Sermon title:  GOD WANTS TO BLESS US WITH HIS HOLY SPIRIT

Luke 11:5-10  and  Matthew 7:12

 

    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 20, 2018

 

Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org

 

 

Now, going back to our Responsive Reading in Luke Chapter 11,

why would Jesus compare his heavenly Father

to a man who didn’t want

to get out of bed, to help his friend?

Well, we’ll see in a moment.

 

We’re continuing to go through the Gospels—

to go through the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus,

in the order in which events occurred.

 

And today we come to the parable or story

that we just read in our responsive reading

in Luke Chapter 11, beginning with Verse 5.

 

 

5 Then he said to them,

"Suppose one of you has a friend,

and he goes to him at midnight and says,

'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,

6 because a friend of mine on a journey

has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

 

7 "Then the one inside answers,

'Don't bother me. The door is already locked,

and my children are with me in bed.

I can't get up and give you anything.'

 

8 I tell you,

though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend,

yet because of the man's boldness

he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

 

And Jesus himself gives us the application of that parable

in the next verse:

 

9 "So I say to you:

Ask and it will be given to you;

seek and you will find;

knock and the door will be opened to you.

 

Actually, the verb tense in the original Greek

implies ongoing, continuous action—

not something you do just once.

 

 That’s made clear in some translations.

For example, the World English Bible

renders Luke 11:9 more accurately, like this:

“I tell you, keep asking,

and it will be given you.

Keep seeking, and you will find.

Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you.”

 

Our Father in heaven wants us to keep asking—to persist in prayer.

 

And he promises to answer.

 

Continuing in Verse 10, Jesus says,

 

10 For everyone who asks receives;

he who seeks finds;

and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

If we keep seeking God, we WILL find him.

He promises that.

 

If we keep knocking at the gates of heaven

by persisting in prayer,

we will have our prayers answered.

God will open the door.

--------------------------------

 

And then Jesus continues with another parable—another story—

to show us that God WANTS to bless us.

In Verse 11 he says,

 

11 "Which of you fathers,

if your son asks for a fish,

will give him a snake instead?

12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

13 If you then, though you are evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 

The point is that God wants to bless us

He wants to give us his Holy Spirit.

 

That man who was in bed with the door locked

didn’t want to get up to give his friend

the bread he was asking for.

But because of the friend’s persistence in asking,

he gave in and got up and gave him the bread.

 

Jesus isn’t saying that God is like that.

He is saying that

if someone who doesn’t want to help you

will help you anyway,

if you persist in asking,

then God who wants to help you,

will respond even more so

to our persistent prayers.

 

Jesus is telling us that God wants to bless us.

So, how much more will our persistence in prayer

bring the answers to our prayers!

 

Unlike that man in bed with the door locked,

our heavenly Father wants to bless us.

-------------------------------

 

It’s hard with our puny 2-pound human brains

to conceive of the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe.

 

It’s even harder to imagine

that he created us to have fellowship with him.

 

That’s right:

He didn’t create us just to work a job,

raise a family,

and eventually grow old and die.

 

He created us to walk with him, as part of his family, forever.

 

But, God seems so far away, in the heavens.

 

And that’s why the heavenly Father sent his Son, Jesus—

to remove the barrier of sin

that stands between us and God,

and to help us to know God personally.

 

At John 14:6, Jesus tells us,

“I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

So, the only way to the Father

is through Jesus.

 

John 1:18 says,

”No one has ever seen God,

but God the One and Only,

who is at the Father's side,

has made him known.”

 

Jesus has made the heavenly Father known to us.

 

First of all, Jesus perfectly reflected the Father.

 

John 12:44 says,

44 Then Jesus cried out,

"When a man believes in me,

he does not believe in me only,

but in the one who sent me.

45 When he looks at me,

he sees the one who sent me.

 

And at John 14:9 Jesus said,

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

     

Jesus’ personality

is just like his heavenly Father’s personality.

If you’ve seen Jesus,

you’ve seen the Father.

 

We see Jesus as we read the Gospels.

We see how he mercifully reached out

and touched those who needed healing.

 

We see how he spoke words of comfort and peace.

 

And we also see how Jesus rebuked sin and hypocrisy.

 

If we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen the Father.

 

We’ve seen what Jesus is like;

the Father is just like that, too.

-----------------

 

Jesus also made the Father known through illustrations—

stories that teach a lesson—

such as the story in today’s Responsive Reading

about a man who finally got up at night

and gave his friend the bread

he kept asking for. 

The man did so grudgingly;

in contrast with him, our heavenly Father is eager to bless us.

