Important things about you and God

Text Luke 11:13 Time 25 11 07 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
I want us to consider this morning a text that is found in Luke 11:13. The words are the words of Jesus himself once again. He says to his disciples If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Almost the same saying is found in Matthew 7 although there are some differences between this record and Matthew's.
The text arises because Jesus wants the disciples to learn something about prayer. Luke tells us(1) that One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." Jesus began by teaching them the Lord's Prayer, 2-4, When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. The prayer is not to be repeated, although it often is. Rather it is to form the structure for our prayers – beginning with God and his kingdom and then praying for necessities, for forgiveness and for deliverance from temptation.
Jesus told his disciples not only how to pray in the sense of what to pray but also how to pray in the sense of what attitude to come to God with. He did it, as he often did, by using a parable. He says (5-8) Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. 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. 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 (the word used is only here in the NT and really means shamelessness, impudence) he will get up and give him as much as he needs.Jesus then applies the story (9, 10) - 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. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. In other words, when you pray, really pray. Don't play at it. Really go for it. Seek God with real earnestness.
It is in this context then that Jesus goes on to say (11, 12) Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? Your child asks for fish. 'Can we have fish tonight, dad?' he says. Is there any possibility that you might give him a snake instead? Of course not. Not for any reason. Or say he wants a boiled egg, are you going to give him a scorpion? Of course not. And so Jesus makes his application (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!It's quite a striking statement. I think it would well reward us to give some long and serious thought to it. I believe there are a number of things it teaches us. Let's consider together them now. Altogether there are fur main things here – two regarding ourselves and two regarding God.
1. Two important things we need to know about ourselves1. By nature we are evil yet capable of doing relative good1. We are evil
Were you ever made to eat something you really didn't like as a child? My parents were keen on me eating everything on my plate. Sometimes I would try and get something I didn't like down by mixing it in with other things – but you know sometimes you could still taste it. Well, this verse is a little like that. Most of it is positive. It's like the meat and potato and gravy, if you like. If you then 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! But then there's this sprout stuck in the middle of it 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!I know many have tried but there is really no way round this. The Bible teaches us man's depravity, his total depravity – there is evil in man. He has a tendency to cause harm. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all like sheep have gone astray. There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.
We are essentially sinful, wrong, failures, menaces. We do not like the idea at all. We protest. But that is the truth. Because of our father Adam's sin in the garden we are guilty with him. Being his children we inherit the same sinful disposition. From the moment we are conceived we are sinners and as the years go by we see the evidence of this in the sins we commit against God's Law. We do things we shouldn't, say things and think things we shouldn't. Things we should do and say and think we don't do. We have all failed to love God as we should and we have not done right by our neighbours either. We have failed to put God first. Tried to worship him in wrong ways, misused his name, failed to keep his day holy. There has been rebelliousness, taking what is not ours, impurity and disloyalty, hatred, lying, greediness. Jesus is very plain – we are evil.
Do you recognise your evil nature? Do you accept that you are a sinner? Part of wisdom is to know yourself and if you do not realise this about yourself then you will understand nothing. This is a fundamental part of our psyche by nature. It is not good news but it is the truth.
2. Yet capable of doing relative good
'Ah, typical' someone might say say 'here are these evangelicals with their doom and gloom again.' But that is to over react. What Jesus actually says is that though you are evil, (you) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more ... etc.
The Bible does say very clearly (Rom 3:12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. However, a careful reading of Scripture will make clear that what is taught is that we are incapable of doing anything truly good in the proper sense, apart from God. That we can do what is relatively good, such as giving good gifts to our children or being nice to our friends or giving money to charity or even dying for someone else in need is not for a moment denied. Every person here today has, no doubt, done something relatively good. The truth, however, is that unless a thing is done in Christ and for God's glory it cannot be truly good.
When we speak about total depravity then, when we say man is totally depraved, we do not mean that man is as bad as he can be and totally devoid of anything that could be called good in any sense. No, the word total there means that man is affected in every part – his body, his mind, how he acts, how he thinks, his attitudes. No part of him is exempt from the taint of evil.
I think this is where some of the confusion comes in. The preacher says to you 'you are evil' and you, perhaps. think to yourself 'no, I'm not. I do this good thing and that good thing, how can I be evil?' It's a little like a damaged chisel, say. I may say to you it's useless and you may say but look you can still use it for scraping. Well, yes, it can do some good but it can't be used for its original purpose unless it is reground. Or think of a cracked mirror. Again, I may say it's useless and you may say but you can still see your face in it. Once more, we are at cross purposes. I am saying it cannot hang in the front room not that it is completely of no use.
And so when I say we are evil by nature understand the point. We are not what we should be, what we were originally intended to be. We do not reflected the image of God as we were intended to. We can do relative good but we are essentially evil, marred by sin, causers of harm to ourselves and to others.
2. What we need is the Holy Spirit
Once you see this first thing about us the next follows on. We are people who need something. The fact we need something is often accepted but as to just what is needed there are different ideas. What is our greatest need?
1. Negatively – what it is notNot wealth and possessions. Not many people come out and say it but it is widely held that if we had a bit more money then we would be better people. But it is clear that rich people do not necessarily behave any better than poor people and money can not be the answer.
