An Audacious Request

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

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!”

As you can see, the topic of prayer (communication with God) is being examined … and more specifically … the aspect of “asking” God for real needs in our lives.  I think it very important to examine this verse in the surrounding context because it follows Jesus’ teaching of a “model prayer” … followed by a parable … that leads to a teachable moment … and culminates with the life application of our verse … which should itself prompt us to seek and ask God for His incredible gift … His indwelling Holy Spirit!  Follow along with me:

Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins (debts), for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Parable of the Inopportune Friend

And Jesus said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence* (or persistence) he will rise and give him whatever he needs. (*The NIV Translation renders the expression “shameless audacity”.)

Teachable Moment

And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What fathers among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Application

13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Now, given the background and foundation laid here, it is evident to me that the focal point of this passage is Verse 13.  Jesus begins with teaching that prayer is about connecting with God the Father.  Prayer acknowledges God is … His dominion … His power.  We are to show Him reverence – “hallowed be your name”.  “Your Kingdom come,” means God has authority and sovereignty over all HIS creation … including us.  Jesus encourages us through prayer to ask for our physical needs … to request forgiveness … and to avoid the temptation of evil.  But then, Jesus shares a parable to emphasize our need to be “persistent” in prayer.  It is as though we are urged to be bold and tenacious in the expression of our hearts before God.  But why the need for perseverance?  Perhaps our resolve and steadfastness in prayer reflects the sincerity of our hearts … that we have not come before God with just some vague hope laced with doubt or a general wish for something without deep expectancy to receive it.

I find confidence in that Jesus moves into an imperative concerning prayer at this point: “And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  If prayer was futile or pointless, why would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek, and knock during prayer AND assure us the Father will favorably respond?  Jesus goes on to compare the responses of human fathers to their children when they “ask” for various physical needs.  He observes, “if sinful human fathers know how to respond to requests based upon their mortal capacities to give, then how much more will our perfect Heavenly Father know how to respond to His children when they ask for even greater needs … something so “audacious” or “outrageous” as to want the Holy Spirit?  Yet, Jesus indicates that the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should be asking to receive!  I dare say, He is indeed our greatest need!

I know that I have quoted this passage quite often, but I believe it shares great insight into this issue:

2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

  1. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is a gift. (Cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45)
  2. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is promised. See Joel 2:28-29. (Cf. Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:33, 39; Ephesians 1:13)
  3. His divine nature is effectuated in us through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 3:16)

You might note that most of the cited cross-references above point to the power of the Holy Spirit to endue the ability to proclaim the Gospel … the Word of God … with boldness or with tongues (other languages) so that the message of Jesus Christ is spread to anyone and everyone who will hear or listen. I believe the reason this “power” is so prominent it because the Word of God induces genuine faith (Cf. Romans 10:17); and it is faith in Jesus Christ that effectuates the divine power we need for a transformed and Spirit-filled life as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) Indeed, His divine power is essential for the Kingdom of God to be realized in our lives; and I believe that is our greatest need to be sought through prayer. As Jesus shared, we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit (His divine power) with “shameless audacity” and “persistence”!  And although I think such brash language was used in His parable to urge us to be fearless and courageous as we approach the Father, I cannot help but believe we should always be humble and reverent before Him … even when feeling zealous for His precious promise.  And this is His promise: Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in all His ways, WILL give His Spirit to those who ask Him.

One final thought:

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

So when you ask God for anything … believe God! By His own glory and excellence, God has promised to grant us His Spirit, and He has promised to grant us eternal life through His Son, Christ Jesus. And so my prayer is that you and I will believe His great and precious promises in these latter days and ask for them with expectant boldness! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Finish The Race!

Acts 20:24

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

What an interesting personal assessment Paul gives here in this verse: “I consider my life worth nothing to me.”  He goes on to provide some context for his statement – which I think is important for us to include so that the value of his life … our lives … is put into better perspective.  Up to this point in Acts:20, Luke has been documenting the missionary journey undertaken by Paul and the evangelical opportunities for ministry afforded to him along the way.  It has been a fruitful journey, but there have been hardships and challenges in the midst of preaching the Gospel and discipling elders in the churches he labored to establish.  This is the backdrop when we reach Verse 22.

Acts 20:22-24 (NIV) – Paul is speaking

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

This is a more useful context to understand what Paul meant regarding the “worth of his life.”  It was not that Paul thought his life had no value; rather, it was a comparison to the calling of preaching the Gospel and completing the “job” which he had been “assigned” to do.  I think this is the more salient point for us to consider.  Each of us has a life given to us by the grace and will of God.  I say will of God because if He did not ordain for you to be conceived, then you would not exist.  Likewise, I say the grace of God because if He had not orchestrated a course around all of the threats and obstacles to your life, you would not continue to be here.  In short, our lives are miracles on many levels of contemplation, and we have been allowed our own free will to navigate it towards meaning and purpose within our mortal limitations.

