Examining Fasting, Joy, and The Christian Life

Now that Christ has come and has appeared among us—and especially now that he has completed his work of redemption—the occasion for fasting fades before us in light of our identity as a people who rejoice; for we are Christ’s bride, being redeemed by him and having a place at his everlasting wedding banquet.

These last days are not to be days of mourning but days of joy in our triumphant Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 16 and 17, Jesus gives two analogies to make this point: no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment and a worse tear is made; and you shouldn’t put new wine into old wine skins, since the wine skin will burst, ruining both the wine and the wine skin itself.

Jesus’ basic point seems rather simple: You need to be careful about mixing the old and the new. Fasting belongs to the old ways. We are called to live in the light of Jesus’ coming. We are living not under the old covenant but under the new covenant. We cannot just take the old practices and try to incorporate them into the new and think they will mix and match without any conflict. Fasting, Jesus says, belongs to the old ways, and we do not want to go back to the old ways.

…Now you may want to fast as a form of protest, because you want the park to be open an hour longer at night, and that’s fine. If you want to fast because you think it will help you lose weight, that’s fine as well. But Christians do not ordinarily fast for spiritual reasons, because joy is what stands at the heart of the Christian life. The fruits of the Spirit are not love, grief, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; rather, the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

Even so, there may be extraordinary times in the life of the church when fasting is appropriate. In the book of Acts, the church fasted at a time when they were sending off missionaries to service, as well as a time when they were appointing elders in the church (Acts 13). There may be occasions when brief periods of fasting are appropriate. Read More»
David VanDrunen | “Should Christians Fast or Feast?” | July 28, 2022

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7 comments

    • Paul,

      1. Fair question. In those verses Jesus does seem to assume the existence of fasting but should we infer from that assumption that it is in perpetuity? I think David’s argument is interesting. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. It’s worth noting that he doesn’t reject all fasting but I do think his point about the movement of redemptive history bears consideration.

      2. I think you want the word jibe.

    • From Webster’s dictionary:

      Jive vs. Jibe
      People began confusing jive and jibe almost immediately after jive entered our language in the late 1920s. In particular, jive is often used as a variant for the sense of jibe meaning “agree,” as in “that doesn’t jive with my memory of what happened.” This use of jive, although increasingly common, is widely considered to be an error. Jibe, however, is accepted as a variant spelling of an entirely different word, which is gibe (“to utter taunting words”).

      Seems like I must have skipped that day of vocabulary lessons.

    • And then in the words of Barry Gibb (Bee Gees) “It’s just you jive talkin’, you’re just tellin’ me lies, yeah”

  1. Very good article. A topic I have had difficulty with as I have had Pastors that promoted regular seasons of fasting and some who have not. I now tend to stand with Calvin when he comments on fasting in Jonah, “fasting is a continual exercise of repentance, yet fasting is not required of us always…fasting is a public and solemn testimony of repentance when there appears to be some extraordinary evidence of God’s wrath.”

  2. “You might think of the Holy Spirit as being like a wedding ring. He seals your marriage to Christ and guarantees all the blessings that come through that wonderful marriage already. Already we have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet in the Lord’s Supper in which we begin to have that experience of the banquet that we will enjoy fully in the future. From all of this we conclude that now is the time not for grief but for joy. As Christians, we do not ordinarily fast.”

    In this, David VanDrunen connected the Bridegroom and his Bride and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, to the Lord’s Supper. There are many communion sermons from the post-Reformation period and others from the ancient Church period (i.e.,”homilies”) that speak to this as well; however, there was then, and continues to be a disconnect between frequency and the pattern we should expect to see in a joyous celebration of a wedding feast. Instead, much of the Church continues to sacramentally fast most Lord’s Days. (More could be said historically about the practice of fasting on the Lord’s Day and/or in preparation for the Lord’s Supper.)

    With all that said, the sermon was much appreciated!

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