If the Ikonographer poses a trivia question and nobody answers, does it make a sound? Man, I know my readership is not that great, but no takers? OK. I want to get the whole thing over with, but I have some other things on my mind that I want to get to while they are fresh.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I am curious about fasting. I’ve been studying Christian disciplines and fasting is one discipline mentioned that I have never done. More to the point I’ve been under the impression (I’m not sure why), that fasting is not for the church age. If it is a valid way to grow spiritually, I want to do it. All the same, I want to be sure about it. It’ll take me several posts to work through it. I thought I’d do it publicly for our mutual edification.
If I have one major hang-up about fasting, it’s the teaching of Colossians about spiritual maturity. Paul is VERY clear in Colossians that physical denial of the body is not a means of godliness (col 2:18-23). The relationship between the body and the soul is a one-way door. The soul influences the body, but the body can’t touch the soul. Paul explains that Christ is the creator of the physical world and he made things, so things can’t in themselves be bad for us. Rather, it’s how we use things that is sinful. Alcohol is a prime example. Christians can enjoy alcohol in moderation, sinners get drunk.
The teaching of Colossians on the true nature of Christian growth has been IMMENSELY liberating for me. It really helped me move beyond me early understanding of holiness which had grown somewhat legalistic. I learned about enjoying all things to the glory of God. I got back some things that I enjoy that I thought I had to give up. I learned that Christian life is about freely acting out of love (Galatians 5:13-14), rather than selfishly avoiding certain behaviors.
The law of Christ, or the law of liberty is a beautiful thing. The book of Galatians is a valuable bookend to Colossians in this respect. Where Colossians is about the danger of exceeding Scripture for the purpose of holiness, Galatians is about misunderstanding Scripture itself for the purpose of holiness. Both books present different angles on the pursuit of holiness. In both epistles the cure is to understand the finished work of Christ and Christian liberty.
What I am getting at here is that I do not want to go backward and submit myself to a yoke of self-denial (Galatians 2:4). If fasting is Biblical, then it obviously can’t conflict with the law of Christ (James 1:25, 2:12).
So as I view the Scriptural view of fasting I have to bring these two truths together:
- Scripture does not advocate or prohibit fasting, but it does describe it and give some guidelines. When it is seen to occur, it is a good thing.
- Scripture does teach that self-denial does not equal maturity.
I am looking for the right view of fasting that upholds its use as a Christian discipline that does not deny the teaching of Colossians. The only time that Scripture speaks negatively of fasting is when those who are fasting have the wrong motive (Isaiah 58:5). I particularly want to understand the relevance of Christ’s comments about the old and new cloth, old and new wineskins, and the relevance of the bridegroom’s presence in Mark 2, a critical chapter regarding the New Testament understanding of fasting.
OK, I am officially getting ahead of myself. More to come. I hope this is helpful to some of you.