When we find Christ Jesus … when the testimonies of the Apostles and the Word of God convince our souls of the Truth, a new dimension of life enters our existence.  Our spirits … our beings are born again!  Our concept of “self” is radically altered with the knowledge of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are changed!  The old has gone, the new is here! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) And so the value or worth we placed on our previous existence is changed as well.  What we thought we valued for our lives becomes replaced with a “purpose” of far more significant value … eternal value.  Our lives, hidden in Christ, have a new motivation … to live worthy of the Lord and to please Him in every way and to be productive in His Kingdom for His glory!

I think when Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me,” I believe he was referring to his former life and the former meaning he had placed on it.  In light of his authentic encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was radically changed and his new life in Christ took on a “life of its own” … a life lived in the context of a close, personal relationship with Jesus and his new assignment to be an ambassador of the Gospel in all its fullness and truth.  In essence, Paul was saying that nothing (prison or hardships) would deter him from completing the good work he was created in Christ Jesus to do, which God had prepared in advance for him to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And he expressed this in terms that we can relate in a way to communicate that whatever the risks of following the Lord Jesus and accomplishing His will for my life is more important … of great value … than my own inward, personal aspirations for this experience of life.  It represents a complete surrender to the will of God, and I believe this is an important principle for us to embrace in our journey of faith….

As Pastor Steve shared during his sermon Sunday morning about the life of Joseph (Cf. Genesis 37-47), he observed that Joseph from a youth had a life within the will of God, and yet, Joseph suffered being ridiculed, mocked, abuse, threatened with murder, sold into slavery (human trafficked), lied about, imprisoned, and forsaken, before he finally came to the place of accomplishing what God had purposed in advance for his life.  Surely, all of these horrific hardships and challenges tested his faith in God, yet he remained steadfast in his belief in the ultimate goodness and love of God. The entire time, Joseph was within the will of God, yet his life was far from “perfect” from a human perspective.  Yet Joseph spiritually understood that God was ever present in his life to bring about His will … His good purpose … and with perseverance he awaited it in faith.

Genesis 45:4-8 (NIV) 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  8 So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God

Genesis 50:15-21 (NIV)

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

As we contemplate the visions and dreams God has instilled in our spirits for our lives … as we seek significance, purpose, and meaning for our lives … let us remember both Joseph and Paul – who despite tremendous opposition and hardship – went on to complete their respective roles in the Kingdom of God.  They did not consider their “own” lives worth anything compared to the rewards of faithfulness to what God called them to do.  And the application of these biblical lessons is for us to persevere in faith to accomplish the work God has given each of us to do in Christ.  As the writer of Hebrews suggested:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So I pray that each of us will run the race; reach the finish line; and receive the reward – the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Cf. James 1:12) I pray we will remain courageous and steadfast in the pursuit of the visions and dreams God has given each of us to guide our journey of faith … and to bear much fruit to the glory of God the Father.  I encourage you to read John 15:1-17.  As Jesus shared with His disciples (and with us), we must remain (abide) in Him in order to bear fruit.  Further, we should understand that the Father will “prune” us in order to bear even more fruit; and that in Christ Jesus we were chosen (appointed) to bear fruit and that it should remain….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/19/19

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Our verse continues with the theme of holiness we have undertaken … so the Spirit must want us to truly examine ourselves and focus on what it takes to consecrate ourselves to God.  I think He is looking for a holy people who desire more of Him to empower their lives for ministry. Fasting and prayer are key disciplines we can follow in this endeavor … but our verse today challenges and warns us to exercise self-control to a broader extent.  Let’s look at the context of our verse closer:

1 Corinthians 10: 1-13 (NIV)

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” (Cf. Exodus 32:6We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord (Jesus) as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

What Paul is developing here is a parallel for NT believers to understand.  He observes that the Israelites, when led out of Egypt, were all saved from their life of bondage in Egypt. The “cloud” refers to the unique symbol of the presence of God – also known as the shekinah cloud of glory which meant “to dwell with”. We should easily recognize this parallel to Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us). They all passed through the Red Sea on dry land because God had parted the waters for them. It was a “baptism” in effect because the waters closed in behind them.  There was no going back to slavery of Egypt (symbolizing the bondage of sin). God was giving them a new life on this side of the divide.  They had been separated from Egypt (from sin) and chosen by God to be His people.   They all ate the same spiritual food which refers to the manna and to the quail – both supernatural provision by God. Likewise, Jesus is the Bread of Life. And they all drank the same spiritual drink – from a spiritual rock that followed them – refers to the supernatural provision of life-sustaining water.  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst; indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) This use of “all” is a way to emphasize the inclusion of all Israelites in the experience of God’s grace and judgment during that time of “testing” called the “Wilderness Wandering Period”.

