The Fasting That Fills (Matthew 6:16-18) by Bro. John Lao

Whenever we are seeking the acceptance of others, we normally put our best foot forward. If you’re tasked to do a presentation, maybe having your job interview as well, meeting the parents for the first time, you would want to give value, show competence, as well as live a very good impression. But there’s something interesting in our passage today. And it is an attempt to win the approval of men or of others in the display of their religion. But the hypocrites are putting forward not their best foot, they’re not putting their best foot forward but it is the complete opposite. And they were seeking to feed their pride and hunger for honour. But the disciples are commanded not to imitate them, neither to put their best, nor their worst foot forward. Instead, enjoy the secrecy of their fasting before God who sees what they do in secret. So, so that they could enjoy THE FASTING THAT FILLS.

So please turn with me to Matthew chapter 6 in the New Testament and we are still on The Sermon on the Mount. And for this morning we will be looking at chapter 6 verses 16 to 18. Matthew chapter 6 verses 16 to 18. I’ll be reading from the ESV. And so pay attention closely because these instructions are coming from the very lips of our Lord. “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Please pray with me. Oh Lord and our God, our heavenly Father, there’s nothing in the world that we desire more than anything else but You. You are our sufficiency. And oh Lord in this gift that you have given us the mean so Lord by which we can further receive Your blessing through fasting, may we have a right apprehension of it. May we truly understand it as You have taught us in Your word. And may we just enjoy this knowing that it is a blessed communion that being able to be in Your presence for about a minute for times that we that we set aside, even food and the regular activities that we have so that we can be in Your presence, it’s more than anything else oh Lord that could fill our hearts with joy. And so Lord, may You use Your word to teach us, to sanctify us and to have a renewed appreciation of the gospel. In Jesus name we pray amen.

The long-awaited King has come, entered history and have inaugurated His kingdom in His first coming. And in this section of the New Testament, we are looking at the King’s pronouncement or His manifesto, or what we refer to as The Sermon on the Mount. And in this sermon, we are told by the King Himself how the life of the kingdom of God looks like. And for the past several weeks we’ve worked our way through the Lord’s Prayer which is essentially the pattern of prayer that the Lord has instructed His disciples. He taught them how to approach God in their prayers having in mind His character, His kingdom, His grace and when you put it all together, the Lord is teaching His disciples that our prayers must be God-centered. It must be centred upon Him. And from His much needed digression and further treatment of prayer, Christ goes back to His, to His original topic in dealing with hypocrisy in the practice of personal righteousness. Kumbaga parang kinuha Niya ulit yung martilyo to hammer down the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of their time.

And so when we back up a little bit in verse 1, we will find His whole point in this instruction where He said ‘beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them’. He warns against practicing righteousness for the purpose of getting the attention of others or putting on a show. If the hypocrites are doing it for the sake of drawing attention to themselves, the disciples on the other hand should not be like them and must have an undivided focus upon God in the exercise of their personal devotion. He illustrates this by citing the three major components of Jewish piety, that if you would think of a Jew, immediately eto yung tatlong bagay na maiisip mo sa kanila na ginagawa nila sa kanilang uh…for the most part of their lives— giving, praying and dito sa titignan natin today, fasting.

And so, ano ba talaga ang ibig nating sabihin, or, hindi yung ibig nating sabihin heh, but what does the bible teach about fasting? How do we ought to understand so that we can be, we can make sure that all of us are in the same page in the understanding of this exercise? So if you would want to have a basic definition of fasting, it’s basically abstinence from food, yun lang yun. It is skipping meals if you want, if you want to have a more informal definition. But when the Bible speaks about fasting, it is a ‘voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.’ Kumbaga hindi lang tayo nag-aabstain sa pagkain when we fast, but we are also doing our, or performing our religious duties whether prayer, the reading of the scripture. So hindi lang siya parang one-sided. That is a biblical definition of fasting.

