The Wind Blows Where it Pleases

This is an outline of the notes that I use to teach my Wednesday evening class on the sayings and the life of Jesus.

The Heart of the Lesson: Jesus was conceived and empowered by the Holy Spirit and he teaches the disciples about the role of the Spirit in walking by faith, even while encountering hostility of the spiritually blind.

Today’s Term: Counselor – meaning the Spirit is our advocate and helper who leads them in the truth; the paraklete, “the one who comes along side.”

The Spirit in the Life of Jesus:

  1. Conceived by the Spirit (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35)
  2. The Spirit leads Simeon to the Hope of Israel (Luke 2:25-27)
  3. The Spirit was upon him (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2)

Spirit, Wind, Breath (John 3:8)

  1. Jesus talks with Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again.
  2. Jesus is using a play on words that we don’t catch in English. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek all use the word for “wind” (pneuma). The wind blows where it pleases, but John 3:8 can also be translated, “the Spirit blows wherever it pleases” or even “the Spirit breaths whenever it pleases.”
  3. Nicodemus would have easily connected this teaching to the beginning of Genesis, the Spirit hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2). This can also be translated the wind or breath was hovering. All three suggest something alive and powerful, beyond the control of any person or religious group.
  4. The Spirit is inexpiable. Theologians often omit teaching on the Spirit because he is so difficult to understand.
  5. After the ascension, the Spirit came upon them (Acts 2:2) and empowered them to carry out the mission that Jesus left to the church. Where God’s Spirit blows, great things happen.
  6. The Jews Christians tried to maintain control through circumcision, Sabbath observance, and food laws, but the Spirit moved them past these. Paul tells the church not to put out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

The Flesh Counts for Nothing (John 6:63, 66)

  1. The words of Jesus are life, more than our need for food. They wanted to make Jesus a bread king and intended to take him by force.
  2. Jesus puts out a hard teaching (John 6:60) and they take offense and grumble, and even leave. But the disciples realize that Jesus alone has the words of life.
  3. Others were not interested in the life that the Spirit was giving them. They sought the material when Jesus brought the spiritual. “The flesh counts for nothing” is one of the most profound statements of Jesus.
    1. Gnostics took that statement out of context, saying it proved the material world is evil and much be neglected, only the spiritual mattered.
    2. Or they stressed the opposite, the sins committed in the flesh were not important since the Spirit is all that mattered.
    3. Jesus’ point is the necessity of salvation, eternal life comes from the Spirit.

Pouring the Spirit (John 7:37-39)

  1. As people left Jesus because the teaching was too difficult, others became even more thirsty (Matthew 5:6). Water is essential to life and Jesus talks about this “living water.”
  2. The Spirit being “poured out” is common language (Isaiah 44:3, 32:15, Ezekiel 39:29, Zechariah 12:10, Joel 2:28-29, Acts 10:45, Romans 5:5).

The Counselor (John 14:16-17, 14:26, 15:26, 16:8-11)

  1. The NT mentions the personal nature of the Spirit, a HE rather than an IT.
  2. Counselor comes from paraklete, to come along side, like a helper or court advocate.
  3. The Counselor is both with and in the believer. He is not of this world.
  4. The Spirit came upon some OT characters: Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, even John the Baptist.
  5. The Spirit of truth will teach the disciples all things at the time it is needed.
    1. Discerning falsehood (1 Corinthians 2:10, Ephesians 3:5)
    2. Spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10)
    3. Spiritual understanding (1 Corinthians 2:11-13)
    4. Spiritual assistance (Romans 8:26)
  6. John’s inclusion of the Spirit as Counselor when the synoptics do not: the apostles were dying off (martyrs) and they needed encouragement that Jesus was always present even through through to the end.
    1. Fears about Jesus’ delay in returning (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
    2. As decades passed, people became skeptical (2 Peter 3:3-8)

Breathing Out the Spirit (John 20:19-22)

