Commentary on the theology behind fasting
by John Frazier
When we think of fasting, we think of religion, sacrifice and self-denial. When we do a religious act, the most important thing is truth, followed by sincerity. Are we acting for ourselves, for others, or truly for God? This is the problem when fasting is performed to fulfill an institutional requirement. It takes deep soul-searching to make sure that obedience is deep, honest devotion, not surface, hypocritical piety. There is no benefit for anybody in hypocritical religion. And it is not necessary for others to know if the fasting is truly just between us and God.
When sacrificing, again motives must be examined. Are we expecting a divine reward for our losses, a spiritual benefit for a material contribution, or others' praise? Is the sacrifice for us or for the recipient? God promises that all sacrifices will be compensated in the heavenly economy, but this should not be our motive. We fast, not to lose weight, gain a clearer mind (e.g. fasting allows more blood to flow to the head, than the stomach) or a celestial blessing; we sacrifice food and other physical pleasures to dedicate ourselves to God.
Self-denial can be a great trap of self-righteousness, pride and disillusionment. The first thing that happens when we take a spiritual step forward is to compare ourselves to others. We immediately feel we are better than others, and pride creeps in. We must remember that any step we take for good is purely by the grace of God; therefore, we do not deserve any praise. The giving up of material and physical benefits can lead to a false perspective of the spiritual world. God is not obligated to compensate us for anything that we do. We deny ourselves nourishment and other preferences as a mere token of worship in light of All that God has done for us.
by Marty Smithhart
Holiness of God and Man
When we think of scientific taxonomy, we may recall the nomenclature kingdom, phylum, class, etc. This naming convention helps organize various life into nice categories because not all life is the same.
It is the same for doctrine (teaching). Scholars, Pastors, Imams, etc. teach various doctrines because they are trying to convey the truth of their theology in nice, neat categories. Yet, holiness in Christianity is vastly different than holiness in Islam.
Moses tells us to “be Holy” in Leviticus, the book of Holiness in the Tawrat. In Peter's first epistle (Injeel) he reminds us to “be Holy.” There are many instances of God telling his people to be Holy, as in to be separate from the sinful world, to not do the sinful things that the world does. In that time, when Moses wrote Leviticus (by divine revelation), God spoke about being holy and forbidding sexual encounters like those that were evident in the pagan temples and Canaanite culture in general.
Being holy does not mean we are not sinners. There’s an important but real dichotomy, that Old Testament and New Testament believers) are simultaneously Saints and Sinners. Christians are sinners saved by the grace and love of Almighty God. We sinners are Holy because of our Faith in what God has done for us through the work of Jesus Christ. We sinners cannot merit salvation because salvation is a gift of God by faith (Injeel, Ephesians 2:8).
Holiness is not just obedience to God’s commandments, but “is first of all a holiness of the inner man" (Systematic Theology, Louis Berkof, 1949); it is a knowledge that God has done for you what you cannot do for yourself. God has paid the ransom for the ravages of sin through his only Son, Jesus Christ. Without a sacrifice (as those found in the book of Leviticus), there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus died because his death was foretold in the Tawrat (Old Testament) by Prophet Isaiah in Chapter 53. Jesus had to die because God requires a sacrifice for sin.
To save his people, God the Father sent his one and only Holy Son into the world to be the sacrifice and to take the punishment for sins. Why? Because God requires a sacrifice for sin and we as sinners cannot merit our salvation. Those who belong to Christ are holy only because we recognize our need for the savior, Jesus, our need of the Father's love, and our need for the Spirit of God to live in us and guide us in life. Amen!
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