Can Christians profit from their own self-made regulations to abstain from certain foods and recreation? Can Christians act in self-denial for spiritual awareness? Christians should abstain from some things as to keep themselves pure from sin. This is in accordance with God’s instruction. The Spirit of Christ said, “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14), and “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
Yet, many believers have been turning to traditions of men in neglecting their bodies. Fasting with prayer is practiced by individuals and sometimes by small groups in the New Testament. Scriptural fasting is the refraining from eating of food and it is always done in prayer showing one’s humble reliance on God.
Many claiming Christ have turned fasting into the abstaining of life’s blessings like watching television, using a phone, listening to music, driving a car, playing computer games, and so on. The fact is that Scriptural fasting is refraining from food and done while praying. Isn’t it strange that rather than praying more, reading the Scriptures, or even recognizing God’s eternal power and divinity in His Creation, many think that refraining from life’s blessings is better for “spiritual awareness” and “enlightenment”?
Let’s remember the extent of the benefits of asceticism as is presented by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. The Spirit of Christ said in Colossians 2:20-23,
“If you died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in self-made religion, and humility, and asceticism to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
Many Christians actually believe that dying to the rudiments of the world involves adopting man-made ordinances of self-denial, but the Holy Spirit teaches the opposite. Paul by the Spirit actually teaches that since we have died to the world, then we should not use the ordinances of men for self-denial. Paul presents exactly what the Spirit is referring to the regulations to neither handle this, taste that, nor not touch this. These things are after the doctrines of men. God has told Christians everything that they should refrain from in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In fact, these instructions of men are a show of wisdom of self-made religion.
Now, the Holy Spirit also reveals in these Scriptures that doing such ordinances is a neglect to the body, which are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. The point of refraining from something to man is to either practice self-made worship, to make a show of asceticism and, or to treat the body with severity for some value against of the indulgence of the flesh trying to make oneself more aware and to teach oneself something. As is clear, this thinking stands in contrast to the Word. Ascetic practices “are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh”. Now, if one were to choose to do more spiritual things rather than what they usually do, then this is great. Giving up time spent on pleasure to do good is great. The issue is the adding to God’s Will, so that one is more spiritually aware.
It should concern Christians to notice the rise of ascetic practices among Christians. Asceticism is practicing strict self-denial or abuse as a measure of personal and, or spiritual discipline.
People naturally refrain from somethings at specific parts of their life. When we are poor, we eat less in quality and quantity, because we have little. People also refrain from things because those things are against God’s will, like listening to blasphemous and sinful music. Refraining from sin is not asceticism. These principles that are used are not made by man but by God. The things made up by men are things like not watching television because it is a blessing, a pleasure, or there are some bad programs on it. If everything on television is evil or television is an open door to sin, then a Christian should have already destroyed his or her TV, but to refrain from something just because it is a blessing or something you enjoy is of no value and is man-made religion. Cars and phones are not evil and neither is the Internet, and yet these have become something to “fast” from. There are many evil things that are done by using these things, but these aids and recreations are in themselves not evil. Let’s try to obey God’s commands before the commands of men.
There are so many double standards among Christians as will probably always be on earth. Many “progressive” Christians label “traditional” Christians, who believe in not going beyond what is written, as “legalists” and “Pharisees”, while those same Christians make ordinances of men and urge others to do likewise. Then they lead and urge congregations to participate in such things like Lent. They err when they again label Christians as “weak” and “immature”, who do not refrain from certain things in “fasting”. Christians must refrain from sinful things. These “progressive” Christians are like the Pharisees. They make up their own ascetic ordinances and ignore the commands of God in regards to marriage, worship, assembly, church, and entering into salvation (Mark 7).
Also note Romans 14. Here it is clear Christians are not to judge one another in matters of opinion. There must be no condemning of the person who chooses to eat meat by one who only eats vegetables. The one eating everything should not look down on another for only eating vegetables. Romans 14:17 says,
“for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
This same must apply to Christians today. No one should condemn the person who watches TV or uses the Internet, and neither should anyone who does participate look down on the ones who do not.
Christians also must remember that the traditions and commandments of men are a far second to God’s commands and traditions, and the person who places such traditions and commands of men upon on the shoulders of everyone else while leaving the traditions and commands of God is committing a great sin. Jesus said in Mark 7:7-8,
“But in vain do they venerate me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
In all of this, the truth is that there is very little profit if any to denying things to oneself that are not forbidden by God as Colossians 2:20-23 reveals.