Our fasting quote of encouragement today is from Tertullian. He said: “Fasting possesses great power. If practiced with the right intention, it makes man a friend of God. The demons are aware of that.”
Our fasting devotional today is titled “IS FASTING CHRISTIAN? NEW FASTING FOR THE NEW WINE” from John Piper, author of the bestselling book “A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer”.
There’s a little document called the Didache which was written near the end of the first century. In it there is a section on fasting. One verse goes like this: “Let not your fasts be with hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but you fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.” Now that seems strange. Why is changing the fast days such a big deal? I think the point of the early church was this: the Jewish custom was to celebrate its Sabbath on Saturday. That’s what the Old Covenant called for. Now, to show that we have continuity and discontinuity from Judaism, we Christians will celebrate the Sabbath, but on a different day. We will celebrate on Sunday, the day the Lord rose from the dead and created a new people. In the same way the Jews did their fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, but we will do ours on different days. Why? Same reason: to show there is continuity and discontinuity. Yes, we embrace fasting; but, no, not just as we find it. There is something new about Christian fasting. We’ll take it, but we’ll change it. No, we don’t mean that fasting on different days is what makes it Christian. That is only a pointer. But Christian fasting is new. That is for sure.
In this connection, the most important word on fasting in the Bible is Matthew 9:14-17. I know this is a sweeping claim for me to make. But I say it because these words of Jesus speak most directly and deeply to the central problem of fasting — namely, Is it a distinctively Christian thing to do? If so, how?