When you read the Scriptures you see many spiritual purposes linked to fasting:
- To strengthen our prayers (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:13; Acts 13:3)
- To seek God’s guidance in a particular decision (Judges 20:26; Acts 14:23)
- To express grief in the midst of tragedy (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:11-12)
- To express repentance in the midst of sin (Leviticus 23:27; Jonah 3:6-9)
- To seek deliverance from evil and protection from God (1 Chronicles 20:3-4)
- To show concern for the hallowing of God’s name (Nehemiah 1:3-4; Daniel 9:3)
- To minister to the needs of others by giving something up they need (Isaiah 58:3-7)
- To reveal the idols of the heart (Psalm 35:13; 69:10)
- To express love and worship to God (Luke 2:37)
- To remind us we are completely dependent on and sustained by God (Matthew 4:4)
Notice that none of these are about earning God’s favor. Fasting does not make you acceptable to God. Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone makes us acceptable to God. Fasting has no benefit if we have not first come to God by turning from our sins and placing our trust in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As one pastor rightly said, “This is the essence of Christian fasting: We ache and yearn – and fast – to know more and more of all that God has for us in Jesus. But only because he has already laid hold of us and is drawing us ever forward and upward into “all the fullness of God.”
So I would sum up the overarching spiritual purpose of fasting to be this: to express humility before God and deepen hunger for God. Fasting must be radically God-centered or it’s not fasting at all.
So putting it all together here’s my answer to “What is Fasting?” Fasting is voluntarily and temporarily abstaining from something which is good in and of itself to express humility before God and deepen hunger for God. Or to say it another simpler way: Fasting is for feasting.
 John Piper, A Hunger for God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1997), 48.
 I get that from the Psalms, where David says, “I humbled myself with fasting” and from Matthew 4 where when Jesus is fasting he says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Gracious Heavenly Father,
Hallowed be your name this morning! O Lord, what a joy it is for us to gather together this morning before your throne, to worship you and exalt Christ, our risen Lord and Savior! Yes, Lord, we rejoice this morning for, by the blood of Christ, we have been reconciled to you and can now come into your presence without being destroyed and can commune with you, the source of our peace and joy! Praise be to Christ! Yes, may all that we do here this morning – from our singing, to our praying, to our giving, to our listening, to our fellowshipping and welcoming of guests – glorify you alone, O Lord. Lord, rid our minds of any desire to be seen by others this morning. Destroy in us, O Lord, the motivation to somehow earn your favor this morning, for your favor, O Lord, has been secured by the death and resurrection of Christ.
Adoration. O great and merciful God, we earnestly seek you this morning; our souls thirst for you; our flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Because your steadfast love is better than life, our lips will praise you. We will bless you as long as we live; in your name we will lift up our hands. Our souls will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and our mouths will praise you with joyful lips, when we remember you upon our bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been our help, and in the shadow of your wings we will sing for joy. Our soul clings to you and your right hand upholds us. (Psalm 63:1-8). Indeed, whom have we in heaven but you, O Lord? And there is nothing on earth that we desire besides you. Our flesh and our hearts may fail, but you are the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26). Yes, Lord, we desire to be in your presence, for in your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11). To you, O Lord, we lift up our souls and in you we trust. (Psalm 25:1-2). Praise be to you, Gracious Lord!
Thanksgiving. And Lord, we give thanks to you for your steadfast love stretches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 57:9-11). We give thanks to you, O Lord, for the many visitors you have drawn to Restoration Church over the last number of months, in particular, we praise you for bringing those who are not yet followers of Christ, that they might hear your Word faithfully proclaimed, repent of their sins, and trust in the only one who can save them, Jesus. May the eyes of their hearts be opened to the salvation found only in Christ! We give thanks, O Lord, for the work you are doing in Columbia Heights, as you prepare the way for the Spanish speaking church plant. We sing praises to your name, Gracious God, for the way you have used Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to pierce to the division of our soul and spirit and discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Lord, we pray by your grace and mercy that the Holy Spirit would continue to reveal hidden areas of sin in our lives, that we might mortify that sin at its very root! We thank you for the hospitality constantly being displayed within Restoration Church, and we pray that such love would continue to abound. We thank you, Lord, for bringing to us Christians who have been faithfully walking with you for many years, that we might learn from our older brothers and sisters in the faith! Lastly, we thank you for our newest members. We pray that they would be unified with our body quickly and that they would be built up in their faith!
Confession. And Lord, we ask for your forgiveness for those times over the last week when we’ve failed to count others as more significant than ourselves. Lord, give us a greater love for Christ and His church, that we might reflect His love for the body!