In the Old Testament, kung titignan natin dun, kaisa-isang commandment ang Panginoon to the people of Israel – that they ought to fast. And that is in the day of atonement or yung Yom Kippur, makikita natin yun sa Leviticus chapter 16. But the people, the people of Israel, they also pass it individually for whatever reasons: mourning, grieving, kapag, katulad ni David ‘no, when his child was about to die, he fasted, he mourned for several days for his child. So may mga personal reasons why the people of the Old Testament were fasting. But they also observed this corporately in addition dun sa kaisa-isang command na binigay ng Panginoon sa kanila, to observe fasting in the day of atonement. And this is normally when they would want to remember certain key events in the life of the people of Israel. And the reason why there’s no need for us to fast during the day of the atonement, is because it found already its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Now, dahil dun, should Christians fast? Yun yung gusto nating sagutin. Should Christians fast? Well, there’s no explicit command in the New Testament for Christians to fast. But the Lord Jesus Christ Himself assumes that His disciples would fast. Kitang-kita yun sa passage na titignan natin this morning. Anong sinabi Niya doon? “And when you fast..” And in our scripture reading earlier Matthew chapter 9 verses 14 to 15, the disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus why His disciples were not fasting, pero kami at pati mga Pharisees nagfa- fast? Now Jesus gave a very interesting answer. Verse 15 He says: can the wedding guest mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” Pag nandun na yung kinaantay natin, kailangan pa ba natin magmourn, kailangan pa ba nating magyearn? Andito na. So unang-una, Christ is making an explicit claim that He is the expected Bridegroom; that’s one. Second, since He is the expected Bridegroom and He is here during that time with them, Christ is saying that this is not the time for fasting and for mourning. It is a time of joy, it is a time of celebration. However, He goes further to say the days will come when the Bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast. What is that time? May mga iba’t-ibang views but I, but we truly believe and I believe personally, that it is a time between His ascension and His second coming. This is the time. It is time between His ascension and His second coming. Though the Holy Spirit resides in every believer, there is a sense that He is present with us, but not in its fullness. And therefore, nandun pa rin yung yearning, nandun pa rin yung longing nandun pa rin yung sorrow natin because of the effects of sin, nandun pa rin. And when you look at some examples in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul when he was converted, he fasted. The early church, when they sent missionaries and appointed elders in Acts chapter 13 and 14, they fasted. And when they were, they were, um, yes, so, in the appointment of elders, the sending of the missionaries.. but look at this.. even the Lord Himself fasted in preparation for His ministry, to become the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world in fulfilling His work of redeeming sinners like you and I, He fasted in the wilderness, to prepare Himself for the work that He is about to do on behalf of His people.

And Martin Lloyd Jones also said that it is not just limited to passing on food, but it, it can be. Wala namang masama dito. It can be that even normal activities that we can do each and every day can be abstained for the sake of spiritual purposes. But here, the Lord is not concerned on, not concerned really on how, although ia-address Niya rin sa passage na ito, or the fact that they fasted a lot. But the Lord’s concern here is their motive in fasting. The motivation behind their righteous deeds are laid bare before the eyes of the all-seeing eyes of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And mind you! So is ours! In our service to our God, He sees whether we are truly seeking Him or we are seeking man’s attention in our religious duties. When fasting my dear brethren and friends disciples of Christ must be careful to seek God and not the esteem of men. That is my message to you this morning.

When fasting, disciples of Christ must be careful to seek God and not the esteem of men. But first, we’re going to look at where we need to be cautious. That is going to be our first point, Seeking Witnesses and second, I would like to talk about the joy and the privilege of fasting that God has given us. So that is going to be the second point, Secret Witness.

So let’s look at the first point, Seeking Witnesses. And we can see here that Christ is issuing a word of caution to His disciples in the area of private fasting. Verse 16 He says: “when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” The Jews fasted twice a week and it happens every Monday and Thursday. And by the way, that is also the market day for all the Jews. Which means that everyone is out doing their business. Kitang-kita ang bawa’t isa kapag nasa labas. And if you’re gonna parade your righteousness, if you’re gonna show and advertise that you are fasting, that’s going to be the perfect day. Maraming makakakita. You’re gonna make yourself known as a person suffering, afflicting yourself for your religious devotion. Grabe yung piety nung tao na ito. Look, ni hindi man lang naghilamos, puro abo ang mukha, naka sackcloth. Napaka repentant ng tao na ito. And the Lord tells them, don’t do that, do not be like them. They were pretending to be gloomy. They’re putting on a sad face, they are disfiguring their faces. Why? So that they would be noticed. It would be clear to everyone that they are fasting. Intentional ito. So as you look at this assessment of the Lord Jesus, they’re not really fasting. They’re just there for the show. They want people to know that they are faithfully keeping the two-day a week fast to admire them for their pretend godliness. And for those hypocrites the Lord says: “truly I say to you, they have received their rewards.” In other words, if that’s what they want, that is exactly what you will get and nothing else. The admiration of men, the reward is given in full for those who seek them through their display of righteousness.

