Monday, March 12, 2018

A Study in Luke 11 -- Prayer

Luke 11:1 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples."

Luke 11:9-13 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 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?"

You’ll remember from last week, we have to be careful when we try to connect things too quickly in the Gospels. The Gospel stories and teaching are still within the time frame of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant doesn’t begin until the Crucifixion.

So if we take a benefit of a later event and try to make it fit before it happened, we have a problem.

An example is with the word given that Jesus used in this passage. In typical usage the word given means given. We didn’t have something and then someone gave it to us and we now have it in our possession. But when it comes to how this verse is written: Luke 11:13 "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?" we can’t use the typical definition.

The promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit as the permanent gift to Believers wasn’t to happen until Pentecost. So how could Jesus say God might give them the Holy Spirit if they ask Him? Because He’s not talking about the Holy Spirit as the Indweller but as the method by which God responds to our asking.

In the New Covenant, the Spirit is the abiding presence of God in our lives that seals us as His Children and empowers us to live the Christian life. He is given in salvation as a permanent presence of God within us. At the same time, The Holy Spirit remains the power of God to accomplish the work of God in and through our lives.

What’s the issue with what Jesus said? The Disciples wouldn’t be given a permanent possession before it was time for that to happen, which is what Pentecost is all about. Also, their lives changed dramatically after the Spirit came. There was no evidence they had experienced that change before Pentecost.

So what was Jesus saying when He said: the Father will give the Holy Spirit if we ask Him? Go back to OT times, before Pentecost, the Spirit came into the lives of people to help them accomplish God’s work. He would come upon them, there would be some demonstration of His presence and a need would be met. Then He would withdraw. It was a temporary filling, temporary power, temporary insight. But still, it was God sending His Holy Spirit to answer their prayers. The Father was answering the requests of His people through giving the Holy Spirit to meet the need, not as a permanent gift.

Today, we have both the abiding presence within us and the Holy Spirit sent for special work. Whenever we have a need and ask God to meet that need He gives or sends the Holy Spirit as the power that accomplishes His work. Even though the Holy Spirit indwells each Believer, He comes in a different way to minister to our needs.

The Spirit has always been the power of God’s dealings with us. He draws us into Salvation. He empowers us to live the life God has saved us to live. He teaches us the things we need to know to love, trust and follow God more specifically. He comforts us with the presence of God in our lives. He accomplishes God’s will, He produces miracles, and He delivers the answer to our prayers. Since this is what Jesus was talking about, what is He telling us to do? Pray expectantly.

Luke 11:9-13 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 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?"

What is prayer? In simplest terms it is talking with God. Whether we are asking, seeking or knocking, it is a conversation with the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Provider, the Lover of our souls, Our Father, who art in Heaven. It is consciously standing in His presence, speaking with Him.

What do we do in prayer? Lay our lives open before Him. We express our love. We surrender our lives. We submit to His will. We give Him our burdens. We ask for direction and help and hope.

What is our promise? He hears us. He responds to us. He answers us. He considers our request and does what is best.

What does prayer compare to? A child asking a father to meet a need.

What happens when we pray?
  •  He takes our cares and gives us release.
  • He takes our anxiety and gives us peace.
  • He takes our burden and what weighs us down and gives us rest.
  • He takes our hunger and thirst and satisfies them.
  • He takes us out of the darkness and into the light.
  • He accomplishes what concerns us

What kind of things concerns you today?
·         Your health?
·         The health of someone else?
·         Your finances?
·         The finances of someone else?
·         Your spouse?
·         Your kids?
·         Your grandkids?
·         Loneliness?
·         Emptiness?
·         Disillusionment?
·         Lostness?
·         Politics?
·         Society?
·         The future?
·         The past?
·         The present?
·         Your age?
·         Death?
·         Life?
·         Concern for someone else’s problems?
·         Salvation of a loved one or a friend?
·         Temptations?
·         Addictions?
·         Fears?
·         Regrets?
·         Your marriage?
·         Your kids’ marriages?
·         Your grandkids’ marriages?
·         The unknown?

What does Jesus offer us? The privilege of trusting Him to take what’s pressing us down and free us: 2Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What is peace? The release we discover when we realize we are no longer carrying the burden.
What can I expect when I pray? God will answer and do what’s best.

I can tell you all day how God can do this. Let me tell you about times He did do this.

