Have you ever looked for a book on Christian fasting? A dear friend of my (unknowingly) put me to the challenge of finding a book on fasting that is biblically strong and meaningful. There are so many out there, but unfortunately most are anywhere from a charismatic “feel-good” perspective to a Osteen-esque “God will give you everything you want if you just fast the right way” angle.
I had nearly given up my search when I happened across this book by John Piper. From the very first line Piper showed that he understood my quest: “Beware of books on fasting.” And beware you should, even of this one.
But perhaps not for the reasons you think. First, this book is definitely solid biblically. Piper takes every mention of fasting in the New Testament and of each asks the question “Is fasting Christian?” Not surprisingly his answer is “yes” and “no.” Piper puts fasting in the light of the coming of Christ and his finished work for us on the cross. The reason to steer clear of other perspectives on fasting is that they end up teaching that it is a way to get what you want from God or that there is some deep mystical encounter that one should anticipate as a result of the practice. As if fasting would get us “in” with God.
On the contrary, any spiritual practice, whether it be communion, prayer, baptism, or any other Christian tradition should never have that goal. As Christians our work is already done. There is no more to do to earn any more inspired favor with the Father.
What, then, is fasting for? Much as our participation in the ordinance of communion is a remembrance of Christ’s work and a proclamation of the gospel, fasting also serves as a reminder and a proclamation. We honor God by denying ourselves life’s allowed pleasures to proclaim to ourselves our need for God. Our fasting can recall our longing for Christ’s return and his reclamation of our world, setting all things right, and bringing perfect justice.
John Piper has generously made this book, along with many others, available on his ministry’s website at Desiring God. Read this book deeply and anticipate that it will challenge your perspective on the Bible’s teaching on fasting and our command to fast.