Riverside Community Church


Matthew 6:16-18

I can imagine there was quite a stir in the Jewish community when Jesus started preaching. Not so much because He was such a great orator, we don’t know that, not because of how He spoke but rather, the stir was over what He said. He said the Kingdom of God was at hand. The Kingdom of God is here.

Mark 1:14-15

…, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.

And people were all astir, this Kingdom talk awakened the long-awaited hope they had. And to top it off, they were there at the beginning, they would be the citizens of this Kingdom.

-oh, but the Jew’s Kingdom thinking was different then Jesus’ Kingdom. It was very different; their understanding of this God Kingdom was unlike Jesus’ and Jesus was perfectly right. The Sermon on the Mount was the correction, Jesus’ intention was to adjust, realign man’s incorrect view to the absolute truth.

On that hillside where Jesus spoke His disciples listened, there were more than just the Apostles but all His disciples who were following Jesus at the time, maybe 100 -we don’t know, but many.

Jesus calls out to these disciples, 2000 years ago, as He calls out to you His disciples today:

-‘if you want to be a citizen of the kingdom of God then listen to what I say’ and then He starts His Sermon, it’s in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. In chapter 6 of this discourse Jesus talks about 3 spiritual disciplines that Kingdom citizens should practice. Jesus doesn’t say “if” you do these disciplines but rather Jesus says “when”, making all 3 disciplines a practice of all the Kingdom’s citizens.

Here are the words of Christ to us:

Matthew 6:

#1 discipline

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

#2 discipline

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

#3 discipline

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, 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 others 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.

-yes, the 3rd discipline is fasting, in the Greek it means “to eat not” and the ‘hypocrites’ were ‘eating not’ -that’s good, -but they were rendering it useless by making a show of their fasting –‘everybody -look at how good I am, I’m suffering as I fast’.

Herein lies a General Biblical Principle, -doing the right thing with the wrong motive is not Kingdom Living, it is not what the King wants you to do. God wants His citizens, to do the right thing with the right motive.


I know immediately that one asks themselves, ‘well, am I to fast today, is this applicable to me today?’ I believe the answer is YES because Jesus said ‘when you fast’. Please allow me to present the Biblical case for fasting today.

-fasting appears in the Bible in the New testament as ‘to fast or fasting, and in the Old Testament as to deny yourself and also as to afflict your soul’.-in all cases it refers to not eating

-all Jews were to fast on the ‘Day of Atonement’ -that refers to the 7th month and the 10th day each year, -they were not to eat from sunrise to sunset and were not to work.

Leviticus 23

26 The LORD said to Moses, 27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, (fast) and present a food offering to the Lord. 28 Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. 29 Those who do not deny themselves (fast) on that day must be cut off from their people. 30 I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day. 31 You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. 32 It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves (fast). From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

Now the ‘Mishna’, which is a collection of exegetical material embodying the oral tradition of Jewish law, a collection of additional rules the Jewish people added to the Law.

-they added to the Law concerning fasting, don’t drink, don’t bathe, don’t wear sandals, don’t anoint yourself etc., which Jesus partially counteracted in His Sermon on the Mount.

-the purpose of this Atonement Day fasting is told to us in Levitus 16: where it reads, “30 because on this day, atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.”

-that wasn’t the only reason to fast, listen to the reasons Isaiah records in chapter 58:6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of wickedness 

and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them,    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

To summarize, fasting is done to break chains that bind you or others, to break free from oppression or yokes/burdens you or others may have (these are times of distress), to help the poor with food, shelter or clothing. And as Moses wrote fasting is a time of personal cleansing.

There are many recorded examples of fasting in the Bible:

OT-Moses fasted 40 days on 2 occasions, when God gave him the 10 Commandments and when he smashed those very tablets God wrote on.

-Esther called for a 3 day fast when the nation was under an execution order.

-there was a 7 day fast when King Saul was buried.

-David fasted during the time of the death of his child from Bethsheba.

NT-John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast.

-Jesus fasted 40 days before He commenced His Ministry.

-Jesus’s disciples didn’t fast because, as Jesus said, the bridegroom was still with them. They could fast when He left.

-Anna served God with fasting.

-Paul fasted after the Damascus road experience and Cornelius also fasted during this time.

-local church fasted when they sent out Paul and Barnabas on their missionary trip

There are many examples of God’s people fasting, personally and corporately, throughout the Bible. God has not only given examples of fasting but also guidelines and finally, Jesus Christ, Son of God, fasted and told us “when you fast”.

Should we fast? Yes! Do you fast, have you ever fasted? Is it too late to start? NO, it’s never too late to follow God further.

3 questions come to my mind, -what should I fast about, how should I fast and when should I fast?

What should I fast about?

-do you have a burden that you are carrying? you can fast about that

-are you oppressed in any area in your life? you can fast about that

-is money a distress in your life? you can fast about that

-do you have heaviness in your marriage, your children, relationships? you can fast about that

-do you need guidance, direction, purpose in your life? you can fast about that

As a Church, corporate fasting could occur concerning selecting a Pastor, or buying a facility, or setting someone apart for the work of the Ministry.

How should I fast?

-if we stick to the pure sense of fasting then we don’t eat for a certain length of time, usually 1 day. We don’t advertise that we’re fasting, just like Jesus pointed out and we humble ourselves before our God by showing our sincerity by denying ourselves.

-if I deny myself by, for example, I give up coffee for a week or I don’t use technology for a week is that a kind of fasting?

No, I don’t think so. It’s something else but it can be still honoring to God. At the church in Rome some Christians there were saying ‘I believe this particular day is a special day’, others were saying I don’t eat meat to be honoring the Lord.

Paul replied ‘stop judging these practices by others’:

we read Rms. 14: 

4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. … 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 

These practices were not fasting but honorable before the Lord.

Most fasting is a private practice you do before the Lord quietly. But also remember, the Elders of this church may call on all of us, one day, to fast over a specific reason and we hope you will engage in this together.

When should I fast?

If I still have a bunch of questions, do I fast:

-once a year, once a month, every week??

-for a day, for more than 1 day,

Pastor, do you fast, when, how often about what???

-I hesitate to say much of my fasting to you as it is a private affair and I desire my reward in heaven from the Lord. However, I believe the Lord has allowed me to share with you, as an example and not for your praise, that YES, I fast with Marilyn once a month, we fast for a day and the reason we fast is private, God knows, and God will hear and answer. In fact, God continues to answer our prayers when we fast.

Do I have to fast you may ask. God doesn’t force this issue on you but remember the Bridegroom is gone now, (that’s Jesus) and Jesus said His disciples would fast when He left.

Or as in the words of Christ “WHEN YOU FAST…”

Let me ask you:

Do you have any burdens, are there any chains binding you, do you need God’s direction in your life, do you have any heaviness in your heart, any oppression going on or are you experiencing any distress? 

You can fast about that. The question is Will you? -yes, tell the Lord.

Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.

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