New missionary nurse was feeling how desperate things were at her compound. All she saw were needs and no supplies to meet those needs. A baby born during the night needed an incubator to stay warm but there wasn’t one available. She thought maybe a hot water bottle might work. There wasn’t one available. Knowing the baby would die without out some source of warmth, she cried out to God. Later that same morning a package came from the states. The box was filled with a variety of supplies. Before she went through the box, she read a note that lay on top which said: “This box came from our Sunday School class. But when I was about to get it sealed and ready to ship, my daughter brought a water bottle. She said God wants this for a little girl. She also gave me a doll. She said I think the little girl might want a doll, too. We hope this helps meet your needs there.”  Underneath a layer of gauze was a hot water bottle and beside it a small doll. The missionary realized God had answered her prayer well over a week before she even prayed it.

A missionary on furlough told this true story while visiting his home church in Michigan...While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, every two weeks I traveled by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. This was a journey of two days and required camping overnight at the halfway point. On one of these journeys, I arrived in the city where I planned to collect money from a bank, purchase medicine and supplies, and then begin my two-day journey back to the field hospital.

Upon arrival in the city, I observed two men fighting, one of whom had been seriously injured. I treated him for his injuries and at the same time witnessed to him of the Lord Jesus Christ. I then traveled one day, camped overnight, and arrived home without incident the next day.

Two weeks later I repeated my journey. Upon arriving in the city, I was approached by same the young man I had treated. He told me, "Some friends and I followed you into the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We planned to kill you and take your money and drugs. But we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards." At this I laughed and said that I was all alone out in that jungle. The young man said, “My friends also saw them and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid, and left you alone."

At this point one of the men in the congregation interrupted the missionary and asked if he could tell him the exact day that this happened. The missionary told him the date, and the man told him this story: "On the night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf. I was about to putt when I felt the urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you. Would all of those men who met with me on that day stand up?" The men who had met together to pray that day stood up. The missionary counted how many men stood. There were 26.

When Corrie ten Boom was a prisoner at Ravensbruck, at the beginning of WWII, she woke up one day with a bad cold and runny nose. Her sister said, “Why don’t you pray for a hankie?” Corrie said, “If I were to pray for anything it would be for something big, not something like that.” Her sister prayed, “Father, in the name of Jesus, I now pray for a hankie for Corrie, because she has a bad cold.” Corrie shook her head and walked away. As she walked a friend and fellow-prisoner who worked in the camp’s hospital approached her. “Here you are,” the woman said in a matter-of-face tone. She handed Corrie a package and said, “I bring you a little present.” Corrie opened it and there was a handkerchief. “How did you know? Did Betsie tell you I had a cold?” The woman shrugged, “I know nothing. I was busy sewing handkerchiefs out of an old sheet and a voice in my heart said to take a hankie to Corrie. So here is your gift from God.” Corrie realized no need is too small for God to meet.

Heb 4:13 There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jer 33:2-3 Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the LORD is His name, 'Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'

  1. The greatest privilege we have as Believers is prayer.
  2. The greatest assurance we have is God hears and answers our prayers.
  3. The greatest treasure we have is God’s Holy Spirit.
  4. The greatest turning point we have is when we give our problem to God.
  5. The greatest result God can give us is peace.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Study in Luke 10

Our Bible is divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old is the story of God choosing to run His plan for salvation through Abraham’s descendants—the Jews—and present to the world through them the Jewish Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the history of God declaring them His people, explaining what that looks like and correcting them when they begin to look like something else. It also holds the mystery of how God intended to provide salvation in a uniquely personal way.

The New Testament is the story of that plan being fulfilled. We discover Jesus and read of all He did and how what He did makes that personal relationship possible. It then explains what that relationship looks like and how God’s promises and truths affect our lives every day. In there we are the Children of God.

But it can be confusing when we take our New Testament understanding and try to make it fit completely into the Old Testament. It isn’t intended to. Though what we learn in the New can clarify things in the Old, there are also things in the Old that help us understand the New. We are NT believers but the Old Testament provides the backstory for many of our NT beliefs.

Without the New the Old Testament is incomplete.
Without the Old the New Testament has no foundation.

One problem we run into, however, is, many of the words, commands and experiences fit one Testament and not the other. Some things in the Old don’t apply to us because we’re not under the Law, but much of it does apply because we are God’s people. And we can’t always take things from the New and make them apply to Old Testament people.

