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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « A Critical Spirit? | John 3:5 Born of Water and Spirit »
    Saturday
    Jan122013

    On Fasting

    What is it?

    Fasting is a practice that restricts food and sometimes drink for a period of time, usually in relation to religious or dieting practices, and occasionally for medical reasons such as testing.

     

    Some fasts involve restricting one to several particular food/drink item(s) (usually luxuries), other fasts prescribe restricting food to liquids only such as broth and tea. Some fasts dictate no food for the day, but water is fine; other fasts allow no water or food for a certain time.

     

    Occasionally, fasting is described as the sacrifice and restriction (abstinence) of pastimes or activities such as TV, video games, sex, etc. for a specified period of time.  

     

    Why do it?

    Some people fast for religious or spiritual purposes, either voluntarily and individually, or corporately as part of annual rituals.

     

    In the latter context, fasting might be seen as time set aside for spiritual purification, as offerings to a deity, for guidance, for spiritual power, to influence a deity, to imitate a deity, to master “the flesh”, or as a discipline to help a participant “tune in” to the spiritual realm.

     

    On the physical health side of things, some claim that fasting allows the body to detoxify and recommend an annual or biannual liquid fast. Others recommend different types of fasts for weight loss, immune boosting, clarity of thought, and overall well-being.

     

    What does the Bible say?

    It is important to realize that all cultures and nearly all religions use fasting in some way. Therefore, Christians need to be very careful in fasting strictly according to Scripture.

     

    One can easily consult their own Bible concordance for verses on fasting (recommended, to keep things in context) or they might look online for verses on fasting (For example: http://www.openbible.info/topics/fasting).

     

    According to my research, the Bible describes fasting as most often occurring during a time of personal or corporate grieving. Many times the grief is part of repentance (see above link for various verses).

     

    In the New Testament, it seems that fasting was used occasionally in conjunction with prayer in order to seek God’s will and direction in a certain matter (see Acts 13:2-3)

     

    What I want to emphasize is that fasting is not prescribed in the Bible as way to achieve miracles, a way to attain spiritual power, a way to get God’s attention, a way to master the body (though logically, if you truly do have a problem with food, that may be another story), or even as a regular, spiritual discipline like prayer or Bible reading. I’ve noticed many ministries cite prayer and fasting as life-changing, instead of prayer and Bible study.

     

    I believe many of these ministries are simply out to “fleece the flock” (aka: make a lot of money selling their wares as the newest, hottest item). The Bible really doesn’t give much detail about fasting, and it is an acknowledged, but not emphasized practice.

     

    A Note on Daniel:

    Because the Book of Daniel seems to be the basis for many of these books and ministries with fasting prescriptions, I want to take a closer look. There are really only two instances of Daniel remarking on his personal fasting, 9:3 and 10:2-3. But the so-called “Daniel Fast” is based on the passage from 1:8-17.

     

    “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your[c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”


    11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.


    15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. 17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”


    But this passage shows that Daniel and his friends were actually not fasting, but established a lifestyle change, becoming vegetarians (though perhaps only temporarily). Why? Not so that they could be blessed with dreams and visions, but because their food came from the king’s table, and that food and wine were both ceremonially unclean according to Mosaic Law, and had been offered to pagan gods! (http://www.studylight.org/com/guz/view.cgi?book=da&chapter=001)

     

    In Daniel 9:3 we read,

    So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”

     

    In this case, Daniel was in mourning because in the previous verse, the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” Daniel knew this would be, not because he had a supernatural experience, but because he read the Scriptures, specifically the Book of Jeremiah (see Daniel 9:2).

     

    Finally, in Daniel 10:2-3 we read,  

    At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”

     

    This is the passage used to “support” the idea of a 21-day fast. But take note again: Daniel mourned and used no lotions (because of ancient mourning practices).

     

    Christians are so ready to imitate the odd/spiritual-sounding aspects of a Biblical person’s life, without putting that person’s whole life or actions into context. You don’t feel like eating when you are upset.

     

    A case study (Jentzen ministries):

    http://jentezenfranklin.org/

     

    This ministry is just one of the few lately, which has produced a variety of books concerning fasting. These are quotes from throughout the site, but many other popular fasting ministries say the same things:

     

    “How do we seek him first? I can never say it enough—through fasting and prayer”.

     

    “I believe God has more for me in 2013!” (next line) “God is my first priority…”

     

    The Fasting Edge: Recover Your Passion, Recapture Your Dream, Restore Your Joy

    In this fresh look at the spiritual practice of fasting, Jentezen Franklin takes you beyond the basic concepts, discipline and personal benefits of fasting to reveal how dangerous it is to lose your edge—and how easy it is to regain it. He reveals in-depth how fasting is the gateway to the supernatural to empower you to walk in to God’s calling on your life and impact the world around you for eternity. You CAN live to your fullest potential and regain your spiritual edge!

      

    Jentezen’s message, “Formula for Success ” on DVD

    Do you sometimes feel like you just can’t overcome the battles of life? Too often we wait to cry out to God after we’ve tried everything else in a crisis. God’s formula for success boils down to four words: “In the Beginning God....” Discover the secrets of putting ‘God first’ in all things and live in victory as He intended! ‘


    I want to emphasize I think it is a noble goal to strive to put God first in one’s life. But I do not believe there is sufficient evidence that fasting helps attain this goal.

     

    This site has more to say about Jentezen Franklin’s ministries and fasting: http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2011/11/daniel-fast-and-jentezen-franklin.html

     

    Other Resources:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/over-800-churches-to-begin-21-days-of-prayer-fasting-48412/

    http://www.spiritoferror.org/2013/01/the-bible-says-it-i-believe-it-but-that-doesnt-settle-it/2238

    http://www.wgbd.org/fasting1a.html

    http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVSermons/ShouldChristiansFast.htm

    http://www.word-smith.info/christian-life/fasting/historical (though I disagree with the last “Lesson from Church History”)

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