Petitions. Heavenly Father, we pray for those members currently on the fringes of our body. We pray that they would desire to delight in Christ with this community and that our body would be intentional in reaching out to them. Lord, bring them into our fellowship and grow them in unity with us! Loving God, we pray also for those within our body who are not yet married. Lord, help us to fully delight in Christ during this season, help us to faithfully steward our time for your kingdom and glory, and continue to grow us in holiness, O Lord. Gracious God, please bless our upcoming Engage Conference. Would many come and be motivated to reach the nations (even here in DC) for your glory and renown. We pray for our brothers and sisters at Redeemer Arlington Church, that they would hear faithful preaching, they would grow in unity, and that they would be a church that makes faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are at this very moment experiencing persecution for the name of Christ. We pray that amidst their suffering they would be reminded that awaiting them in Heaven is an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, being kept for them. And for their persecutors, we pray their evil would be restrained, they would repent of their sin against you, O Lord, and trust in Christ, that they too might have the same salvation as us. Lastly, we pray for Joey’s sermon. Lord, would you allow Joey to be faithful to your Word, bold, articulate, and would you use his sermon to convict and encourage our hearts, that our affections for Christ would grow exponentially this morning!
We pray these things in the name of Christ! Amen.
Publicly and privately I (Joey) have often said, “God doesn’t just love you, he likes you.” And I say that because some of us carry around a low-grade level of guilt thinking that God loves us but only begrudgingly so. At best this type mentality leaves us spiritual dry and disconnected from God, and at worst it leaves us feeling condemned in our sin.
But what if God doesn’t just love us, but he actually likes us? For those repenting of their sins and trusting in Christ, God’s unwavering affection and delight is set upon you. His posture is not a begrudging love toward you, but a love-laced liking of you.
Mark Altrogge, captures these thoughts than I could. He writes:
When Jesus first saved me I believed God forgave my sins. Gradually I came to believe God loved me. But perhaps because of my upbringing or my own lack of affection for others I wasn’t sure God liked me. I believed he put up with me because he’d saved me, but didn’t have any sense that he delighted in me. I was wrong. God delights in his children. If you believe God loves you but aren’t certain he likes you let me try to persuade you with a few Scriptures:
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. ZEPH 3.17
God said this of Israel. How much more does he rejoice and exult with loud singing over his blood-bought children, for he sees his delightful Son in us. He sees us clothed with the beautiful righteousness of Christ.
…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. IS 62:5
Believers are the bride of Christ and he feels a wedding day delight in us.
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. PHP 1:8
Paul longed for his brothers and sisters with affection. Not a mere natural affection, but “the affection of Christ Jesus.” The very tender love Christ feels for his redeemed. Jesus doesn’t love you in some cold and distant way, but with a deep, heartfelt warmth and passion.
“As for the saints who are in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” PS 16.3.
David delighted in God’s people. He saw them as “the excellent ones.” David expressed the very heart of God for his people. David wouldn’t delight in them more than God himself. This verse tells us how God sees us: as “excellent ones” in whom is all his delight. Believe me now? God not only loves you but he “likes” you – his heart overflows with affection for you because of Christ in you. Let God’s delight in you spur you on to increasingly delight in him, spending time with him in his word and prayer, worship and fellowship with his people.
“We should show when tempted to hide, and hide when tempted to show.”
Finally, we need to ask the question “Where should we give?” Numerous Christian charities and other worthy non-Christian organizations appeal to believers for support. How are we to decide where to give our money? Though Scripture does not explicitly address this question, it does provide wisdom as to how Christians can give responsibly in a biblical manner.
1 Timothy 5:8 says “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” So most foundationally we are to meet the needs of our immediate family. So after meeting that obligation, where should we give?
To your spiritual family, the local church. In Galatians 6 Paul writes “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor…Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (6, 10; cf. 1 Cor. 9:11; 15; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). There is a biblical priority of supporting the gospel ministry of your local church. The local church is God’s chosen vehicle to build up believers and faithfully proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth; therefore, its members should joyfully support the God-ordained work of the church as they seek to actively engage the mission of God.
After supporting your immediate family and generously giving to your spiritual family, you are free to give where you find genuine need. It may be a Christian para-church organization or a specific individual in need or a secular organization that performs valuable work (e.g. a pregnancy support center). In each these instances we must seek to steward God’s resources with wisdom and integrity.
Summary: Why, What, How, & Where Should We Give?
