Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
16 “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. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 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.
Michael Reeves writes in his book “Delighting in the Trinity,” that sin is something far deeper than just not doing what is right or moral. Sin is something far more heinous than just not obeying the rules of the Bible. If that was all sin was, then perhaps even the devil could b saved. He already has good theology.
Reeves quotes Jonathan Edwards about this subject,
“The devil once seemed to be religious from fear of torment. Luke 8:28, “When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, what have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. “Here is external worship. The devil is religious; he prays; he prays in a humble posture; he falls down before Christ, he lies prostrate; he prays earnestly, he cries with a loud voice; he uses humble expressions-“I beseech thee, torment me not”- he uses respectful, honorable, adoring expressions-“Jesus, thou Son of God Most High.” Nothing was wanting but love.” (Jonathan Edwards, Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith,” in the Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang Hyun Lee (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1957-2008), 21:171.)
Sin is not just not doing the right things; it is the turning inward of love that was supposed to find its highest pleasure in loving God to turning inward to the love of self. Eve saw that the fruit was good and to be desired to make one wise. Instead of loving God supremely, she sought to love herself and gratify her desires, thereby choosing to love something more than the source of all love, that being God.
Fasting is that act in which we put our physical affections for food and other earthly pleasures on hold so we might focus our affection on God alone. Through fasting we experience the cravings of our physical body crying out to be satisfied, but we take control over our earthly appetites and say to God that we will set aside our earthly desires so we can experience more of His pleasure and bounty.
Fasting exposes the real source of our pleasure. It reveals where our heart’s affection is set. Go without food for a few hours and see what happens to your cravings. Food begins to cry out for you to satisfy your longings by taking of food to quench your gurgling stomach. Pleasures of drink and other forms of entertainment cry out to be satisfied. In fasting we purposely set aside these cravings. It is as we do this that we have the real source of our heart’s contentment exposed.
Do we love God above all else? Can we say along with Job that we esteem the words of His mouth more important than my necessary food? Can we cry out like David, “Who do I have in heaven but you and being with you there is nothing I desire on earth? Can we agree with Paul that all the things of this world are nothing to us but a pile of dung or a pail of garbage?
Fasting is designed by God to bring us to see the real state of our soul. When the hunger pains cry out to be satisfied, let those pains be that which propels you to cry out for God to satisfy you more than food or clothes or forms of entertainment.
Search me O god and try me and know my heart and see if there be any way in me that has set its’ affections on anything other than you alone.
May my heart be for you and you alone, O God.