But notice Verse 5 states, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”  This verse implicates the humbling of His people and the judgment for unbelief and rebellion as their bones were scattered along the wilderness route to the Promised Land (Cf. Numbers 14). Think about it.  They were God’s chosen people.  He had redeemed them from the land of Egypt. But He judged their unbelief and their rebellious attitudes. These OT believers saw the miraculous provision of God for their lives. They knew His will through their God-ordained leader, Moses. And yet, as we read through the narrative, they still acted in unbelief and rebellion….  Do you think there are Christians today who have a similar display of unbelief in their lives?  Do you think God is pleased with them?  Have you ever considered that there might be a parallel with Matthew 7:21-23?

In Verses 6-11, Paul implies that the Old Testament Scriptures continue to have spiritual relevance for us today. You can cross-reference the following passages regarding this applicability in Romans 4:23-24; Romans 15:4; and 1 Corinthians 9:10. We can readily conclude the revelations of God are eternal and the principles imparted are significant. So Paul points out how the redemptive history of Israel is applicable to us today … “so that we would not crave (set our hearts on) evil things as they did.”  The term translated “crave” is a strong compound Greek term epithumeō, which is made up of the preposition “upon” and “to rush.” It refers to a strong feeling or emotion overtaking and controlling the mind and heart of a person. Paul chooses specific issues for his contrast: idolatry; immoral sexual conduct; provoking or testing God to “prove” Himself; and grumbling in the sense of showing displeasure with God. These are all relevant examples and can be seen within the world and even the Church in our day….

Paul concludes that these things (judgments of God) happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. The message is that the salvation effectuated for us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has been given to us – but if we do not receive it through faith in Him … if we wander into unbelief and rebellion … we will be judged as the Israelites were judged in the wilderness.  So Paul brings us to the point of self-examination in Verse 12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (Cf. Romans 11:20-21; 2 Peter 3:14-17). God has and will judge His own people. Here are some great references for you to consider in this regard: Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:7-10; and 1 Peter 4:12-19.  I highly encourage you to read Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4.  The parallels to what Paul is preaching here are quite impressive.

This leads us to the Verse of the Day and its call to godliness in response to the salvation God has granted us in Christ Jesus.  Paul asserts that personal holiness is possible. We can overcome temptation. First of all, we have to realize that temptations or tests will happen. The text makes this clear: “But when you are tempted….”  Temptation in any form is common to the human experience. But God uses it to “refine” our souls and to perfect or complete our faith.  Remember, Jesus was tempted in all points as we are … yet He remained without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) So, Jesus is experientially familiar with our weaknesses as discussed in Hebrews Chapter 2. Of special comfort to me in this regard is Hebrews 2:18 which reads, “Because He Himself (Jesus) suffered when He was tempted (tested), He is able to help those who are being tempted (tested).” To me, this verse indicates that dealing with temptation is a form of suffering … and that Jesus is ever present through His Spirit to help me in that moment of temptation or trial.  It also reminds me that, like Jesus, my own obedience will be learned through the process of suffering. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8-9)

The key point from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that God is faithful.  WHEN you and I are tempted (tested) … HE provides a way out so that we can endure the temptation or test.  It does not say that He will remove the temptation; rather, He provides an “exit” from the thought, feeling, situation, or circumstance that provides the platform or context for our temptations.  A specific temptation may not ever go away.  It may be a “thorn in the flesh”. Victory through one temptation, test, or trial does not assure the same outcome WHEN the next temptation comes.  But we learn obedience through the things we suffer; and that is achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is praying in the Spirit … it is walking in His anointing … that gives us the strength to endure the temptations we will face. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. It means we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5) And these spiritual disciplines are sufficient because God will not let you or me be tempted beyond what we can bear.  No, there is an endpoint of victory for every temptation, test, or trial if we but persevere under the trial. God has assured that we can endure the hardship of discipline because He disciplines us for our good … in order that we may share in His holiness. (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-10)

Well, I hope that these thoughts and references I have shared will help you and encourage you in your times of temptation.  As Pastor Steve would say, “We need to reset the mindset!”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!