The Church needs to be called together for a family meeting. Gather around. There is a topic of great importance that must be discussed. And no, it cannot wait..

Why does the Body of Christ insist on the avoidance of denying the body?

Do you know many people who fast? How often do you fast? Do you even know what fasting is!?

The Assemblies of God define fasting by saying it is “a voluntary, private, and Spirit-led separation from one’s usual activities of life.1 This mirrors most modern religious definitions of fasting. Perhaps our problem is that we have made fasting too voluntary, private, and spirit-led. Where is the accountability?

Many are wondering why there needs be mutual accountability for a private action.

Like faith, fasting was never meant to be a fully private matter. Click To Tweet

Let’s be honest, part of the problem is the Bible itself. (Stick with me here for a moment). The Bible records Jesus as having a single fast. Though, admittedly, it was a pretty impressive one that lasted 40 days and nights. A quick Google search finds that many Christians take this to mean that Jesus fasted only one time.

But how do we reconcile the idea that Jesus fasted only once with his words in Matthew 6:16-18: “…and WHEN you fast…”

Jesus assumed that his followers were fasting. Jesus assumed that his followers would continue to fast. Why?

Jesus regularly fasted.

A survey of the Old Testament show us that fasting was an expected discipline among the Jews before the time of Christ. Historical records also indicate that that fasting was a common practice among first century Jews and early Christians. It would not have needed to be noted by the Gospel writers because everyone would have known and practiced the same fasting regime.

This helps make sense of Jesus call to fast and pray in more private ways. Some had turned these spiritual practices into an opportunity for show and self-promotion. Jesus was intent on showing that this kind of display worked against the very point of these important practices.

The Early Church feasted, but the Early Church also fasted… a lot!

In addition to individual fasting, the Early Church joined together in weekly fasts, year-round. Most commonly, Christ-followers would fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Some would fast for the entire day, others only a portion. And lest we think that their fasting meant no food at all, often they simply changed their diet through partial denial. These days were a reminder of their unity with Christ and his body. Their small sacrifice was a reminder of Christ’s greater sacrifice. The self-denial drove them more deeply into their faith and more quickly to their knees in prayer.

The Early Church feasted a LOT... but they fasted more. Click To Tweet

Today, we could learn a lot from the balance brought by the Early Church in their feasting and fasting. Unfortunately, we have so privatized our faith practices that they have all but died.

So I ask again:

Do you know many people who fast?
How often do you fast?
Do you even know what fasting is!? 

Say the Southern Baptists: “…why are [we] more known for our feasting than fasting.”2. Potlucks notwithstanding, the Baptists have a point! And it’s not just the Baptist. USAmerican Christianity has gotten a bit fat and maybe just a bit lazy. We have become a Church that is more defined by self-indulgence than just about any other sin.

The Church has become the Garfield the cat of the modern era. Click To Tweet

 

PRACTICE:  Lent is coming. Begin now to pray about what you will give up for 40 days and 40 nights. Consider whether God is calling you to some deeper level of self-denial than years past.

 

  1. ag.org/top/Beliefs/topics/gendoct_04_fasting.cfm
  2. www.sbclife.net/articles/1995/12/sla7
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Kevin holds a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies from Portland Seminary, where his work on Early Church spiritual formation passed with the rare honor of exemplary distinction. He is also a graduate of Cedarville University and Dallas Theological Seminary, holding degrees in Biblical Studies, Visual Communications, and Church Educational Leadership. Kevin has served on ministry staffs in some of the largest churches across the United States and is currently the Senior Minister of JupiterFIRST Church in Jupiter, Florida. His most important role, though, is husband to Sally and dad to four of Generation Z’s youngest members: Libbie, Lucy, Harris, and Matthew.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Kevin, thank you so much for these posts! As a former Lutheran, Disciple of Christ, Baptist, and Friend, I so appreciate the insights you are sharing about the faith practices of the early church… I have been gradually moving away from the traditional and liturgical my whole adult life, but you are helping me to see that maybe I don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater… Perhaps some of the traditions that I grew up with can still be a part of my faith-walk, if practiced in the proper context. Thank you, as always, for challenging me and for bringing understanding…I believe it is your gift! Keep these posts coming!

    • Heidi,
      Your words have deeply affected me. Your journey is very similar to so many modern Christ-followers. You have been brought up in two very different worlds. As you can tell, I believe that they both have some very important things to offer us. I pray this community helps you find help and hope for the road ahead!

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