Thursday, February 18, 2010

Missional Fasting for Lent

Lent is the six weeks prior to the great gospel week where Jesus' death, burial and resurrection are celebrated. For centuries the church has celebrated this time as a time of reflection and renewal, of introspection and self-examination. One of the customs of Lent is to give up (fast) something for the entire 40 days, to help you keep your focus on 'the reason for the season'.

I'm curious, what should missionaries to Corinth give up? and for whom?

In Isaiah God's people were very spiritual, observed the feasts and sacrifices with vigor and even went above and beyond, fasting for God to break through and bring revival. They looked around and didn't like the sin and where their culture had drifted to, and they did the only thing they knew to do, they went to church more and begged God for a revival. But God rejected their religious efforts, their fast, their sacrifices and he asked them for a different kind of fast... a fast for others instead of themselves.

Most fasting is for us. We want to get something from it. We want to get closer, dig deeper, have a revival, whatever. But in Isaiah 58 God told his people that an acceptable fast was not a fast for themselves but a fast for others. In verse three the people are fussing with God. They say, "Why have we afflicted our souls and you haven't taken notice?"

Then God begins to unfold the true fast. It goes like this:

Isa 58:6-7
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

God said that a true fast is not you giving up something for you... but you giving up something for them, the poor, the needy, the outcast.

God went on in verse 10 to use their own complaint and turn it on them, he said:

If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul...

God called his people to satisfy the afflicted soul of someone else, not afflict their own souls for their own satisfaction.

Maybe this Lent, instead of us giving up something for us, we could give up something for them.


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