  1. We usually look back to the upper room at Pentecost as the birthday of the church but forget that the disciples had already received the Spirit (John 20:22). Perhaps the Acts 2 story is about receiving the Spirit in power (Acts 1:8).
  2. Peace is the Hebrew word shalom often spoken at times of divine connection: Gideon (Judges 6:23, Daniel (Daniel 10:19). They get the message of peace three times (John 20:19, 21, 26). This is likely more than just a greeting.
  3. The Spirit is often connected to peace (Romans 14:17, Galatians 5:22, Romans 8:6).
  4. Jesus breathes on them, pneuma (Greek) and ruach (Hebrew) both meaning breath of spirit; he is creating something new.
    1. As God breathes life into Adam (Genesis 2:7)
    2. As God breathes life into the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:8).
  5. We are sent out ones: apostolos.
    1. Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)
    2. Commissioned to go out (Matthew 28:18-20)

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:22-32)

  1. So, the unpardonable sin. Context proves this is not difficult at all.
  2. A blind and mute man is possessed by a demon, which Jesus drives out. One would think this is the Messiah but the religious few have an assumption that Jesus’ power comes from the devil, not God. They say that Jesus has the power of demons because he in in cahoots with demons.
  3. Beelzabub (2 Kings 1:2-6) is a name applied to the god of Ekron, meaning “lord of the flies” or “Baal the Prince.” So, the Jews would think the devil is the “prince of demons.”
  4. Jesus’ response to them indicates they were being illogical. Satan is evil but he is not stupid, a house divided against itself cannot stand.
  5. The devil is not the issue here, it is that Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with Us” (Matthew 1:23), not the “devil with us.”
  6. Attributing the miracles of God to the devil is evidence of a totally perverse mind and reprobate heart. Woe to those who call good evil… (Isaiah 5:20).
  7. Peter responded to Jesus, “depart from me I am a sinner” (Luke 5:8) but the opposite is true of the Pharisees, they say that Jesus is the sinner.
  8. In Luke 11:20, Luke uses the phrase, “finger of God” reminiscent of the court of Pharaoh (Exodus 8:19).
  9. Speak against Jesus and you can be forgiven, but not against the Spirit.
    1. People who reject Jesus as the Messiah can be forgiven if they later come to faith (Acts 7:51 – we all do this at first). If you worry about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, it is a good indication that you have not.
    2. Blasphemy against the Spirit, accusing God of evil, cannot be forgiven. If a man sins against the Lord who will intercede for him (1 Samuel 2:25). Once they had decided that Jesus’ power was from the devil, they were rejecting the only provision for their salvation, and there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12).
  10. Jesus says that he who is not with me is against me (Matthew 12:30). He is saying that to not decide is to decide (against him). There is no neutrality or thinking about deciding tomorrow. In a war, one must choose sides.
  11. In Mark’s version, his family is coming to take charge of him because he has lost his mind (Mark 3:20-27).
    1. His enemies believe he is in league with the devil and is a liar (Mark 2:7)
    2. His family thinks he is an insane lunatic (Mark 3:21)
    3. The demons know who he is the Lord… the Son of God (Mark 1:24, 3:11).

How to Engage in Prayer

Today we are looking into Luke 11:1-13 and Matthew 6:1-14. Between chapters 10 and 11, there is a time interval which is covered in John 9:1–10:21. 1

Luke 11 can be summarized by generosity: If Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Twelve all needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray! We must put God’s concerns first (Luke 11:2-4) because prayer is based on sonship, not friendship. God is a loving Father, not a grouchy neighbor; He gives us what we need. He neither slumbers nor sleeps; and He doesn’t become irritated when we ask for help (James 1:5). 2

Outline:

  1. Pattern for Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) a guide, rather than something to recite.
    1. True prayer has responsibilities (Luke 11:2) honoring God’s kingdom and doing God’s will. It is important to read God’s Word and to know God’s Word, we cannot separate prayer from God’s Word (John 15:7).
    2. True prayer asks requests, in proper order (Luke 11:3-4) once we are secure in our relationship with God and his will. He provides our needs, not our greeds.
  2. Persistence in Prayer (Luke 11:5-8)
    1. Prayer is based on sonship, rather than friendship.
    2. Prayer is based on shamelessness, the man was not ashamed to wake up his neighbor.
      1. When people pray, God’s reputation is at stake.
      2. When we are persistent, we do not changed God’s mind, but we get ourselves to the place  where we can trust God for the answer.
  3. Promises for Prayer (Luke 11:9-13)
    1. Verb tenses: keep on asking, knowing, seeking: not just during a midnight emergency.
    2. Various examples:
      1. Jesus called this abiding (John 15:1-11).
      2. Paul called this “prayer without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
    3. Vexing illustrations: we never need be afraid of the answers God gives.

