3 Reasons to Fast

Wes McAdams: 3 Reasons Christians Need to Be Fasting

I’ve written about fasting before, so it’s nice to see another Christian writer touch on the subject in a practical and accessible way. Especially after a season usually given to excess, it’s good to consider denying self.

I realize the subject of fasting is not a popular thing to talk about, but that is exactly why we need to discuss it. Few biblical practices are neglected in the church today like fasting. Here are three reasons why we all need to be fasting.

  1. We need to fast because we need to be devoted to prayer.
  2. We need to fast because we need to consider what we are truly hungry for.
  3. We need to fast because we believe in restoring New Testament Christianity.

The Word Became Flesh

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - The_Nativity: Painting depicting Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Jesus

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 1:1 – 18

Oftentimes, we speak of Jesus birth and life on this world as if they are secondary to His death and resurrection. There’s no question that Jesus’s death and resurrection is the culmination of everything the Old Testament prophets looked forward to, and it opened the way to salvation for all. I John 2:2 calls Jesus the propitiation for our sins; Hebrews 9:12 says that Jesus entered the most holy place by means of His own sacrifice; and Jesus Himself says, addressing the mob that came to capture Him in the Garden, “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled,” in Matthew 26:56.

There’s no question in my mind that Jesus’s crucifixion was intentional, divinely planned, and the dawn of a new covenant between God and His creation. But He could not die as one of us without first living among us, and that life teaches us much about who God is and who we should be. His life demonstrates to us what it is to be Christian. I Peter 1:16 states that we should be holy as our God is holy. Jesus’s life exemplifies what that means. He gives us the template after which we should pattern our own lives. His death gives us hope, and His life gives us purpose.

Philippians 2:5 – 8 illustrates this fact beautifully:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

We serve a Savior who humbled Himself to live a human life. We have a God who became a servant. We have a Messiah who suffered as we do; who faced temptations as we do; who felt the same joys and sorrows we feel. In doing so, He showed us what it means to be Christ-like in our own lives. As Hebrews 4:14 – 15 says, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our challenges and our weaknesses, which allows us to approach His throne with confidence in our times of need.

While many of us recognize that December 25 was almost certainly not Jesus’s birthday and that the only event we’re commanded to memorialize is His death, may we never minimize the importance of His birth and life simply to counter popular culture.

Jesus could not have died had He not first lived among us. For that, He had to be born as Immanuel — God With Us. He had to fulfill prophecy that He would be born to a virgin, to the tribe of Judah, in the town of Bethlehem. May we live to glorify our Savior by taking hope in His birth, honoring and finding purpose in His life, and then living for the hope His death provides us. May we always glorify, honor, and magnify the Word that became flesh.

Removing the Sword from Our Words

image of a man shouting into a bullhorn

When Jesus told Peter to lay down his sword, he instructed us all to reject violence and unnecessary conflict. This is not restricted to my refraining from physically attacking you for differing beliefs; it must, by extension, affect our words and attitudes toward those outside the body. If I unthinkingly hurt you with my words, then I am every bit as guilty of attacking you as if I had truly taken sword against you.

Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12 both compare God’s word to a sword. It pierces hearts and minds; it divides between right and wrong. It discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart. But there’s a danger in wielding a sword carelessly or rashly. I recently saw this approach come out in a lesson I was listening to about Catholic doctrine. Setting aside the fact that the preacher was teaching factual inaccuracies, his tone and word choice would have likely driven away anyone who identifies as a Catholic.

He said things like:

  • “They claim to respect the Bible, if you can call what they do respect.”
  • “How can anyone think this is pleasing to God?”
  • “The priests get up and do their mumbo-jumbo.”

I almost interrupted the lesson (and I kind of wish I had). It was unnecessarily harsh and disrespectful to others’ long-held beliefs. Sure, he might have been preaching Biblical truths, but he was doing so in a way to ensure he alienated anyone who didn’t already agree with him. I’ve been guilty of the same in the past, but it’s no more than another form of self-sacrifice to show grace in our speech toward or about those with whom we may disagree.

The place where this seems to be the biggest challenge is online. When we get behind our keyboards, our natural filters disengage, and we write things in posts and comments we would likely never say in person. I’ve even seen it in church families — brothers and sisters who are perfectly pleasant to each other’s faces but who have written extremely thoughtless and mean-spirited things to each other online.

