My wife can seriously cook! It was one of the best meals I had ever had. I remember it as much for the company as for the food. We were hosting an International Night at our home and the featured cuisine was Persian. I had never had such a combination of foods and tastes. The spices too were new and surprising. I looked around the table at some of my dearest friends and we were enjoying great conversations, laughing, and simply relaxing. Food has a way to do that. Eating is more than just fueling our bodies, it’s an amazing experience. And why shouldn’t we expect it to be? God created food and called it good. So if food is so good why are we at Revolution Church in Portsmouth, OH fasting for a month? We’ve started to unpack that in the previous post in this series, but I want to give us a warning in this post today. There is a real spiritual danger in fasting and a real inherent goodness in food. We must ignore neither the dangers or the goodness when we fast!
If it seems obvious to state that God created food for our good I, nonetheless, think it is still worth stating. The truth is that we often forget it when we are scarfing down a quarter-pounder with cheese and handful of fries on our rush back to work. The Bible teaches us that God is the giver of food (Gen. 1:29-30; 9:3; Psalm 145:15). And furthermore God says that this gift is good, all food is good to eat (Acts 10:9-19). And Paul adds that food received with thanksgiving is not to be forbidden (1 Timothy 4:3-5). And ultimately our salvation is pictured, in the New Testament as eating. It is seen this way in relation to the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29), and also in the great wedding banquet of the redeemed (Rev. 19:9). In other words, eating is a good thing, indeed even a spiritual thing! This is especially true when it is done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
There is a danger, then, in fasting. A danger that we might undervalue the goodness of food. There is a danger that we might look at food simply as a physical necessity and miss out on the spiritual dimensions of what God has created. There is a danger that we might look at it merely as sustenance and not as a great gift from God. Food is a wonderful delight, and good food (like persian rice) is especially wonderful. And eating together is a great act of hospitality and fellowship. So fasting can actually cause us to sin by not appreciating this wonderful gift of God. Fasting can also cause us to become proud and arrogant pharisees!
The other danger in fasting is that we succeed in abstaining from food and think that we have, in turn, done some great thing and assume that because of it God is now in our debt. In Colossians 2 Paul warns us against this very thing, he writes:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23 ESV)
There were teachers attacking the church in Colossae and suggesting that some were either not Christians or were not very mature because theye did not hold to certain festivals, fasts, and religious practices. Paul writes to warn them that such things “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Fasting, in this case, can create “will-power religion.” This can lead to spiritual pride and arrogance. Fasting then can actually become a danger to our spirituality!
It is important that we be conscious of this as we invest in the practice this month at Revolution Church. Food is good, and fasting can be dangerous (spiritually speaking). Be on your guard friends, and, as always, pray as you fast! Having said all that we still believe it’s important to fast, and tomorrow we’ll look more at the reasons why.