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Bible Bullet - Sermon on the Mount, Fasting

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Matthew 6:16-18
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    Sermon on the Mount  –   Fasting  Matthew 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (6:16-18)    The is the third example Jesus provides concerning the abuse of doing “acts of righteousness  before men to be seen by them” (6:1)      Just as in the act of giving to the needy (6:2) and in the act of public prayer (6:5), if you desire the accolade of men, you may get it  –   but you will get nothing mor  e for you have “received your reward in full” (6:2, 6:5, 6:16)    The act of fasting  –   abstaining from food for a spiritual purpose  –   was commanded by God in the Law of Moses to be observed by His people on an annual basis (Leviticus 16:29)    Fasting was practiced  by God’s people as they sought His presence and to determine His will in times of crisis (II Chronicles 20:3, Ezra 8:21, Esther 4:16, Isaiah 58:5, Jeremiah 36:9, Joel 1:14)    Jesus’ teaching on the subject of fasting was not a direct command, but was more indirect as He qualifies the manner of how it should be conducted  –   based on the assumption that it was done    “When you fast” is a phrase that implies that His followers will do so, and His teaching is that it should be done to commune with God, honor Him and seek His will  –    not to be “seen by men”      Jesus also taught on fasting by example  –   He abstained from food for forty days in the wilderness as He prepared for His earthly ministry and encountered temptations from the evil one (4:1-11)    It was a normal practice for the Pharisees when fasting to put ashes on their heads to ostentatiously demonstrate what they were doing, so Jesus tells His followers to “put oil on your head and wash your face so that it will not be obvious to men that you are f  asting”      Fasting is not an end in itself, but an expression of the pursuit of God’s presence and is to be done privately  –   even secretly  –   to experience God at a special time of need    “Don’ t worry about the impression you are making; just forget yourself and give yourself entirely to God; be concerned only about God and about pleasing Him; be concerned only about His honor and His glory ” (Martin Lloyd Jones, “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 320)    The abuse of the practice of fasting is the same as the abuse in giving and in prayer  –   the motivation was “to be seen by men” rather than to know God and honor Him      So the question for us as we “do” any spiritual discipline or activity is simple –    “Who are we trying to please? Who are we trying to impress? Whose approval do we want?”    As Jesus faced the cross, He asked the Father “if it is possible , may this cup be taken from Me”    –    He immediately knew the answer and said, “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (26:39)       The Apostle Paul reminds the Galatians of his own decisiveness in determining whom to  please: “A m I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to  please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ ” (Gal 1:10)    Our answer to this question will determine the course of life  –    “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it” (Mat 16:25)  
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