What is the difference between fasting and abstaining?

Abstinence Concept.MCA Church’s attention is being directed to ministering in the cities in which we live.  Our studies have included Sodom, Nineveh, Jerusalem and the City of David.

We are learning that the book of Acts can be viewed as the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the apostles in an ever growing list of cities.  Almost unbelievably these early Christians even made it to Rome with the Gospel.  In less than fifty years they carried the Good News to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.

On January 8, 9, and 10th MCA Church is calling an Official Nineveh Fast.  For three days we will follow the example of Nineveh and pray for God to move powerfully in our cities and turn the entire populations to Jesus.  I will be writing more about the Nineveh fast in the days ahead.

Today I want to begin a conversation about the difference between fasting and abstinence.  Commonly fasting and abstinence are considered one and the same but they are different.

Fasting is, technically, not eating food and/or drinking liquids.  In the two thousand year history of Christianity fasting has taken many forms with a variety of practices.  If you enjoy the study of fasting, you can find more types of fasts, fasting rules and fasting practices than you can imagine.

Abstinence, is the practice of refraining from something.  For example, some one will say, “I am fasting coffee.”  More accurately, they are abstaining from coffee.  I think it is important to understand that one doesn’t fast from television, the internet, and cell phones but one can abstain from these items.

Additionally, God has commanded that his children abstain from sexual relations prior to marriage and it would be a bit improper to say that one was fasting pre-marital sexual activity.

In my experience fasting and abstaining, though closely related, have very different goals and results.  One of the main goals of abstaining is the development of a higher degree of self-discipline, self-control and self-mastery.  Fasting’s goal is first and foremost humility.

Maybe this is the reason fasting and abstaining are often mentioned in conjunction with each other.  It takes abstinence’s self-discipline to engage fasting’s humility.  Humility is foundational to God’s interaction with His children because pride is not truth.  Pride is connected to greatness and only God is great.

To go into greater precision, one can abstain and be proud but one can not fast and be proud.  The moment one is proud of his fast, he is simply not eating.  Pride destroys fasting.

Abstinence is mostly a function of the will while fasting’s function is anchored in the spirit.

In preparation for the January 8-10, 2015 Nineveh Fast, will you consider from what you could abstain?  Also, will you ask the Lord if He is inviting you to fast?  If so, will you make sure your medical professionals approve of your planned fast?

May our abstaining and fasting bring honor to our Lord and results for our cities.


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