Malagasy Lutheran Church Song & Gospel Sunday IV following the Trinity, 2 – 8 July 2023 « The approved fast » *

Le message : God accepts the fasting that men do, insofar as it corresponds to His will; but He forbids it if this is not the case.
1/ What statements in Sacred Scripture explain the origin and usefulness of fasting? In essence, here are the reasons:

  • Self-control, or the subjection of the body to free oneself from carnal desires, and concentration on prayer, namely « the Day of fasting for redemption » (Acts
    27:9). Peter exhorted in these terms: « … be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers » 1 Pet 4:7b. Paul testified: « I punish my body and
    enslave it […] » 1 Cor 9:27.
  • Preparation for a difficult and long-lasting battle. This is clearly the case in today’s times of trial, which lead us to believe that « prayer is all the more effective
    because of the support of fasting »; thus, « [we strive] to present yourself to God as one approved by him […] » 2 Tim 2:15a.
  • One way for people to make their decision known is to devote themselves to God. The apostle Paul said: « I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on
    the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship » Rom 12:1.
    2/ Errors, failings and ramblings concerning fasting:
  • It can act as repentance, whereas it is grace which saves and not personal efforts, « so that no one may boast » Eph 2:9.
  • It is believed to be the means of overcoming the flesh; but in reality, it is a substitution for the work of the Holy Spirit, the only force capable of transforming
    human nature. In fact, « if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live » Rom 8:13b. Also, « Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the
    desires of the flesh » Gal 5:16.
  • This is a way of justifying ourselves as « walking according to the Spirit », and not by the flesh: we then hope that the Lord will accept the requests we make of
    Him and respond to the requests so that He will pour out His blessing, and we even oblige Him to do so.
  • This is how efforts were born, which soon turned into a real competition to achieve a long fast, with the objective set by some of fasting for forty days and forty
    nights, as the Lord did (Mt 4:2).
    3/ God’s will: what is required is prayer from a sincere heart led by the Spirit (Jn 4:24). What we call a « sincere heart » is a heart that repents and believes;
    indeed, « a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise » Ps 51:17b. « For one believes with the heart, leading to righteousness, and one confesses with
    the mouth, leading to salvation » Rom 10:10. It is a heart that has been purified by the blood of Christ. « Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God » Mt
    5:8, and God speaks to them and answers their prayers, as it is written: « With the loyal you show yourself loyal; with the blameless you show yourself
    blameless » 2 Sam 22:26b.
    To conclude: should we fast or not? You must fast, but you must fast from sin and from everything that opposes God’s will (1 Thess 4:3), and in this way,
    sanctify yourself and consecrate your life to Him, according to His commandment: « You shall be holy, for I am holy » Lev 11:44b.

Monday, 03rd : The approved fast consists of doing charitable works.
« This is the fast in which I delight: […] Share your bread with the hungry » Isa 58:6a,7a.
Reading 1: Mt 25:34-40. Reading 2: Isa 58:6-12. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Isa 58:6-7.
Introduction: God is pleased with benevolence, which is the manifestation of charity. For charity is the greatest (1 Cor 13:13), it gives life and sustains life. Jesus said: « Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends » Jn 15:13. Therefore, « Go and do likewise » Lk 10:37.

Tuesday, 04th: Accepted fasting is not ostentatious.
« For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something external and physical » Rom 2:28.
Reading 1: Mt 6:1-4. Reading 2: Rom 2:17-29. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Rom 2:28-29.
Introduction: God-approved fasting is not for all to see, but for God alone. Jesus recommends: « Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees » Mt 16:6, which is hypocrisy and ostentation. Therefore, when you fast, make sure that « your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you » Mt 6:18.

Wednesday, 05th: Accepted fasting is like a sacred offering.
« Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name » Acts 9:15.
Reading 1: Isa 66:1-4. Reading 2: Acts 9:8-16. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Acts 9:15.
Introduction: It is not the worship that serves selfishness, boasting or personal interest that God approves, but it is the worship that advances others and the church of God (1 Cor 14:12). God jealously protects the works put at His service and declares: « I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity » Isa 1:13. He also preserves the honour of his name, saying: « My glory I give to no other » Isa 42:8.

Thursday, 06th: The approved fast is done with a pure heart.
« Wherever this good news is preached in the whole world, what this woman did will also be told in memory of her » Mt 26:13.
Reading 1: Acts 5:1-11. Reading 2: Mt 26:6-13. Preaching 1: (Free choice) Preaching 2: Mt 26:13.
Introduction: Fasting, which is a holy priesthood, is not meant to justify oneself or to judge others, like the Pharisee who accused the tax collector who came to pray with him. Yet the latter obtained justice because of his humility and uprightness (Lk 18:14). The same is true of the heart that God requires in the matter of offerings: « Let each one give as he has purposed in his heart, without sorrow or compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver » 2 Cor 9:7.

Friday, 07th: Accepted fasting is beneficial.
« Give to him who asks you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you » Mt 5:42.
Reading 1: Jas 2:14-20. Reading 2: Mt 5:38-42. Preaching 1: (Free choice) Preaching 2: Mt 5:42.
Introduction: To give according to God is not a loss, but a profit, because it is written: « He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, who will repay him according to his work » Pr 19:17. Indeed, Jesus said: « Truly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me » Mt 25:40. Paul said: « Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap » Gal 6:7b, « He that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully » 2 Cor 9:6b.

Saturday, 08th: The inheritance of approved fasting is eternal blessing.
« Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life » Rev 22:14a.
Reading 1: 1 Thess 4:1-8. Reading 2: Rev 22:10-16. Preaching 1: (Free choice) Preaching 2: Rev 22:14.
Introduction: The deprivation of sin makes inherit eternal blessing. In fact, sin having introduced itself into the life of the human race brought death (Gen 3:19), because « the sting of death is sin » 1 Cor 15:56a. But « whoever is born of God does not sin » 1 Jn 3:9a, that is, whoever believes in Jesus who gives eternal life (1 Jn 5:12).

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