The word Testament actually means Covenant. There are several covenants that God made with people throughout the OT. He made one with David that gave a royal lineage fulfilled when Jesus was born as King of kings and Lord of lords. He made one with Moses giving the Law and the Sacrificial system that was fulfilled when Jesus died.

The overarching covenant was the one God made with Abraham—to make a nation from him, and through that nation provide the Savior.

Heb 11:8, 12 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going…[And because Abraham was faithful, God promised] as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

The great testimony of Abraham’s life was not the people who came after him but his faith. The famous statement is: Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Abraham became Father of the Faithful—those who believed in God and trusted Him for the outcome of their lives.

Abraham’s legacy actually covers both Covenants through men and women who would be distinguished by faith. The OT toward a completion. The NT toward the culmination. In both there is the sense God is working out a plan.

And though they couldn’t see where the plan was going, they anticipated a day when it would be fulfilled.

Heb 11:39-40 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be completed.

You can imagine how they longed to see what was coming.

Jesus explained it this way: Luke 10:21-24 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them."

The fulfillment of the hope of all people of faith under the Old Covenant was standing right in front of them. Jesus answered the longing of every heart for an intimate, personal relationship with God.

That’s why, later, Paul would write: 1Cor 2:9-10 but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

What Jesus was telling the disciples directly, and Paul told the Corinthians under inspiration is the same thing the Spirit says when He taps us on our hearts and tells us Jesus is the One. He is the promise of the New Covenant, the completer of the Old. It is our privilege to know Him and experience things OT people couldn’t even imagine. Jesus in us, the hope of God pouring His goodness into our lives.

You would think with that legacy all Jews would have lived leaning toward God in anticipation of what God was planning. But not everyone in the nation was a person of faith. They called themselves Jews but that was more birthright than spiritual connection to God.

Paul said: Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

The distinction wasn’t outward but inward. What makes a person a person of God? Not outward appearance—things they do or don’t do—but inward surrender of their lives to God.

That rule applies in both Old and New Testaments: But the difference in the Old and New Covenants was the path to God. Under the Law and Sacrificial system, the people believed the way to God was through their efforts or works—what they did or didn’t do to gain God’s favor. Going through the motions of devotion wasn’t the same as loving God. Works were easier than devotion so you can see how the people gravitated toward the easier activity. Who needs faith when you believe works gain God’s approval?

You’d be surprised how many religions and even Christian denominations and movements still have works as a necessary part of salvation—either to get it or keep it.

David said: Ps 51:15-17 O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
David knew without faith there are no actions that please God.

So after the Crucifixion, faith had a new object. Faith in God now passed through Jesus, who completed the work of the Old Covenant. The pathway now has a name.

Jeremiah was one of those Jesus referred to: Jer 31:31-33 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Ezekiel was another: Ezek 36:24-28 "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.

Fortunately, how a person thought he was made right with God in the Old Covenant didn’t make the transition into the New Covenant. Same God. Same faith. But a new pathway.

In the New Covenant we are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any should boast. (Eph 2:8-9) Do you hear the difference?

How would we boast in salvation? By thinking we had made it happen or by thinking we’re responsible to keep it. The work is already done. Jesus took the work part on Himself.

What’s the big deal?
·         We can make works—things we do and don’t do to gain God’s favor—more important than faith.
·         We can achieve works without faith.
·         We can assume our works gain us righteousness before God.
·         We can believe that by our works we can influence God.
·         We can expect our works to be what gets us to Heaven. [Survey]
·         We can carry a load of guilt for our failures to live up to what we believe are God’s expectations.

Why go through all of this? Because living on the fulfillment side of the cross brings joy.
  • Where we can fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2 
  • Where Jesus promised us that what He taught was so that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. Joh 15:11 
  • Where Paul prayed: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  
  •  At that very time Jesus rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, Guys, you have no idea how blessed you really are.

Why go through all this? Because Easter is coming and we need to celebrate why Jesus did what He did.
Why go through all this? Because the truth can set us free.

  1.  We live on the completed side of the Crucifixion—under the New Covenant.
  2.  In the New Covenant, God saves us by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works lest any should boast.
  3.  Our works may demonstrate our faith but they are not more important to God than our faith.
  4. If we live out our Christian life to honor Him, to glorify Him and anticipate His goodness in our lives, our faith pleases God.
  5. Old Testament people of faith had no idea how incredible life fulfilled by a personal relationship with God would be.
  6. We are blessed.