Fasting or Rejoicing?

Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV)

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.

It is important to listen to the Apostle Paul’s words here. He is not condemning certain foods or drinks, but he is warning against asceticism and I believe he is condemning the worship of angels. Asceticism is the practice of self denial, and as I mentioned, used properly I think it may be beneficial. But overdoing it is not helpful, and can even serve as a distraction from true spirituality. Many of the religions of the world practice fasting as a spiritual discipline, but without Christ it is pointless, empty ritual.

While Jesus was with His disciples, they did not fast, and when Jesus was questioned by the Scribes and Pharisees, He stated that the time would come when they would fast, but not while He — the Bridegroom — was with them.

Having grown up Roman Catholic, I participated fully in the life of the church, and there are many times throughout the year where fasting, and abstaining from meat are expected of a practicing Catholic. There are seasons of celebration and seasons of self denial. These things in themselves are not either good or bad. If used correctly, and done for the right reasons — because we want to enhance our spirituality/connection with God — these things can help us to become more in tune with the Spirit of God. If done for the incorrect reasons, they just become a burden to us or merely a distraction and exercise in futility.

According to Matthew Henry’s Concise Bible Commentary, the practices of worshiping angels had a false sense of humility, but in reality was pride. It is robbing Christ of His due, and an insult because God alone is worthy of our worship and submission. It is ONLY JESUS [emphasis mine] Who serves as the mediator between The Father and us.

We are allowed to approach the throne of Grace boldly, but ONLY because of what Jesus did for us. The veil in the Temple was rent from top to bottom. The separation between God and man — preventing us from approaching Him — is gone. Yet we must not lose our sense of God’s holiness. The prophets of old, and even John — the one whom Jesus loved — had a sense of awe in the presence of God.

I had a friend a few years back that would fast at the drop of a hat. He believed God called him to fast frequently. And his relationship with God seemed to develop rather well. His marriage that was struggling improved, and he was blessed with promotions, etc. I do not think we can attribute these things to fasting, but rather to his obedience and responsiveness to what he believed God was asking of him. He also, during his fasts, spent many hours in prayer and study of God’s Word instead of eating. I am certain that this resulted in changes in his behavior and attitudes which probably also helped with his relationship with his wife.

So whatever we do, it should be done as unto the Lord. If you are called to fast, then do so. If not, then rejoice in what God has given you.

by Virgil Stripes

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