Overview:

This prayer passage fits in with Luke’s purpose in presenting Christ as the Son of Man, ever dependent upon God His Father. The disciples sensed that prayer was a real and vital force in the life of Jesus. As they heard Him pray, it made them want to pray too. And so one of His disciples asked that He would teach them to pray. He did not say, “Teach us how to pray,” but “Teach us to pray.” However, the request certainly includes both the fact and the method.

This study is designed to develop the character quality of persistence in prayer. Jesus warned that without prayer believers we will become faint-hearted (Luke 18:1). When you don’t persist in prayer you become ignorant of God’s will and stubborn to do your own will. God wants us to be persistent and passionate in seeking His face. Jesus in this passage gives three commands on how to be persistent in our prayers. We are to habitually and continuously keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.

Historical Background:

Throughout Jesus’ ministry starting with His baptism (Luke 3:21) Jesus practiced the presence of God by communing with the Father through prayer.

  • The disciples found Jesus praying early in the morning (Mark 1:35)
  • They watched him slip away often for prayer (Luke 5:16)
  • He taught them of the importance of prayer especially when He (the Bridegroom) would return to the Father (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35)
  • He spent a night in prayer in preparation for choosing “The Twelve” (Luke 6:12-13)
  • He taught them at their “Ordination Service” (Sermon on the Mount) to pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28)
  • He taught them to in secret, guarding their motives while practicing this discipline (Matthew 6:5-18)
  • He challenged them with these words in Matthew 7:7, 8 “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.”

These are the same words that Jesus uses when teaching His disciples in Luke 11 one year later. They are now personally interested in learning how to pray.

Discussion:

1. What motivated the disciples to ask Jesus to teach them how to pray? (Luke 11: 1) The disciples were motivated to pray because Jesus had taught them by example. Prayer is better caught than taught. They were not ready to learn how to pray until now. Their readiness to enter the school of prayer was precipitated by the realization that if God the Son was desperate to receive direction from the Father, how much more did they need to seek His face through prayer. Jesus’ prayer life communicated that He believed there is no direction without connection.

  • Matthew 14:23 – After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
  • Mark 1:35 – In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
  • Mark 6:46 – After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.
  • Luke 5:16 – But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
  • Luke 9:18 – And it happened that while He was praying alone. The disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”

2. If prayer was so important, why is it that Jesus was so relaxed about His disciple’s prayer lives? (Luke 5:33-35) When Jesus’ disciples were talking with him they were talking with the second person of the Godhead. Prayer is really nothing more than a conversation with God. So the disciples were in essence praying every day as they walked and talked with Jesus. But there was coming a day when Jesus would return to the Father and it would be essential that his disciples used the discipline of fasting and prayer to maintain contact with God.

3. How have churched unbelievers misused this prayer? (Matthew 6:7, 8) Prayers are not to be merely recited, nor are our words to be repeated thoughtlessly, or as if they were automatic formulas. But this is not a prohibition against persistence in pray. This practice was common in many pagan religions of that day, as it is in many religions today, including some branches of Christianity. The word translated “meaningless repetition” refers to idle, thoughtless chatter, mimicking the sounds of meaningless babble.

John MacArthur writes ”The Jews had picked up the practice from the Gentiles, who believed that the value of prayer was largely a matter of quantity. The longer the better. ‘They suppose they will be heard for their many words’ (Matthew 6:7), Jesus explained. Those who prayed to pagan gods thought their deities first had to be aroused, then cajoled, intimidated, and badgered into listening and answering – just as the prophets of Baal did on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:26-29). In the New Testament we see a similar practice. Aroused against Paul and his companions by Demetrius and other silversmiths of Ephesus, a great crowd began chanting, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ and continued incessantly for two hours (Acts 19:24-34).

