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Fasting & Prayer



16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

Good Morning my beloved,

We welcome you to worship in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my honor and great privilege to have you here with us today. We are especially grateful for those of you who have been sharing the ministry website, and social media platforms with all of your family and friends. Your faithfulness and commitment to share God's Word with others continues to bring about tremendous results. People are responding to God's Word, with even more coming to Christ. This is all so amazing. 
We ask you to pray that God will continue to give those of who teach the Word of God the courage and boldness to speak the truth in ministry, as we continue increasing face of adversity in the coming days! It's becoming increasingly difficult in the world in which we live to speak truth to a culture that's literally offended by everything, especially biblical truth. Pastors are being silenced for speaking the truth in God's Word. Please pray for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted around the world.
Some fifty years ago, obesity in America was a relatively rare condition. The complexity of this problem means that it will truly take a village to arrive at a solution. I believe a major contributing factor is because companies are directly targeting advertising at specific groups and the money that they spend on advertising foods can essentially be written off as a tax deduction. We live in the only society in which entire TV networks are devoted to food! Let's face it, we all like food and I'm not different than you, I like it too. God, in His grace, has provided us with such an infinite, tremendous variety of amazing tastes to enjoy. He has graciously blessed us with so many alternatives. 
Genesis 1, "Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so." God intended our life to be rich and filled with variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and meats. 
I'm sure that makes some of you hungry, just thinking about all those delicious meals. Just as we have to learn to restrain our appetites, as Christians, we are challenged to fast from sin. Things that are well within our control, far too often allow to control us. We are called to resist the urge to express anger, envy, jealousy, resentment and gossip to name a few. These are the polar opposite of godly behavior and have no place in a Christian's heart. It will only destroy our spiritual appetite. They don't change the heart of others, they only changes yours!
Let us pray

Heavenly Father,

Father, we thank You for Word. We are grateful that by Your great power, You are conforming us to the image of Christ. Lord, make us more like You each day, lead us in that direction. If we’re going to right with You, we need to understand this very important teaching. Lord, draw us to Your presence as we faithfully pray for every heart present today, let fasting occur when in should, touch each one with what is needed. Raise up many faithful proclaimers of the truth that would call those being deceived away from error. May Your truth be exalted all for Christ's sake and for Your glory.
In Jesus name we ask and pray
Today's Message:  Fasting & Prayer

Open your Bibles with me to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6. As we continue our study of Matthew chapter 6, we come to verses 16-18. You will recall, Jesus has been confronting hypocritical religious system of the day. He confronted the subject of alms giving, prayer and now fasting. In the church today, fasting is a little understood part of our spiritual experience. In biblical times, fasting was common part of the Jewish religious system, however, it needed to be corrected. After having concluded His instructional teaching on the subject of prayer, Jesus now directs His attention to the to the matter of fasting. Therefore, I believe that we need to understand what fasting is all about.
I invite you to follow along with me as I read Matthew 6:16-18, as we prepare our hearts for the Spirit of God is saying to each of us.
"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
When you do something in order to worship God, make sure that you’re doing it for God and not just to put on a show for others. In my years as a pastor, I've noticed there are many people who do many good religious things, but not because they are devoted to God. They're interested in looking good in front of others. They're good religious deeds are of absolutely no value to God.
Let's talk about what fasting is and why people do it. Simply put, fasting means to give up something that you normally enjoy. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the concept of passing up on food you'd rather eat. We commonly refer to it as dieting. The concept of fasting really isn’t much different. Fasting is not eating what you’d normally eat when you’d normally eat it. In other words, fasting means abstaining. Sometimes, people become so preoccupied with problems and anxiety that they don’t think about eating. I'm a good bit that way myself when something is weighing on my heart, food is the last thing that comes to mind. Food becomes unimportant. While other people eat more when they're stressed. 

Fasting in the Bible is often about expressing deep sorrow or mourning. They would take ashes from the fire, pour it on their head, and smear it on their face, their arms, and their legs. Then they would rip their clothes and put on these burlap rags. They often told everybody that they were incredibly sad and worried.In the Bible that is what's often referred to as sackcloth and ashes as an expression of deep pain and sorrow. Today, there are many people talking about fasting. Just do an internet search or go to any bookstore, there are a ton of books written about fasting. There's everything from losing weight to receiving spiritual revelations through fasting.
I find it ironic that the disciples of Buddha fast while Buddha himself doesn't look like he ever got anywhere near a fast. Nowhere in Scripture does it ever deal with fasting on a physical level. In our society, fasting to obtain the body beautiful is what has created such diseases as anorexia, where people develop a mental aversion to eating. And when they do eat, they vomit it back up. By the way, this is a very, very serious disease. As far as fasting to receive spiritual revelations you are no more spiritual because you don’t eat than when you do. 
In Romans 14 Paul says  "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." He goes on to say "whatever is not from faith is sin." In and of itself, fasting does not isolate itself to be a spiritual virtue. However, it is essential there must be a spiritual context for a fast to be biblical. There is only one time that God ever did command a fast and that was in Leviticus 16. That was on the Day of Atonement, that’s it. 
I'd like you to notice that there is a deep mournful spirit in confessing sin and seeking forgiveness connected to it. In fact, in the Talmud, "it is forbidden to eat, to drink, to bathe, to anoint oneself, to wear sandals or to engage in conjugal intercourse." Even children couldn't eat on the Day of Atonement. It must have been difficult for the children, but they had to learn that so they would maintain it when they became older. By the way, the New Testament never commands us to fast. It commands us to give and it commands us to pray, it does not command us to fast. 
Fasting had become such a great part of the Jewish society, that by the time that Jesus comes, it had gone well beyond its bounds. What started out as a heartfelt, voluntary fast had ended up as a hypocritical, self-righteous demonstration before men. In fact, they would make themselves look as wretched and miserable as they possibly could. Then, they would parade around so everyone would think they were super spiritual. Their motive was simple, to be seen by men. The Talmud tells us they fasted on the second day and the fifth day. Why the second and the fifth day? Because Moses went up to Sinai to get the law on the fifth day of the week and he came down on the second day of the week. They made it sound so spiritual. 

