by the
apostles in the epistles to the churches, and why no mention of it being
commanded in Acts 15, when the apostles convened to decide which Jewish
customs were binding on Gentile converts?  Not even Ephesians 6,
instructions for Christian warfare command fasting!  NOT ONE rebuke in all
the New Testament for anybody failing to fast.  Jesus said what goes into
your mouth doesn’t hurt you spiritually, only what goes out.  Incidentally,
NOT ONE recorded group fast was done by Jesus and His disciples, and Jesus
said He came eating and drinking.  He was criticized for enjoying feasts
while John the Baptist fasted. Christ didn’t even command anyone to imitate
His forty days in the wilderness abstinence.  And He taught people to pray
for DAILY bread.If "suffering to gain God’s favor" is important, then
Christ’s own suffering isn’t enough, and a quicker way to make yourself
suffer would be to hit your thumb with a hammer.  I’ve done enough suffering
in my lifetime to be able to say I’ve done my share already.
If your point is that fasting is not commanded specifically in the New Testament, then of course I agree.  Fasting is a spiritual discipline which can help those who do it to connect with God for whatever reason they choose.  It is not commanded because such spiritual disciplines, in general, are not commanded in the New Testament.  Jesus said "when" you fast because he assumed that all Jews fasted on a regular basis.  We know from early church sources that fasting was a common practice in the very early church, and almost certainly the apostolic age as well.  We can therefore assume that this is a practice which can be of great spiritual benefit to those who fast.  However, it is not commanded and anyone who teaches that Christians MUST fast is committing a doctrinal error.  The fact that Jesus told people to ask for their daily bread is NOT a good argument against fasting.  That would be to rather blatantly take his words out of context.  Jesus is showing us that we ought to pray for our needs.   We can pray for fruit or meat or for a job or for emotional support and still be obeying the command to pray for God to "give us our daily bread."  No scholar would agree that this is evidence that Jesus is teaching against fasting because we know that he fasted.  
Nevertheless, in summary, fasting is never commanded in the New Testament.  So, I guess you and I agree on that!
The question, then, is whether you ought to fast in order to be closer to God or perhaps to give emphasis to a particular plea or prayer you are making.  I say it would be a good spiritual discipline for you to consider.  However, if you personally choose to use other spiritual disciplines (late night prayers, singing, kneeling in prayer, meditation on scripture, etc.) then that is you business.  I hope my article did not make you feel that I think fasting is commanded, because it is not.
As for suffering, if your goal is to avoid surrering, then that is not a good Christian goal.  The Christian life is intimately associated with suffering.  1 Peter is largely about the kinds of suffering Christians will naturally experience.   It is, according to Peter, one principle way we come to know Christ.  I suggest you do not design your life to avoid suffering.   1 Tim 3:12 says all those who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.   Peter tells us that in suffering we participate in Christ, and that we as disciples of Jesus should not be surprised to suffer because that is what Jesus called us to.  Bottom line, if you are a Christian, then you are NOT DONE with suffering in your life.  This may be a hard teaching to you but it is absolutely part of the teaching of Jesus.
Hitting you thumb with a hammer is not Christian suffering.  Christian suffering, in the context of 1 Peter is suffering for doing good.  You should not use the example of hitting yourself with a hammer as an analogy for fasting.  We know that Jesus fasted and he certainly did not hit himself in the in the thumb with a hammer.  Hammer-hitting is not a legitimate spiritual discipline in my opinion, and I strongly suggest you not demean those who choose to fast by comparing them to hitting onesself on the head.  That would be to disrespect legitimate, Christian behavior.
To me, fasting is not suffering, but that is my personal point of view.  It is voluntary sacrifice in order to petition God for something.  Anyway, if you do not choose to fast, that is entirely your personal decision as far as I am concerned, but I believe you should not criticize those who fast.
John Oakes

Comments are closed.