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WHEN YOU FAST

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Rev. John Samuel Cagan
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, August 12, 2018

“When ye fast” (Matthew 6:16).


Jesus Himself fasted before He began His earthly ministry. Jesus said that His disciples would also fast after He ascended back to Heaven. He said,

“And then shall they fast” (Matthew 9:15).

Dr. John R. Rice said this shows they fasted and prayed for ten days before the revival at Pentecost. I think this was true! The Apostle Paul fasted and prayed for three days when he was converted (Acts 9:9, 11). Members of the church at Antioch fasted to know the will of God (Acts 13:2). Again they “fasted and prayed” when they sent Paul and Barnabas out as missionaries (Acts 13:3). The Apostle Paul said he practiced “fastings often” (II Corinthians 11:27). And here in our text Jesus tells us we should fast. He said, “When ye fast” (Matthew 6:16). He said, “and then shall they fast” (Matthew 9:15).

Concerning our text, “When ye fast,” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “Fasting has a value for believers in our day, I am convinced of that” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 38).

Some people think Jesus was teaching against fasting in this passage in Matthew 6:16-18. But they are wrong. He was teaching against “externalism” as the Scofield note puts it. He was teaching against fasting hypocritically, to be seen by others. But He was not teaching against true fasting at all. Just the opposite – He said, “When ye fast,” and then He told them how to do it, and why they should do it. Jesus did not say, “If ye fast.” Oh, no! Jesus said, “When ye fast.”

Fasting does have value today. But back in his time the famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry lamented “that it is…generally neglected among Christians” (note on Matthew 16:16). About 25 years after Matthew Henry died John Wesley revived the practice of fasting. He told his people to follow the example of the early Christians by fasting twice a week. Thus the First Great Awakening was born during a time of renewed interest in fasting and prayer. This revived emphasis on fasting had its roots in this statement of Christ,

“When ye fast” (Matthew 6:16).

And the Bible teaches that there are many reasons to fast at times when we pray today. I am going to give two of them this morning.

I. First, we need to fast and pray for God to overcome the power of Satan.

Please turn to Mark 9:28-29. Stand and read these two verses aloud.

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting”
          (Mark 9:28-29).

You may be seated. As Dr. Hymers said last night, he believes it is wrong that the words “and fasting” in Mark 9:29 have been removed from most modern translations. Dr. Hymers says this is an error, based on faulty textual criticism. Sadly the words “and fasting” have been removed from these modern translations. They have been influenced by two old manuscripts copied by Gnostically-influenced priests, who left out those words. Thus one of the most important reasons for fasting has been removed from the thought of Christians in the West, who now read these new translations based on those two questionable manuscripts. No wonder our churches have so little power against Satan! Dr. John R. Rice said, “Let us not doubt that this child was literally possessed of a devil [demon]. Evil spirits are about us” (Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1980 edition, p. 364; comment on Matthew 17:14-21). The Bible says,

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against… spiritual wickedness in high places”
      (Ephesians 6:12).

It is extremely difficult to build up churches by evangelism today. Some are even saying that evangelicalism in America is dead. It seems to me that the power of Satan is very great in our time. It seems to me that we need God’s power to overcome the “spiritual wickedness in high places.” Let us fast and pray for God to break Satan’s stranglehold! That seems perfectly reasonable in these days of apostasy and coldness in the churches, when Satan holds such power over many people we are attempting to win for Christ. Sing hymn number 4, “Teach Me to Pray,” the second stanza, “Power in Prayer.” I’ll read it first.

Power in prayer, Lord, power in prayer,
   Here ‘mid earth’s sin and sorrow and care;
Men lost and dying, souls in despair;
   O give me power, power in prayer!
(“Teach Me to Pray” by Albert S. Reitz, 1879-1966).

It seems to me that power in prayer is directly connected with fasting, for Jesus said,

“When ye fast” (Matthew 6:16).

II. Second, we need to fast and pray for individuals to be converted.

Jesus said,

“When ye fast” (Matthew 6:16).

God said to the prophet Isaiah,

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

The boy that the Disciples could not help was bound with “the bands of wickedness.” The Disciples could not help him because,

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Don’t you think that some of those who come to church are in a similar condition? Has not Satan “the god of this world…blinded the minds of them which believe not”? (II Corinthians 4:4). Don’t you think God speaks to us when He says,

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

I think Charles Wesley had that verse in Isaiah in mind when he wrote, “O For a Thousand Tongues.”

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
   His blood availed for me.
(“O For a Thousand Tongues” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

Please stand and sing number 5 to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me.”

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
   His blood availed for me.

You may be seated.

Oh, how we must fast and pray for Christ to do that in the lives of some here who are still unconverted! Oh, how we must pray for Christ to break the power of sin that holds them in the grip of Satan and the world! Oh, how we must fast and pray for Christ

“to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free…”!
      (Isaiah 58:6).

Sing Charles Wesley’s hymn again!

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
   His blood availed for me.

Charles’ brother John Wesley said it well, in a time of revival,

Have you appointed any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace, and persevere therein, and mercy will come down (ibid.).

May we do exactly that next Tuesday, August 14! May we who are able to do so fast and pray at home, for those who are lost among us! Not all of you can fast, of course. But as time, health, and circumstances permit, let those who are able do so fast and pray. Then let us come back here to church next Tuesday evening at 7:00, and pray for them again, then break our fast with a meal, and go home rejoicing in God! For indeed, Charles Wesley’s hymn is true! Sing it again!

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
   He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;

   His blood availed for me.

If you are lost we will be praying for you next Tuesday. Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sin. He shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse you from all sin. He rose from the dead to give you eternal life. Amen.


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(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “I Am Praying For You” (by S. O’Malley Clough, 1837-1910).

THE OUTLINE OF

WHEN YOU FAST

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Rev. John Samuel Cagan

“When ye fast” (Matthew 6:16).

(Matthew 9:15; Acts 9:9, 11; 13:2, 3; II Corinthians 11:27)

I.   First, we need to fast and pray for God to overcome the power
of Satan, Mark 9:28-29; Ephesians 6:12.

II.  Second, we need to fast and pray for individuals to be
converted, Isaiah 58:6; Mark 9:29; II Corinthians 4:4.