So pretentious acts of piety will secure the recognition of men but not and never the reward of God. There’s uh, just to clarify: there’s absolutely nothing wrong in doing a righteous deed publicly. Also for, for practical sake, um, hindi mo naman siya talaga matatago in every opportunity. When you give to others, definitely kitang-kita yun nung pinagbigyan mo, unless i-hide mo ang pangalan mo. Huwag mong ibigay yung pangalan mo dun sa card, ‘no. And when fasting it’s not a sin kung makikita ka ng asawa mona nagfa-fast. There is not a problem there. There’s a world of difference to be seen fasting or fasting and fasting to be seen. There’s a world of difference when people sees you doing something or you are doing something in order for you to be seen. chapter 5 verse 16 says let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works. As believers, our good works should be seen for the right purposes, for the right reasons. So that others, eto yung dahilan, give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Not to give glory unto ourselves, not to parade ourselves, not to show ourselves as holier than thou. That should be the motivation. However, any act of worship made known in order to draw attention to ourselves, will receive no commendation from the Lord. That includes giving, that includes praying, and as it has been said before, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. And such hypocrisy is a great disgrace before our God who sees our hearts. Pretentious piety dishonours God because it is simply taking what is His. Ginagamt natin ito para sa ating sinful ends. And when we make ourselves look gloomy so that others would notice our godliness, it is a misrepresentation of the gospel. Bakit? Because the gospel is good news. The gospel tells us that God saves sinners through Jesus Christ. And when you hear the news that your sins have been paid for, you have unfettered access to our Father through Christ. You can call upon Him as our heavenly Father and that you are His child. It brings joy upon our hearts. And not only that; our pretentious play of piety is also a misrepresentation of God Himself when we display it to others. It gives an impression that our, that giving our lives under the rule of the One, true and living God, is a kind of life that is miserable. Rather than loving the Father, or rather than showing that we have a loving Father, we make the impression that God is a hard Task Master.

But trials, dadating din naman talaga ang mga trials. We’re not saying that the Christian life is devoid of any kind of sorrow, sadness and gloom and suffering. But just as our salvation in Christ and the blessings given to us by virtue of His finished work is irrevocable, our joy as Christians, hindi nagbabago yun. Seeking the admiration of man, in the display of our godliness not only dishonours God, but it will also breed sin sa ating mga puso. Pag lagi natin itong ginagawa at hindi natin ina-address at kino-confess sa ating Ama. We can see how serious the sin of hypocrisy is. Pride can be developed in our hearts. And we would think of ourselves as better believers dahil we are fasting. We are doing more of our religious duties publicly, unlike others. So it can not only do harm upon yourselves, but you can also harm other believers and the church are at large as well. And the glory that comes from man is harmful to ourselves and to everyone else. That’s what we need to to be reminded of. And because of our remaining sin, tayong mga believers, we can struggle with this particular sin. We want to be noticed, we want to be praised because of our devotion. But recognising its seriousness, we must keep watch of our hearts that we may not fall into sin of man-pleasing. And that is my first challenge for you this morning. In your service to God, take heed of your motives.

Kaya lang ba tayo pumupunta dito sa church on the Lord’s Day, because you would want your fellow covenant members to see you, to see you being faithful in fulfilling your covenantal responsibility, participating, helping, serving the church? When you share your biblical convictions online, these are all good things my dear brethren. And I’m not saying that you should stop doing it just because you don’t want to be seen. But take care lest we do it for the sake of just being noticed, being applauded, being admired dahil ginagawa mo ito ‘for the Lord.’

If the Christian is centred upon obedience to Jesus Christ, then in all these things, must find its basis upon the gospel. In all of our deeds of piety, we must look back to the gospel, we must have it as the driver of our obedience and piety before God, to give cheerfully, to come freely to our Father in prayer. And let it cause your heart to intensely express your prayer and hunger for God in your fasting. And to seek Him that you may be filled with His fullness.

