By Pr Solomon Nabeeta
OPINION | The goal of true biblical fasting is not to torment the body. (There is a fundamental difference between fasting and starvation). Some out of misconception or perhaps inadequate guidance, have subconsciously harbored the remote idea that when you torment and punish or ignore your body enough, God accepts you. Such teaching has only Gnostic roots of asceticism for a foundation. We don’t see the Holy bible complying with such thoughts any where. On the contrary, God loves you. You are spirit, soul and body and He loves them all.
The bible teaches that your body is the temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:15-19) and it was bought by Christ with at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). If any man destroy this temple of the Lord, God shall destroy them (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Jesus called his own body a temple (John 2:19). So are we to treat our bodies as enemies of God? I don’t think so.
However the bible talks about “the flesh” and the mind of the flesh (Romans eighth chapter), which are another entity altogether. This is a nature that corresponds to the old unregenerate self without Christ. It is also called the carnal mind. It seeks to control and dominate the body without regard for the Lord. It was the product of the fall of man in the garden – “be as God.” In essence, it seeks to be a god of itself. To be carnally minded is death. But if through the spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh, we shall live.
Fasting therefore is not punishing the body, but putting to death the deeds of the flesh.The bible admonishes us to deny the flesh, put off this old man and reckon him crucified with Christ. This essentially talks about the appetites, desires and lusts that operate to rule and dominate man, and by so doing undermine his role of submission and objective of worship to God.
One such driving force is the unsanctified desire for food. Food in itself is not sinful. It is neither good nor bad. Meats for the belly and the belly for meats, the bible says, but God shall destroy them both. However an inordinate desire and unrestrained behavior towards food can defile a man. Jesus said, “it’s not what enters the man that defiles him but what comes out.”
Therefore food in itself does not defile a man per say, but rather what drives him to eat. The unregenerate man approaches food without restraint or discipline. We are cautioned against gluttony in as much as we are against drunkenness. The bible admonishes us not to engage in idolatry as the Children of Israel did in the desert~they sat down to eat and rose up to play (1 Corinthians 10:7). Incidentally all idolatry revolves around food. So also do all the works of the flesh.
Furthermore, God allowed Israel to hunger in the desert so they would KNOW that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). It was this unyielding appetite that cost the first man (Adam) their inheritance in the garden in the book of beginnings. It was one of the chief temptations the second man (Christ) had to overcome enroute the victory of the cross. Failure of restraint against this lust cost Esau his birthright as well as many others’ otherwise promising destinies.
Fasting therefore is one of the boldest declarations against the flesh. Fasting humbles one’s soul by denying the flesh. The Greek word “to humble” as often used in regard to the fast in our bible is actually otherwise rendered “humiliate”. Fasting humiliates the old man responsible for lusts that are in contradiction to God. By compelling the individual’s focus from the pleasure that comes from food, all other lusts are also dominated. Fasting is meant to focus the individual on God as creator and comforter. It is a work of faith in that instead of the candidate walking by sight (where they have their decisions primarily governed by the senses and appetites of the creature), one looks to the invisible word of God for satisfaction and completion.
True bible fasting therefore is a statement in the spiritual realm that the one reaching out to God or seeking the Lord desires nothing else in this world but God in their situation . It is prioritizing the Lord and His word above all else, including your natural appetites.
True fasting will neither go un-noticed nor un-rewarded by God. In seasons of emotional weariness, spiritual uncertainty or great opposition, it serves you well to consider a fast unto God.