We would all do well to remember some warnings from Jesus and His followers about our speech:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

James 3:10 – 12

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

We should be as careful with what comes out of our mouths and our keyboards as we are about any other potentially sinful activity. Our words need to be thoughtful and intentional, inviting consideration rather than demanding a reaction. Yes, there were times when Jesus’s or Paul’s words gained a hard edge; that’s not in dispute. Those times, however, were the exception rather than a habit. Our habit needs to be one of grace.

Disagreements happen, even among the closest of Christian families. We can have disagreements without being disagreeable. We can talk about doctrine without condescension. We can address controversy without meanness.

Here are some things that might help:

  1. Read Jesus’s words and the letters of Paul in particular. They each have times where they address difficult topics. Looking at how they did so while maintaining a good relationship with the affected parties is a valuable lesson.
  2. Delay commenting. If you read something online that provokes a reaction, avoid posting a comment until the next day. If you’re like me, you might have an easier time wisely choosing battles with this approach.
  3. Turn off harsh voices. This might look like turning off Rush Limbaugh or Tucker Carlson. It might mean unsubscribing from incendiary Facebook pages. It might mean avoiding sites like Daily Kos or The Drudge Report. If we feed ourselves bad examples, we will begin to emulate them.
  4. Pray for the person who made you angry. Don’t just pray that they come to their senses. Pray that you will forgive them and that they will have a closer relationship with Christ.
  5. Be prepared to follow Christ’s example. “What would Jesus do?” is only enough if you are willing to do it.

My hope and prayer for all Christians is that we lay down our verbal weapons and keep doors of opportunities open rather than closing them with a harsh word or unkind attitudes. Every person is valuable to God. We should speak to them like we understand that.

Why Did Christians Flock to Trump?

Vox: Why Christian Conservatives Supported Trump — and Why They Might Regret It

The questions in the interview are every bit as insightful as the answers — giving an insight about how recent events are shaping an unbeliever’s view of Christians.

Moreover, it speaks to the dangers of creating cults of personality or lifting up individuals as “religious leaders.” (That would be people like James Dobson or Franklin Graham, not the president.) Their hypocrisies and power plays end up projected onto Christianity as a whole. I write this as a very conservative Christian.

Finally, this quote regarding whether or not recent events could damage the reputation of Christians:

I don’t think there’s any question about that. I think they have bet the farm on Donald Trump. They’ve taken a tremendous risk, and if Donald Trump betrays their vision, which he’s already done in some matters, then their banner may be driven from the field of cultural debate for a generation or more. They will simply not be heard, because they are standing with him no matter what he does. They’re too far in now to back away from him and distance themselves.

This isn’t a question of those who simply voted for the current president. It’s about the continued overwhelming support, enthusiasm, and justifications wrapped up therein.

The Church of Partisanship

Patheos: Don’t Support This Bill, Oppose This Bill

The worst thing that has happened with the church since the 60s but especially since the 80s (under Reagan) has been the politicization and partisanization of the church.

Church cultures now exist where in a local church if you are not a Republican or a Democrat you don’t fit. This is surrendering to Caesar what belongs to God alone.

Now there is a bill underway, attached to the tax bill, that would permit churches or pastors or church leaders to identify with a political party and announce support for a political party and encourage church folks to support a political party.

Preachers bringing partisanship into the pulpit does nothing but harm the body of Christ. My wife and I were visiting a congregation last year where we heard a prayer from the pulpit that spoke of one politician as “God’s chosen” and thanked God for bringing him to deliver God’s people from the evils of previous years. We haven’t visited since.

For fear of banging on the same drum too much, I cannot say enough against this form of modern idolatry.

We’re Not Saved By Being Right

Focus Press: A Dangerous Trend in the Churches of Christ

When we’re constantly covering baptism, the instrument, and the other doctrines that set us apart from the denominational world, growth comes to a halt. As Hebrews 5:11-14 discusses, there comes a time when we need to move beyond the fundamentals and onto the meat of the word. When the Bible is reduced to being little more than a reference book filled with proof-texts that back up the doctrines we already believe, our ability to see its application in all areas of life is hindered. Where this is the case, God’s word is used only defensively, to defend the territory we already occupy. But the Bible is a book that should transform us bit by bit every time we open it. If most of our time spent studying the Word together is focused on backing up what we already know, we’ll never move past the milk stage.

Last year, when my wife and I realized our “break” from our past church home was turning into a search for a new church family, this exact issue is one of the things that turned us off from some of the larger churches of Christ in our area. We settle for a form of self-righteousness under the guise of teaching and preaching truth. It’s a form of “itching ears.” We tell ourselves we are teaching the “hard truths” when really we’re just rehashing things we want to hear because they remind us of our rightness.