Sa kanyang book na The Sin Of Man Pleasing, Richard Baxter describes the applause and recognition of man as a miserable reward. Sinabi niya rito: “It is the thought and the thought and breath of mortal men instead of God, instead of heaven, this is their reward. Their happiness will be to lie in hell. And remember that they were well spoken of on Earth and that once they were accounted religious, learned, wise and honourable. And to remember that they preferred this reward instead of everlasting happiness with Christ. And if this, referring to Christ, be not your gain, your labor, your toil is all lost which you lay out in hunting for applause.” Is this what we want? Yun ba yung gusto natin? Doing religious devotions, displaying your spiritual disciplines just so we could be noticed. That at the end of the day that’s all there is para sa atin. Is that what we really want? Let us ask ourselves. Take heed and be careful that your deeds of service unto God may not be for the worthless crown of man’s recognition. Fleeting yan mga kapatid. And friends, if you are seeking such, that is just in vain. And because there is an infinitely better reward that I’d like to talk about, we will be looking at this on the second point, Secret Witness.

So beginning at verse 17, Jesus turns to His disciples to instruct them on their demeanor when they fast. Sinabi Niya in verse 17, but when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” Unlike the hypocrites, Christ is saying don’t make it obvious. Anointing your head and washing your face, hindi ito yung parang ceremonial cleansing, but this is just normal cleansing; kumbaga wash your face, get yourself a bath, look pleasant to other people. In other words, look normal. Huwag mong ipapakita that you are fasting. Do not make it evident before others that you are afflicting yourselves and depriving yourselves of food in order for you to pray and fast. Why? That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in heaven. The reason is because private fasting is a matter between the person and God. The disciples must neglect the crowd and focus on God. They should conceal it in a way that it’s only be seen by by the all-seeing eyes of God. And for such person, Christ Himself gives this assuring words: “ and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Though man wouldn’t take notice of your fasting, wala man makakapansin niyan, with our peers, with our fellow brethren, God does and He’s faithful to reward him. God Himself rewards those who truly seek Him in fasting. Fasting assumes the sincerity and humility of posture before Him. And we recognise His absolute ownership over everything. It seeks His face understanding that He is the God of His people. It acknowledges our unworthiness, our weakness. It shows our mourning for our sins, our grief over our sins, our own sins and as well as the sins of others. It is the heart that intensely expresses our own helplessness and our great need of Him.

And like any other blessings given to us through Christ, fasting is a gift. It is given primarily for His honour and secondarily for His benefit not to fulfill our carnal desires. Hindi ito para ma-compell natin si Lord dahil nagfa-fast tayo. Because nagfa-fast tayo, kailangan si Lord, ibigay Niya sa akin yung gusto ko, yung hinihiling ko. In fact, that’s one of the most damaging doctrines that you could ever teach others, that God is forced to bend down before you just because you are fasting. Mag-ingat tayo sa mga ganitong teaching my brothers and sisters and friends.

Martin Lloyd Jones said that there is a kind of fasting that is concerning that aims to get a direct and immediate blessing from God. They’re treating God like a, not really like a genie, but like a, like a slave or for parang ginagamit nila para sa kanilang sariling ends. Nagiging transactional and relationship rather than a paternal one. If you want something, eto yung tinuturo nila, you fast. If you want to marry that person, fast about it. Malay natin sa bandang dulo, maging kayo. As if God is compelled to give you what you want because you were doing that. There is a problem of the carnal mind. It is bound in the worldliness and such belief is an insult to God Himself and an offence against His sovereignty.

And there’s also a kind of fasting na talagang dine-deprive lang yung sarili nila because they’re showing their religious devotion. Kumbaga nandun lang sila sa basic definition of fasting. Dine-deprive nila ang kanilang sarili. But Paul in Colossians chapter 2 gives a warning to such kind of fasting that is in itself asceticism. Sinabi niya dito: “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch, (referring to things that all perish as they are used) —according to human precepts and teachings?” These have indeed appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. If you are simply abstaining from food, and not giving yourselves to God in seeking Him, you are simply making way for other indulgence of your flesh to come in. Ang sine-set aside mo lang is yung general appetite natin sa ating uh, yung pangangailangan sa pagkain. And when disciples fast and seeks the face of God, it glorifies and exalts Him for His sufficiency. Hence, in fasting, brothers and sisters and friends, when we seek Him in this spiritual exercise, the reward that God gives is Himself.

