Friday, March 7, 2014

Fasting and the Gospel

In fasting, we hear the words of Christ when He says,

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Matthew 5:6
The man who has never truly hungered in his body cannot fully appreciate these words.

Fast.  Experience hunger in your body.  Deny yourself so that you truly know hunger and understand it.  Know what it is to be driven by want and lack.  Feel how your whole being aches and groans to be filled.  See how time slows and drags as every thought turns to the one thing that you lack and how everything in you longs to be filled.  See how empty everything else is because of hunger.  Feel how important this seemingly insignificant thing is to you.  Get to know this poverty first hand in your flesh.

Then, when you cannot endure the burden any longer, look to your pitiful spiritual condition.  Is not life more than food?  See how poor your soul is. You have far less righteousness in you than food in your belly during fasting.  In yourself you lack the life giving spiritual quality that you so desperately need in order to live.  Your soul aches for want of righteousness and you do not notice.

See how weak your conscience is.  How sad it is that we sinners can so easly ignore these pangs of great emptiness!  Skipping even one or two meals is unthinkable... but God's righteouness?  That can be easily skipped without so much as a glimmer of discomfort.  And yet all the while we are spiritually starving to eternal death.

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh...... Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
John 6:44-51, 53-58
When you break the fast, feel the satisfaction of finally being filled.  Know that Christ, the Bread of Life, gives us his righteousness in abundance as a free gift.  Rejoice that the time of want has ended. Christ saves us from our spiritual starvation by giving us what we truly need.  This righteousness... this thing that we lack and must receive externally like the body must receive food or die... is given freely on account of Christ through faith.

Fasting is not just an internal discipline that turns us inward.  It is an externally pointing one.  It serves as an example of what it is to hunger.  It reminds us of what it means to be truly in need.  It points us to Christ... the only thing that we must have in order to live.

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