 

Jesus also gave other illustrations

to help us see what the Father is like.

One example would be the story of the Prodigal Son.

Another is the shepherd

who left 99 sheep on the mountain

to search for one lost sheep.

--------------------

 

God blesses us in all sorts of ways:

in big things as well as in little things.

 

But the greatest blessing he gives

is the gift of his Holy Spirit.

 

As Jesus said in Verse 13,

13 If you then, though you are evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 

How does that happen?

How does God give people the Holy Spirit?

 

Christ calls us to be his followers,

to trust him to save us from our sins,

and to obey him as our Lord and Master. 

When we do that, something miraculous happens,

and we are born again as children of God. 

 

2 Corinthians 1:22 tells us that God

 

“set his seal of ownership on us,

and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit,

guaranteeing what is to come.”

 

When we turn to Jesus as our Lord and Savior,

he forgives our sins.

God adopts us as his children. 

We are born again, children of God.

 

Galatians 4:6 (NEB) tells us,

 

“To prove that you are sons,

God has sent into our hearts

the Spirit of his Son, crying ‘Abba! Father!’”

 

The heavenly Father puts his Spirit in us, and adopts us.

Little children in Jesus’ day

used that expression, “Abba,”

the way kids today say “Daddy.”

The adoption as God’s children

brings us into that sort of tender, intimate relationship

with our heavenly Father.

 

At Luke 11, Verses 11 and 12, Jesus assures us

that God wants to do good for us,

just as we want to do good for our own children:

 

11 "Which of you fathers,

if your son asks for a fish,

will give him a snake instead?

12 Or if he asks for an egg,

will give him a scorpion?

13 If you then, though you are evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 

Those words occupy a special, very dear place in my heart.

 

I’ve mentioned before that Penni and I were Jehovah’s Witnesses

back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

 

Penni was raised in the sect.

 

I was raised in the Unitarian Church,

but by the time I was in high school,

I had become an atheist.

I was totally ignorant of the Bible.

 

When I was college age,

I was working one summer at a very boring job,

next to a guy who talked constantly about his girlfriend.

I was sick of hearing about his girlfriend.

So, since I knew he was a Jehovah’s Witness,

I started asking him questions about his religion

just to get him off the girlfriend topic.

 

But I was amazed that his answers seemed to make sense.

 

He seemed to know the Bible inside out and backwards.

 

(Actually, that is how he knew the Bible:

he had it turned inside out,

and he got it all backwards.

But I was ignorant of the Bible,

and didn’t know he was presenting it all wrong.)

 

So, in a short time,

he started a formal study with me

to indoctrinate me in Jehovah’s Witness beliefs,

and he had me attending Kingdom Hall meetings with him.

 

I was baptized as a Witness in 1969,

and met Penni that same year.

We were married at a JW Kingdom Hall in 1971.

 

I went on to become a Jehovah’s Witness elder,

went through their leadership training program,

and eventually became the Presiding Overseer of a Kingdom Hall—

the JW equivalent of pastor of one of their churches.

 

Then one year,

after Penni and I had attended a Watchtower convention

at the Providence Civic Center,

as we were leaving,

we spotted a handful of Christians outside

carrying picket signs.

We were offended by them,

and thought it was wrong for them to picket us.

 

But one of their signs caught our attention.  It said,

“READ THE BIBLE, NOT THE WATCHTOWER.”

 

Penni turned to me and said,

“You know, David, we really should be reading the Bible.”

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses typically don’t do much Bible reading.

They read their Watchtower publications instead.

 

But Penni and I began reading the Bible

with the aim of becoming better Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

To our surprise, we found Jesus instead.

And he led us out of the Watchtower sect.

 

It’s a long story, but we were just amazed

at what we found in prayerfully reading the New Testament

over and over again—

things that we had never appreciated before,

like the closeness that the early disciples had

with the risen Lord,

the activity of the Holy Spirit in the early church,

and Jesus’ words about being ‘born again.’

 

All those years as Jehovah’s Witnesses,

we’d been taken on a guided tour through the Bible—

shown some passages, but steered away from others.

 

We gained a lot of knowledge about the Old Testament,

and we could quote a lot of Scripture,

but we never heard the Gospel of salvation in Christ.  

 

They taught us that Jesus was just an angel—

the first angel God created,

who ‘became like a son to him.’

 

We never learned to depend on Jesus for our salvation

or to look to him personally as our Lord. 

 

Everything centered around the Watchtower’s works program,

distributing the organization’s Watchtower and Awake! magazines.

And they taught us the only way to God

was through their organization.

