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Matthew
  
e) Fasting Joyously
(Matthew 6:16-18)
6:16Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Isaiah58:5-6)


Christ speaks especially in these verses of private fasts, such as particular persons prescribe to themselves, as free-will offerings, commonly used among the pious Jews; some fasted one day, some two, every week; others less often, as they felt the need. On those days they did not eat till sunset, and then very sparingly. It was not the Pharisee’s fasting “twice in the week,” but his boasting of it, that Christ condemned (Luke 18:12).
The salvation of soul is not dependent on your fasting, prayers, almsgiving, or pilgrimage. Christ saved you freely and completely by His death on the cross, and He renews you with His kindness. Christ poured out His own Spirit into your heart, so you do not need to increase your sanctity through fasting, pilgrimage and worship, for Christ has completely and perfectly cleansed you! In the fellowship of Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit of our heavenly Father.
Why do we fast? Our fasting is not purposed to justify or cleanse ourselves. It is a sign of repentance, penitence and supplication. Fasting is prayer within your inner self. If the nerves of your stomach tremble with hunger, and your spirit always remains oriented toward God, your soul will become free from its burdens, relieved to faith, prayer and thankfulness. He, who fasts, penetrates into the grace of God, becomes free from judgments and can worship God with gladness.
Fasting is a laudable practice, and we have reason to be sorry, that it is generally neglected among Christians. The old Anna “served God with fasting” (Luke 2:37). The first Christians practiced it often (Acts 13:3; 14:23). Private fasting is an act of self-denial and mortification of the flesh, a holy revenge upon ourselves and humiliation under the hand of God. Mature Christians confess by their fasting that they are far from having anything to be proud of, that they are even unworthy of their daily bread. It is a means to curb the flesh and it’s desires and to make us livelier in religious exercises, as fullness of bread is apt to make us drowsy. Paul was “in fasting often” and so he “kept under this body and brought it into subjection.”
But be cautious when fasting. Let your soul be filled with the Word of God, not with human imagination and illusions. Satan approaches the fasting believer, pretending holiness, untrue care and false shining godliness, which were revealed by Jesus when tempted by Satan around the end of His worship in the desert. Fasting does not save you. It is only the Word of God that makes your fasting a part of your faith, that you may receive new power from your merciful Lord.
The hypocrites pretended fasting, when there was nothing of that contrition or humility of soul in them, which is the life and soul of the duty. Theirs were mock-fasts, the show and shadow without the substance. They took on themselves to be more humble than they really were and endeavored to deceive God, which is a great affront to Him. The fast that God has chosen, is a day to afflict the soul, not to hang down the head like a bulrush, nor for a man to spread sackcloth and ashes under himself; we are quite mistaken if we call this a fast (Isaiah 58:5).
They proclaimed their fasting and managed it that all who saw them might take notice that it was a fasting-day with them. Even on these days they appeared in the streets, whereas they should have been in their houses. They affected a downcast look, a melancholy countenance, a slow and solemn pace; and perfectly disfigured themselves, that men might see how often they fasted and might extol them as devout, mortified men.
Do not talk to people about your fasting to recommend yourself to the good opinion of men. Appear with your everyday countenance, guise and dress. Look pleasant for God meets you and makes you a partner in the victory of Christ through your faith by fasting. Then you will be filled with the joy of the presence of God, and you will not fail in the practice of godliness.
Our Father in heaven proclaims Himself to him who prays, fasts and penetrates into the word of the gospel. This is the greatest step of inspiration, for you may recognize God the Father in the conduct of Christ as He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” This is the longing of our hearts, to see Him, the Holy One, as He is.
Did you know that the almighty God dwells also in the followers of Christ, for they are together the temple of His Holy Spirit? This divine Spirit does not come to you for the sake of your fasting or prayer, but as a result of your faith in the atoning death of Jesus.
One who fasts can communicate Christ’s power to others. By prayer, faith and fasting evil spirits must leave possessed ones, since the name of Christ with authority casts out demons.
Do not let your fasting be restricted to food and drink only. Abstain from impure pornography, continuous smoking and bad habits, thus you save your money and become able to sacrifice it for the spreading of the kingdom of your Father in heaven. Your abstention from devastating things is sometimes more important than fasting and keeping away from food and drink. Dedicate your time and ability to God without pretension and you will find the fruits of His glory growing in others.

Prayer
O Father, You intend to dwell in us with Your kind Spirit. We joyfully worship You and cheerfully thank You, for You have invited us to Your fellowship. Please teach us to behave as You please, to pray for others and to fast gladly and trustfully, that many may be freed from the bounds of Satan and receive eternal life.
Question
What does fasting mean in the New Testament?
PART 1
THE PRELIMINARY PERIOD IN THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST
(MATTHEW 1:1 – 4:25)
PART 2
CHRIST TEACHES AND MINISTERS IN GALILEE
(MATTHEW 5:1 – 11:1)
PART 3
THE UNBELIEVING JEWS AND THEIR ENMITY TO JESUS
(MATTHEW 11:2-18:35)
PART 4
JESUS’ MINISTRY IN THE JORDAN VALLEY DURING HIS JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
(MATTHEW 19:1 – 20:34)
PART 5
JESUS’ LAST MINISTRIES IN JERUSALEM
(MATTHEW 21:1 – 25:46)
PART 6
CHRIST’S SUFFEINGS AND DEATH
(MATTHEW 26:1-27:66)
PART 7
THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
(MATTHEW 28:1-20)