After this past week's sermon on Mark 2:18-22, several people have asked this excellent question: "I get that the fasting Jesus said was inappropriate for his disciples was fasting that was an expression of mourning (like the Pharisees were doing), but are there kinds of fasting that ARE appropriate for his followers today?"
Keep in mind that this past Sunday we were dealing with a passage that was concerned with a very particular kind of fasting: fasting that was an expression of sadness and sorrow because Israel was mourning the absence of God's presence from their midst. That kind of fasting is not appropriate for the followers of Jesus who should, instead, be characterized by joy because we live daily in the presence of God and can trust in His promises for our future. But of course this is not the only kind of fasting.
Fasting (the non-mourning kind) is an important - and long established - spiritual discipline and can be a very significant part of the Christian life. Jesus himself practiced fasting as a means of preparation for ministry (Mat 4:2) and we should take his example seriously.
So how should we think about the purpose and practice of this non-mourning fasting? Below you will find a some links to resources on Christian fasting that I encourage you to read and consider. They will help you to understand what fasting as a spiritual discipline looks like and give you some concrete ideas about how to put this discipline into practice in your life:
(I wrote this article specifically for Ridgeline earlier this year)
(this article surveys the biblical parameters for thinking about the role of fasting in the Christian life)
(This is an article developed by CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) Ministries and does a great job of covering many practical aspects of Christian fasting)
(this is a short [5 minute] audio clip of teaching by respected Christian teacher John Piper on the purpose of fasting. PLEASE NOTE: I disagree with Piper's interpretation of Mat 9 but have included this resource here because I think it is important to recognize that there is some disagreement among conservative, Bible-believing Christians on this subject. In my opinion, Mat 9 should NOT be interpreted to mean that the disciples of Jesus will fast after the ascension because the language of this prediction is negative, which does not fit the context of the ascension. Jesus is, in my opinion, almost certainly referring to the period of his arrest and crucifixion)
If you're looking to go deeper into the practice of fasting from a biblical perspective, then this book by respected NT scholar Scot McKnight is perhaps the best resource available. Check it out!