Our generous giving is based on the character of our God and the greatness of the gospel. We give not out of compulsion, but as a joyful, cheerful act of worship magnifying the worth of our God. God’s word does not provide a set percentage or amount for each person to give. Rather, we are to give regularly and sacrificially out of what God has given to us. We must ensure that we meet the needs of our immediate family and support our spiritual family, the church, before giving to other organizations. Remember, God has entrusted to us the privilege and responsibility of stewarding His resources to build up the church and advance the gospel so that all people might delight in the supremacy of Jesus Christ!
Now that we’ve determined why and what we should give, the question of “how” must be addressed. Here are four biblical principles informing how we should give – regularly, intentionally, cheerfully, and humbly.
First, we should give regularly. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.” (1 Cor. 16:2) Throughout the New Testament we see the church gathered on Sunday (cf. Acts 20:7; Hb. 4:9-10), and Paul instructs the church to give when they are gathered each week. This does not mean that we have to give monetary offerings each week, but it does mean that our giving should be regular (perhaps as often as you are compensated).
Second, from 1 Corinthians 16:2 we also see that our giving should be planned – “put something aside and store it up…” Similarly in 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul writes, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart…” Paul twice tells the Corinthians to think about and plan for their giving. Intentional thought and deliberate planning should accompany our giving. We are not to merely show up and give out of impulse or simply offer what we happen to have in our pocket. God is most honored when we take deliberate time to think, plan and pray about our giving.
In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we find a third principle for how we should give – “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul said the Macedonians gave “of their own free will” (8:3). We are not to give begrudgingly or with an attitude of obligation, but willingly and cheerfully. With a proper understanding of the gospel comes one who freely and cheerfully gives.
Fourthly, our giving should be done with humility. Jesus taught us, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt. 6:3-4). We do not give to impress others, but in humility knowing that we are seeking to worship God alone through our giving.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
This past Sunday we examined Matthew 6:1-4 which addressed the practice of giving. To help us continue to think through this topic, we’ll post a few blogs this week that aim to answer the questions of Why, What, How, and Where.
Why We Should Give: 5 Reasons
The proper starting place for developing theology for giving is to ask the simple yet profound question of “Why should I give?” First, we give because of the sheer splendor and greatness of our God. In giving we actively proclaim that we treasure the riches of Jesus as being more valuable than the things of this world. Like the man who joyfully gives up all he has because he understands the surpassing treasure found in God’s kingdom (cf. Mt. 13:44), we give as an act of worship delighting in the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
Second, we also give because we are image bearers of God, who himself is a giver. God is the giver of every good and perfect gift and we have nothing that we have not received (cf. Js 1:17; 1 Cor. 4:7). So every time we give we recognize all things come from God and resemble the God who created us in His own image and likeness (cf. Gn. 1:26-28).
One of God’s gifts far exceeds all the others; this points us to a third reason we give – because of the radical generosity displayed for us in the gospel. John 3:16 reminds us of the greatest gift God could ever give us, his only Son.
God gave his only Son, Jesus, so that we might have eternal life. This character of generosity is reflected in Jesus himself as he willingly laid down his life for us (cf. Jn. 10:18); though he was rich with the glories of heaven, he put on the rags of earth that we might be reconciled back to God the Father (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9). Both God the Father and God the Son exude generosity in giving us God the Spirit, who himself gives us his very indwelling presence.
God the Father is a giver who gave us his Son. Jesus is a giver who gave us himself. The Holy Spirit is a giver who gives us new life that we might delight in Jesus Christ to the glory of God. We give in worshipful response to God because of the good news that He first gave to us.
Fourth, we give because God promises blessings to those who are generous (cf. Lk. 6:38). When we sow generously, we should expect to reap generously (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7-8; Gal. 6:7-8). This does not mean we will receive numerous material possessions. The blessings referenced here are sometimes specifically referenced as treasure in heaven, and other times they are simply called blessings. But what is clear is that if we give we will be blessed – that is, be in the place of God’s favor. We give because there is reward for those who do, and seeking that reward is a godly motivation for giving.
Finally, we give because that’s the biblical pattern. Throughout the entirety of the Bible, God’s people give money and material resources to support God’s mission. Today it’s no different – God uses the generosity of His people to support the local church as it advances the gospel into the lives of believers and unbelievers alike.
So we give to show the surpassing worth of God, and in doing so we demonstrate the character of our Creator and show our appreciation for the radical generosity he has displayed for us in Jesus. Following the biblical pattern set before us, we give expectant of the blessings God pours out on those who are generous.
 Additional posts will spell this out in greater detail