By John Fitzsimmons
Series: Holy Spirit
Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th Century Christian writer, once told a story of a village inhabited by ducks. On Sunday the ducks would waddle out their doors to church down the street, and they waddled into the sanctuary and they squatted in their favourite pews. The duck choir would waddle out and sit in their place. The duck pastor would waddle up to the pulpit and open the Bible, and he would read: 'Ducks! God has given you wings, with wings you can fly, with wings you can mount up and soar like eagles! No walls can confine you, no fence can hold you! You have wings! God has given you wings and you can fly!' Excitedly they would all flap and quack, and then, after saying a hearty 'Amen', they all waddled home. The difference between being filling with the Spirit & not being filled with the Spirit is the difference between waddling & flying.
We can make a lot of claims, we can sing a lot about it, our core beliefs confess the fullness of the Spirit & yet when we look at our lives are we flying or waddling? Now of course the analogy is imperfect & it breaks down if we over think it. For the Christian life includes times of walking, running, resting & flying. However in the context of what we’ve been exploring it says something important. We don’t just want to say Amen to God’s promise of the Spirit & then go home the same; we need to encounter & reencounter the reality in our own lives.
This is a something that can make a difference in every area of our lives & church. Maybe you're struggling today, you're struggling with temptation & sin; you're not experiencing a victorious Christian life. No one experiences a victorious Christian life every day of the week, every day of the year, 24/7, it just doesn't happen. But maybe you experience little or no victory at all. Or maybe you feel powerless & inadequate to minister for God in whatever way he has called & gifted you to. Or maybe you feel your Christian life has been stuck in the same place for years. You’re struggling, you’re failing, you’re tired & thirsty. Well there is good news for you in the words we explored last week regarding being filled with the Holy Spirit. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
This promise is available to you today because the risen & living Jesus is here to offer living water which can fill us to overflowing, again & again, with the life of God. Maybe the reason you have struggled so long is because you're been trying to live the Christian life in the flesh, and you cannot do that! Here's good news for you today. You do not have to live the Christian life on empty; you can be filled again & again with the energy of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is impossible humanly speaking, so don't even try it on your own! It cannot be done in the flesh; it must be done in the power of God. It is the life of God after all.
Now that doesn't mean that you don't have to cooperate with God, and there are not things for you to do - but the energy, that's what we're talking about, the energy you need is not human energy or willpower, it is the power of the Holy Spirit. I love the words Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians in 1:28-29; “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present them mature in Christ.” This was Paul’s mission. He knew his mission & we need to know ours. Another reason we burn out is because we don’t know our mission so end up doing everything... Now listen to verse 29; “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” So yes there is toil & struggle in life & ministry; but the energy we rely on is the very energy of God...
Yet so prone are we to trying things in our own strength, & we wonder why we burn out or grow weary of doing good. If you try driving the car without enough petrol you know what happens? You have to get out & start pushing. There are too many pushers in the Christian life, pushing what they are supposed to drive with energy God supplies. The Galatians were pushers. Paul wrote to them in 3:1-3: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus was publically portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now [ending with] the flesh?” It’s like they were given a full tank to begin with, but once they ran out concluded they had to complete the journey by pushing. Paul said don’t be foolish, the way to the end is the way you began, not by pushing but by being filled again and again with the energy of the Holy Spirit.
When they were initially filled they seen miracles done in their midst (v5), but now they were trying to perfect their Christianity in the flesh by keeping laws. This often happens in Christian circles: you get rid of some burdens of sin or shame etc, and then you join the church and they give you a whole load of other burdens & expectations to live up to. Then you get weighed down again with things too heavy to push through life. That’s not Christianity. One of the things baptism with the Holy Spirit helps do, is liberate you from the expectations of others to simply be & do what God has called, gifted & ordained you to be & do - with his power! This reality is living water to people burned out by demands of religion & the world.
A man visited the World Fair in Chicago on one occasion, and in the distance he saw someone robed in bright, gaudy Oriental clothes, who appeared to be laboriously turning a crank on a pump. Thereby he was making a mighty flow of water come. The man was impressed with the other man's energy, and the smooth motions, and his obvious physical conditioning - he was pumping a tremendous amount of water. Drawing closer, he was surprised to discover that the man was actually made of wood. Instead of turning the crank and making the water flow, the flow of water was actually turning the crank & making the man go. That's Christianity. That’s how it works. That’s why we need to be filled again & again with the Holy Spirit. Do you feel like you have been doing a lot of pumping and not getting too far - that is not life as God intended for you.