God gives Himself as our reward. But take note: we’ve talked about the Old Testament kind of fasting earlier. Sinabi natin na this is a sign of mourning, sorrow and the truth is, for us Christians, we do not just simply replicate what they’re doing in the Old Testament, at ia-apply natin ngayon yun. Hindi lang basta ganun. Though there may be some elements of it because of sin, though unlike the Old Testament way of fasting characterised by waiting for God for His deliverance, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah that would deliver us from all of our sins, we fast in light of the Gospel. We fast in light of the fact that the King has come. He has established His kingdom. And as well as the salvation blessings that comes from Him has been given to His people. And until that day, our longing and yearning for Christ may be expressed in prayer and fasting. But our fasting and longing and yearning for God now is based on the hope that is realised, fulfilled in the person and work of Christ.

And so as we come to God with our cries and pleas with our sorrows, we are not left hoping because we know the blessed hope has come in the person of Christ. And that brings the joy and the change in our fasting. Hindi na ito yung parang gloomy lang tayo. But there’s an element of Joy because of what Christ has done for His people. And friend, if you’re joining us today, He is the hope of salvation. He is the hope that provides forgiveness from all of our sins. And if you have not given your life to our Lord Jesus Christ, if you haven’t given your lives to Him, repent, turn away, from your sins place your faith in the blessed hope that God has provided in His beloved Son.

But we brethren, brothers and sisters, when you fast, rejoice in this wonderful privilege that God has given us to seek Him. It is something that He is working in us. It is something that He has gifted us with. God is giving us an opportunity to appreciate even more the person and work of Christ. He in turn uses it to mortify our sins, to cultivate spiritual graces, to strengthen our faith and trust in Him, and that our hunger for the world may diminish, and that our hunger for God, would constantly increase. And the truth is we cannot exhaust God just as He is infinite. He infinitely supplies Himself to us.

So do you hunger for the presence of God as you sincerely come to Him and humbly seek Him? Do you yearn for a greater appreciation of Christ and what He has done for us? Do you see your need? Nakikita mo ba ang iyong pangangailangan? Nakikita mo rin ba ang pangangailangan ng inyong kapatid? Ng family member? Ng iyong wife or husband? Your children? Pag nakikita mo ang mga pangangailangan ng mga tao sa paligid natin, then it should be a motivation for us to fast and seek the Lord for His grace.

When He was about to enter the ministry, si David Brainerd made a journal entry in April 19, 1742. And he wrote these words: “I set apart this day for fasting and prayer to God for His grace. Especially to prepare me for the work of ministry, to give me divine aid and direction in my preparations for that great work. And in His own time, to send me into the harvest. That is said in his experience on that day. I felt the power of intercession for precious, immortal souls; for the advancement of the kingdom of my dear Lord and Saviour in the word; and withal, a most sweet resignation, and even consolation and joy in the thoughts of suffering hardships, distresses, and even death itself, in the promotion of it; My soul was drawn out very much for the world; for multitudes of souls. I think I had more enlargement for sinners, than for the children of God; though I felt as if I could spend my life in cries for both.” So sinasabi ni David Brainerd dito, lalong lumaki ang kaniyang puso para sa mga hindi pa naniniwala kay Kristo to the point na ang feeling niya, mas matindi pa ang compassion niya to the lost as compared to the children of God. But he can spend this entire life crying for both people. “I enjoyed great sweetness in communion with my dear Saviour. I think I never in my life felt such an entire weanedness from this world, and so much resigned to God in every thing.” Eto yung naging epekto sa atin. As we are drawn closer to God, we are drawn closer into His character. We are drawn closer to His priorities, His kingdom, the advancement of the gospel. And we are drawn even more closer to, to know and to understand that our sufficiency is found in Him.

And so brothers and sisters, when you fast, rejoice in this great gift and privilege of communing with our God and Father. The privilege of fasting is given to us as a gift that we may exercise it for His glory and for our good.

Let us pray. Oh Lord and our great God and Father, thank You because You constantly draw us into Yourself. And even as we ask that we would grow in our appreciation of the gospel, You indeed are faithful to provide just that. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for Your goodness. Salamat po sa Inyong mercy at grace na nag-uumapaw and we cannot exhaust. And so Lord, we pray that indeed in our private exercise of fasting, may we not desire oh Lord to display it to show that we are devout men and women of You. But we pray Lord God that we would do it for the audience of One and that is You. We praise You and we thank You in Jesus’ Name, amen.


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