The Season of Lent is a time of preparation and anticipation. It is a season that should be characterized reflection, soul-searching, repentance, and ultimately looking forward to celebration – the celebration of all Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross. As Daniel Montgomery, of Sojourn Church writes: “Lent helps us focus on why He had to die.”
Traditionally speaking, Lent is often associated with fasting – whether from certain foods, or some other habit or practice. It is important we understand that there is no merit n fasting. Benefit, maybe. Merit, no. The purpose of fasting is to remind us how dependent we become on things rather than God. This reveals to us our need to repent. It whets our appetite for the grace of God in Christ.
With this in mind, here are a few readings I suggest for the Season of Lent:
- Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
- A Hunger for God by John Piper (Free: e-book)
- Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen
7 thoughts on “Suggested Reading for Season of Lent”
Good book on fasting is ” God’s Chosen Fast” By Authur Walls. In this book Walls discusses the value and blessing of fasting. It is a balanced approach and looks in depth at what the Scripture tells us.
Does fasting have merit…you need to make up your own mind. Probaby depends upon wht you mean when you say Merit. But I’ll disagree with you a bunch !
Merit > noun \ˈmer-ət, ˈme-rət
> spiritual credit held to be earned by performance of righteous acts and to ensure future benefits
> character or conduct deserving reward, honor, or esteem
I will maintain that there is no inherent merit to fasting. There can be benefit, but to say there is merit is contrary to grace.
Can you give an appropriate definition of merit that would apply to fasting, that would not contradict God’s grace?
Dennis Your way off base on this one. Too much to respond here. I ‘ll send you an e-mail.
It’s Grace that allows a fast………..But sure I’ll give some key examples and a bunch of Scripture.
I don’t want to try to prove a point, just point out the text in Scripture and allow you to decide.
A God called fast has nothing to do with being contrary to Grace whatsoever.
I did not say a fast was contrary to grace. Fasting is a biblical expectation. As with obedience to any biblical mandate, implied or commanded, there can be tremendous benefit and blessing – which, if you will look, is what I originally stated. What I said, in my post and in my comment, is that there is no inherent merit in fasting. You wrote that this depended upon how you define “merit”. I simply posted a definition to clarify and asked for an example of an appropriate definition of “merit” that would not then put it at odds with grace. Grace by definition is “unmerited favor”.
Is it possible that you are conflating the meanings of “merit” and “benefit”?
No not at all. Merit as defined by Websters new World Dictionary, Thrid College Edition states :
1) the state of fact or quality of derserving well.
2) worth, value, excellence
3) deserving reward, praise, or gratitude
4) honer given to superior qualities
5) intrinsic rightness apart from formalities
I would say given the first and second meaning of the word ;
fact, state of quality, worth & value that fasting certanily has these qualities. Even the fifth meaning “intrinsic rightness” can be applied.
So , I stand by my opinion that there is merit in fasting. Bennifit for sure, no question, both from a physical and spiritual perspective. But also…it has merit.
You stated in your post that fasting has ” bennift, maybe” and ” merit, no”…I think your in error on both counts. I’ll still send you an e-mail on the subject if you want it.
OK, I will try again to clarify.
First, please note this is NOT a post about fasting. Therefore I did not attempt to express express my understanding of the subject. I made reference to fasting simply because it is commonly associated with the Season of Lent. And, in fact, this post is not primarily even about Lent, it is about suggested reading for the Season of Lent.
If you have comment about one of the books I recommended, then that would be on topic. I confess I do not understand why you want to debate a topic that is at best a minor theme. It seems this is simply a debate for the sake of debate.
Second, the definitions you supply for the word “merit” are no doubt legitimate. They are dictionary. As are a few other definitions neither of us cited. But the question is: How do they apply to fasting – or to any other spiritual discipline, or even a means of grace?
Third, you claim I am “way off base” both because I say there is no inherent “merit” and because I say that benefit is conditional, not automatic. I do not believe this is so.
I have said all I intend to say about the issue of merit. I will only illustrate my view with the words of a great old hymn by Augustus Toplady: Nothing in my hands I bring/Simply to the Cross I cling. (If there is merit in my religious practices, then I cannot say “Nothing in my hands I bring”.)
That brings me to the point about benefit. Are we to assume you are suggesting there is automatic benefit and blessing from fasting? That simply because someone chooses to practice fasting they benefit? This is what your words suggest, though I do not think this is what you really believe. To declare that there is automatic benefit is more in line with Roman Catholic sacerdotalism than I can accept.
I state that there can be benefit to fasting (as also with partaking the Lord’s Supper, prayer, worship, Bible reading, etc) as opposed to that there is inherent benefit because I believe benefits are conditional. And the primary condition is faith. I would suggest that an unbeliever can practice fasting and receive no spiritual benefit whatsoever. Pagans and Ascetics do this all the time. I suppose one could make the case that fasting has digestive benefits, whether someone has faith or not, but that is outside the scope of my post. But even if it was within my purpose, I would have to wonder if that is automatically true either. I am not sure it would be beneficial, or even wise, for some with certain health conditions (such as diabetes) to practice fasting.
So to sum it up, I maintain that unless the benefits are automatic, with no conditions, that everyone who engages this practice receives spiritual blessing and benefit simply because they practice this discipline, that it was appropriate to say “benefits, maybe”.
Dennis I know your post wasn’t about fasting as such. But you made a couple of really off hand comments about fasting that cought my eye is all.
Of course our discussion doesn’t apply to the non-Christian who may practice fasting. Thought we were at least on the same page on that one….
It’s clear that true Christian fasting has it’s bennefits as well as merit. Lets see a few names who fasted in the Bible for specific purpose:
Jesus, Moses, Elijah, David, Daniel, Ezra, Expected of true Disciples of Jesus, John, Paul, and the list could go on and on……
Even the great Reformers fasted and promoted such.
Does true fasting as an act of worship, meditation and prayer, have bennefit and merit….I still say yes. Can it be as simple as skipping lunch or any meal, and using the time for Bible reading and prayer, certanily, or it may be a personal way to identify with those who have no food or drink…. or just time to be and abide with God without distraction. But thats just my opnion.
Guess we’ll disagree on this. It’s only a minor issue as you said, because most do not understand the subject and think it’s too related to works or some weird spiritual exercise that is out of ages past. But certanily a non-essential in the big picture of things. ( maybe ! )