Not health and wholeness. Some think that if we can just stay free of disease and keep well, all will be fine. But again although health is attractive it is not our greatest need. Many sick and disabled people have shown us that.
Not popularity or friends. Again people don't often say that, although you hear things like 'as long as I've got my family round me I'm okay'. It is wonderful thing to have family and friends but again this is not our greatest need.
Not education or religion. These are other obvious examples of what people think they need but that are not really at the heart of things. Education and religion, as we must surely see, guarantee nothing. They can do you as much harm as good.
2. Positively – what we needWhat we really do need is the Holy Spirit. Isn't that the implication of what Jesus says here - 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! We could paraphrase - If you then, though you are evil, know how to give your children what you need, how much more will your Father in heaven give you the very thing you need - the Holy Spirit! As Matthew Henry comments “The gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift we are every one of us concerned earnestly and constantly to pray for.” That is because we all need the Holy Spirit. Two questions then
Who is the Holy Spirit? It is clear from Scripture that God exist in three persons - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one whose work is to make holy.
How does he help people? Quite simply, firstly, he is the one who converts people. Though by nature we are evil we can be converted. This is the work that the Holy Spirit does. He is the one who changes a person. Having been changed we still need the Holy Spirit as he is the one who makes people holy and enables them to do things that are truly good.
So that is your great need and mine. By nature, yes, we can do relative good but we can do nothing truly good unless we have the Holy Spirit. We need to know his converting power in our lives. Having known that we need his continued help to enable us to pray and to do all the things that Christians do. I want to urge all of you to pray for the Holy Spirit. If you have the Spirit, pray for more of him, for more of his work in your life. If you don't have the Spirit, realise that without him you cannot do anything good. Even Jesus Christ relied on the Spirit in all he did to be an example to us. He has the anointing of the Spirit (Messiah means anointed one and it is with the Spirit that he was anointed). We too can be anointed ones (what C S Lewis called little Christs) is we look to the Holy Spirit. Ask him for what you need.
2. Two important things we need to know about GodWell, that is what I want to say from this verse about ourselves. I also want, more briefly, to draw your attention to two things that we learn about God from this verse as well.
1. God is infinitely good and generousThis is the clear implication of what Jesus says. He is using what is called is sometimes called an a fortiori or 'how much more' argument. He is using the a minore ad maius or 'lesser to the greater' type of argument. He begins with the lesser, which is not in dispute – fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. Generally speaking, fathers don't give snakes or scorpions to their children instead of fish or eggs. Well, then says Jesus, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Jesus is talking to his disciples about prayer and he is encouraging them to pray expectantly. He says (9, 10) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Don't think you're going to ask God for something good and he will give you something bad or not give you anything at all. When you seek something from God then you will surely find if you really are seeking. He will show you where it is. Don't expect to knock his door and get no answer. He won't say 'go away'.
Cf Jas 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. Isn't that the teaching of the parable of the prodigal son? When the son finally returned the Father didn't find fault, he simply received him again as his son.
Too often we have doubts about God's goodness and generosity but we never should have such doubts. He is the God of all grace. He is infinitely good and kind. Everything in Scripture encourages to think in these terms. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
When Daniel Wilson, who later became Bishop of Calcutta, went as a newly converted Christian to see John Newton to ask for advice, Newton said
“There are few awakened sinners who doubt Christ's ability to save, but the fear seems to run on His willingness, which, of the two, is certainly the most dishonouring to our blessed Saviour. To illustrate my meaning: Suppose you had promised to pay £100 for me and had given me the promise in writing. Now, if you should refuse to pay the money when I sent for it, which do you think would involve the greatest impeachment to your character, to say that you were perfectly willing to fulfil your commitment, but really had not the power; or to say that no doubt could be entertained of your ability, but you were unwilling to be bound by your promise?
"'Unbelief is a great sin. If the devil were to tempt you to some open, notorious crime, you would be startled at it; but when he tempts you to disbelieve the promises of God, you hug it as your infirmity, whereas you should consider it as a great sin, and must pray against it.”
Believe that God is faithful and true. Trust him. Accept that eh is generous and more than willing to do for you what is necessary.
2. If you ask him for the Holy Spirit you will receive himJames again (4:2) says You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. Is that your problem? For some reason you've never asked God for the gift of the Holy Spirit? Then ask him today. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.Someone may say, but I've prayed, I've genuinely asked and sought and knocked at God's door but there's been no answer. But that's the point of the parable at the beginning of the chapter. God is looking for importunity, for boldness. He says though you are evil, (you) know how to give good gifts to your children not 'though you are evil, (you) give good gifts to your children immediately'. Just as with our children we sometimes make them wait a little while so it is sometimes God's purpose to test our patience.
Sometimes the problem is that we are not really in earnest. We are praying 'save me' or 'give me repentance' but we are not really desperate about it. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.Are you seeking with all your heart? That is so important. Really seek him.
It may be that you are seeking with all your heart but that God is making you wait a little for some reason. Don't forget John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. If we really come to Christ he will give is the Holy Spirit. Let's all seek him earnestly now and let's pray ...