Today is all about coming to Jesus to be filled with his Spirit, either for the first time or again. Jesus simply says if anyone wants this living water “let him come to me and drink.” You’ll be surprised at what flows out of your life because you simply come to him in faith. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18; “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (NIV). When the demands of life get too much don’t turn to alcohol (or whatever your tendency is) turn to Jesus & drink the living water he offers. This will do you much more good to you & it’s free!
So how do we receive the Holy Spirit? This is where the passage from Luke 11 comes in. This passage underlines something about how we should approach God for anything. However verse 13 applies it specifically to asking for the Holy Spirit. This of course can apply to asking for the Holy Spirit in the sense of new birth or in being filled with the Holy Spirit. Remember, the way we start is the way we continue... Grace by faith...
Let me quickly highlight a few important things about what Jesus is teaching. In the story of the friend coming at midnight in verses 5-8 Jesus teaches us something important about our need to ask God for the Holy Spirit. In Biblical times hospitality was a sacred duty. When a guest arrived—especially a friend—the host had a holy obligation to provide a generous meal. So the man in the story was in real need & there was no 24 hour Tesco’s or petrol station to run to. So when the man’s friend arrived, he found himself unable to meet the high demands of hospitality. So he had to go & get what he needed from another. Likewise if we as Christians are going to have something to offer weary travellers who arrive at our church we also need the resources of another!
In the story the man’s friend was already in bed & didn’t really want to be bothered – as most of us wouldn’t at that time of night. But verse 8 says something worth thinking about. Jesus said; “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is a friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him what he needs.” To be impudent means to be shamelessly presumptuous. The Greek word refers to someone who “acts without any feeling of shame or disgrace.” We may know someone like this who has the sheer audacity to come right out & ask for something no one else would dare... This is how Jesus is teaching us to ask for the Holy Spirit; boldly & shamelessly, because we know if we are going to have something to offer weary travellers then we desperately need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is not teaching in this story that God gets annoyed when we bother him at midnight, or that we have to beg him to come down & help us. No God is not like the man in bed at all. Jesus is making a contrast just like he does again in verses 11-13. God neither sleeps nor slumbers (Ps 121:4) & he loves to help people in need (Ps 34:15). In the next two verses Jesus assures us God will answers our prayers. He offers this assurance six times in two verses—three times in verse nine & three times in verse 10. Jesus’ point in this story is to teach us to make audaciously bold requests for God to do what he has promised to do... We can ask for the Holy Spirit with confidence then, God is willing to give to those who ask him! Jesus says: “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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
In the Greek this implies continues action. So Jesus is not telling us to go to God only once, but to keep going to him again and again asking for what we need, asking for more of his Holy Spirit... He will not get tired of us asking & he will not tire of giving... He wants us to have what we need so we can meet the needs of weary travellers who arrive at our door... For this reason we can never ask for too much of the Holy Spirit & we should never stop asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit...
Then Jesus says; “What Father among you, if his son asks for a fish will give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!” One of the greatest master strokes of Satan is to make Christian’s afraid of the Holy Spirit! Afraid of what might happen if they are filled with his power. Will they start speaking in tongues or fall over or begin shaking under his power. Well you might & you might not, but do you honestly think if you genuinely come to God, seeking him, knocking on his door that he will do anything to harm you. Yes everything that happens in the name of the Spirit may not be the Spirit. Yes we need to be discerning. However if we ask God for what he encourages us to ask for, then whatever happens can only be for our good. Leonard Ravenhill once said: 'We are warned of false fire by fireless men, and then we too often settle for no fire at all'. There is nothing to fear in asking God to fill you with his Holy Spirit. He is not going to give us something that would harm us; he comes to bring freedom, courage, purpose joy & much more.
1 John 5:14-15 gives us truth to take hold of. It says; “And this is the confidence that we have towards him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we HAVE the requests that we have asked of him.” If you’re asking for something that is clearly God’s will he hears! And if he hears, then you will have what you ask for not something else.
What confidence this gives us in asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We know it is God’s will for us so we can ask today with great confidence. We can come to the Risen Jesus, the baptiser with the Holy Spirit, & ask him for this living water, this power from on high. Jesus said in John 16:23: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full.” Jesus had been talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit not long before he said this. The Spirit has come & because he has we can all be filled...