 

When I realized

from reading Romans, chapter 8, and John, chapter 3,

that I needed to be ‘born of the Spirit,’

I was afraid at first. 

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that some ‘born again’ people,

who claim to have the Holy Spirit,

are actually possessed by demons.

 

And so, I feared that,

if I prayed out loud to turn my life over to Jesus Christ,

some demon might be listening;

and the demon might jump in and possess me,

pretending to be the Holy Spirit. 

 

(Many Jehovah’s Witnesses live in fear of the demons. 

Some of our friends would even reject

second-hand furniture and clothing,

fearing that demons could enter their homes

through such articles.) 

 

So, I was afraid to give my life to Christ,

and to ask for the Holy Spirit.

 

But, then I read this passage we’re looking at this morning—

Jesus’ words at Luke 11, Verses 11 and 12:

 

11 "Which of you fathers,

if your son asks for a fish,

will give him a snake instead?

12 Or if he asks for an egg,

will give him a scorpion?

13 If you then, though you are evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will your Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 

After reading those words,

I knew that I could safely ask for the Holy Spirit

without fearing that I would receive

a serpent, a scorpion, or a demon. 

 

So, in the early morning privacy of our kitchen,

I got down on my knees

 to confess my need for a Savior

and to commit my life to Christ. 

 

That was in 1981,

and it was the beginning of my Christian walk.

 

Before that, Jesus was just an historical figure

who I studied about in Watchtower meetings—

and learned all the wrong things.

 

But now I know Jesus as my risen Lord

who is alive

and who is active in my life

through the Holy Spirit.

 

So, that’s why this Bible passage

occupies a special place in my heart.

-------------------------------

 

God always intended from the beginning

for humans to have a close relationship with him.

 

He spoke with Adam and Eve in the Garden.

But then, after they rebelled,

 sin became a barrier

between men and God.

 

Years later, Genesis Chapter 5 tells us

that Enoch “walked with God.”

 

And Chapter 6 tells us Noah “walked with God.”

 

Now, that was centuries BEFORE God gave his Law

through Moses to the nation of Israel.

 

But people who love God and love their neighbor

really don’t need laws to guide them.

 

At Matthew 7:12, Jesus said

 

12 "Therefore whatever you desire

for men to do to you,

you shall also do to them;

for this is the law and the prophets.

 

So, as Jesus said, that sums up the law and the prophets:

Do unto others, as you would have them do to you.

 

That golden rule of behavior is the whole law in a nutshell.

 

And there were people before the Law of Moses was given,

who lived by that golden rule.

 

As we’ve read in the book of Job, the man Job kept his integrity

under pressure from the devil,

and he had faith that he would eventually “see God.”

 

Abraham put faith in God,

and at three different places in Scripture,

Abraham is called God’s friend—the friend of God.

 

But there is a barrier that separates

us humans from God,

and that barrier is our sin.

 

To remove that barrier,

God sent his Son to die on the cross in our place.

Jesus paid the penalty for our sin,

and so he could say, at John 14:6,

“I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

And in John, Chapter 15,

Jesus actually called his disciples his “friends.”

He spoke those words at John, Chapter 15,

beginning with Verse 13,

where he again referred to his death on the cross.

He said,

13 Greater love has no one than this,

that he lay down his life for his friends.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

15 I no longer call you servants,

because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends,

for everything that I learned from my Father

I have made known to you.

 

We, too, can be Jesus’ friends—

friends of God.

 

In the previous chapter, John Chapter 14,

Jesus said in John 14:23,

 

"If anyone loves me,

he will obey my teaching.

My Father will love him,

and we will come to him

and make our home with him.

 

How can Jesus and the heavenly Father come to you,

and make their home with you?

 

It’s explained by that favorite passage of mine,

which we read in this morning’s Responsive Reading,

in Luke 11, Verse 13,

where Jesus says,

how much more will your Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

 

When we repent of our sins

and wholeheartedly turn to Jesus as our Lord and Savior,

God sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts

to live in us.

 

But we have to be willing.

 

At Luke 13:34, Jesus said these words

to the people of Jerusalem at that time.  

He said,

34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,

you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed

to gather your children together,

as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,

but you were not willing!

 

If we are willing,

we can respond to the invitation Jesus gives

at Matthew, Chapter 11, beginning with Verse 38.

It’s found in the bulletin insert,

under the first heading:  JESUS INVITES US TO COME TO HIM, TO FIND REST”

And there Jesus says,

 

“Come to me,

all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

 

And at John 6:37,

Jesus adds the comforting promise

that he won’t turn you away.

He says,

 “I will never turn away

anyone who comes to me.”