If you study Jewish history, digging a little deeper, you'll find that those two days also coincided with the market days, so everybody came to Jerusalem on those two days. What better time to parade your piosity. So in our text, Jesus attacks this practice.
Let's look at verse 16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."
The Bible teaches that fasting is total abstinence from food. That's the biblical principle of fasting. It's the Greek word "nésteuó," which means to not eat or to abstain from food. The idea was they were so concentrated on prayer, that they had no interest in eating. Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the 10 commandments. And Jesus fasted for 40 days before choosing His apostles and beginning His earthly ministry. The church in Antioch fasted and prayed before selecting and sending Barnabas and Paul to evangelize Galatia. 
Fasting was the beginning of a significant new spiritual movement or ministry. While they all began with prayer, only a handful began with prayer and fasting. It;s interesting to me, that if you’ve read any Christian books on the subject of fasting, you'll get a very different picture. They present fasting as a way that you can super-charge your prayers. Fasting in the Bible is to deny self, there was a reason to deny yourself. As with everything else, the Pharisees had perverted it. It may have become a big deal to them, but it isn't in the original manuscripts. Fasting from food has a place.
It's interesting that in II Corinthians the Apostle Paul in chronicling his life says the same thing twice. "I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." If fastings often were true of Paul, you would have thought that he would have at least mentioned it. Yet, in all the directives and commandments he gave, he never uttered a word about it. In all of the thirteen letters that Paul wrote, there is never one thing regarding fasting. 
In verses 17 and 18 Jesus says "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." I'd like you to notice in both verse 16 and 17, He said "when you fast." That tells me that Jesus assumed fasting would happen. He doesn't say to fast or stop fasting, He says when you fast just like He did when He said when you pray or when you give. I believe the Lord knew there would be times when the people of God fast. But never once did He command it. Even after His death and ascension people continued to fast. The point Jesus was making here is that when you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. Don’t try to look pitiful and sad parading around to make sure that everyone knows you’re fasting. It’s all about your motive.
Fasting for the right reason is between you and God, no one else needs to know. Jesus is saying if people realize that your fasting, but He's saying is that it is wrong to fast for the purpose of impressing others. Apart from fasting as a sense of mourning it's meaningless. That's why it didn’t belong to the disciples when Jesus was present. Fasting has it's place in this age but we must understand isn’t going to produce any more spirituality than food produces carnality. Food isn't carnal no more than no food is spiritual. The Bible never promises any specific reward for fasting. What drives people to fast in the Bible is their deep sorrow. There are a number of illustrations in Joel 1, Nehemiah 1as well as II Samuel 3. Fasting is a natural response to the heart in the midst of mourning or a time of great sorrow.
In Matthew chapter 9, "Then the disciples of John *came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
In our society I believe people in general have grown callous as a defense mechanism. Let's face, there is a new tragedy every day somewhere in the world, and because of the technology we are now privy to all of it. It's sad to say, but even many Christians have become insensitive to the trouble in our world. How far we have strayed from the mind of Christ, Who sat weeping, looking down on Jerusalem!  We have allowed ourselves to become desensitized to protect ourselves emotionally and from falling to pieces. I believe that it should absolutely grieve our hearts deeply to see people cast into hell without Christ. God wants us to grieve over the lost, to share the Gospel, to love and care for others, I don’t believe He really cares if you fast or not. It's your devotion and obedience that honors God, not whether or not you go hungry.
By the way, in biblical times when God’s people confessed their sin, fasting was a part of that. Daniel was actually became so absorbed with the sins of others that he fasted. That's true compassion. Transgression is certainly cause for fasting. Sadly, in our society it's been said that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And when people are trying to make a business deal, they often meet at a restaurant for lunch or dinner. Scripture warns us not to eat with everyone. Don't sit down with the wrong people. We not only have guard what comes out of our mouths but what goes in it. 
Listen as I read to you from Psalm 141 says "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies."
There's no doubt we live in a gluttonous society. Food has become a god for many people. We consume incredible volumes of food, throwing away enormous amounts of food while much of the world struggles to even eat. When we become involved in things we shouldn’t be involved in, we get ourselves into precarious situations. Think about it, when Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of den, why did he use? That's right, food. And if you will recall, Esau sold his birth right for a meal. Then there's Noah, Eli the high priest, over and over again the lust of food corrupted the people of God.
In Matthew 24, Jesus said "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
I believe that Christians had ought to fast and pray on the behalf of the sinners in this world. We don’t have enough of that today, maybe we just don't care that much anymore. When the last time you missed a meal over someone you love being condemned to Hell? Most of the time we don't even share the Gospel with our family and friends because they might get offended. I do not believe there has ever been a more important time to share the message of the Gospel than today. We are closer to Christ's return than we've ever been.
You can always pray without fasting. But you cannot fast without praying. I have searched the Scripture and at no time is fasting done without praying. The key is, it all begins with your heart.   
May it be so..

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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