Many Buddhists spin wheels containing written prayers, believing that each turn of the wheel sends that prayer to their god. Roman Catholics light prayer candles in the belief that their requests will continue to ascend to God as long as the candle is lit. Rosaries are used to count off repeated prayers of Hail Mary and Our Father, the rosary itself coming to Catholicism from Buddhism by way of the Spanish Muslims during the Middle Ages. Certain charismatic groups in our own day repeat the same words or phrases over and over until the speaking degenerates to unintelligible confusion” (Matthew by: John A. Broadus, Judson, 1886, pg.130).

4. If God knows what we need before we ever pray, why pray? (Matthew 6:8) God does not have to be badgered into submission, our Father knows what we need, before we ask Him. Martin Luther said, “By our praying… we are instructing ourselves more than we are him.” The purpose of prayer is not to inform or persuade God, but to come before God sincerely, purposely, consciously, and devotedly (Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by: John Stott, lnterVarsity, 1978, pg.145).

Prayer is sharing the needs, burdens, and hunger of our hearts before our heavenly Father, who already knows what we need but also wants us to ask him. He wants to hear us, he wants to commune with us, more than we could ever want to commune with him because his love for us is so much greater than our love for him. Prayer is our giving God the opportunity to manifest His power, majesty, love, and providence (John 14:13).

5. Did Jesus intend for this prayer to be prayed repetitiously by rote memory? (Matthew 6:9) Jesus taught them to pray “in this way” or “in this manner” or “along these lines.” The prayer is a model, not a liturgy. It is notable for its brevity, simplicity, and comprehensiveness. Of the six petitions, three are directed to God (Matthew 6:9-10) and three toward human needs (Matthew 6:11-13).

6. How are we to address God? (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9) God is addressed as Father only for those who have been spiritually born into God’s family through faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection (John 1:12-13; John 3:3, 5-7).

  • Malachi wrote, “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10).
  • Paul said to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill “As even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring”‘ (Acts 17:28).

But Scripture makes it unmistakably clear that God’s fatherhood of unbelievers is only in the sense of being their Creator. Spiritually, unbelievers have another father. In his severest condemnation of the Jewish leaders who opposed and rejected Him, Jesus said, ”You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). It is only to those who receive Him that Jesus gives “the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12; cf. Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26; Hebrews 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:4). Because believers belong to God the Son, they can come to God the Father as his beloved children. “Our Father,” indicates God’s eagerness to lend his ear, his power, and his eternal blessing to the petitions of his children if it serves them best and further reveals his purpose and glory.

7. What does “hallowed be Thy Name” tell us about God’s person? (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9) Hallowed is an archaic English word used to translate a form of the Greek word that means to make holy. Words from the same root are translated “holy, saint, sanctify, sanctification,” etc. God’s people are commanded to be holy (1 Peter 1:16), but God is acknowledged as “being” holy. That is the meaning of praying hallowed “be” Thy name: to attribute to God the holiness that already is his, (it always has been, supremely and uniquely His). To hallow God’s name is to revere, honor, glorify, and obey him as singularly perfect. As John Calvin observed, that God’s name should be hallowed was nothing other than to say that God should have his own honor, of which he was so worthy, that men should never think or speak of Him without the greatest veneration (A Harmony of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Baker, 1979, pg. 318).

8. What is involved in praying for God’s program? (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:10) All prayer, first of all, willingly submits to God’s purposes, plans, and glory. Our greatest desire should be to see the Lord reigning as King in his kingdom, to have the honor and authority that have always been his but that he has not yet come to claim.

The word kingdom does not refer primarily to a geographical territory but to sovereignty and dominion. Therefore when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying for God’s rule through Christ’s enthronement to come, his glorious reign on earth to begin. The verb “come” is an aorist active imperative, which denotes a sudden, instantaneous coming (Matthew 24:27). It is the coming kingdom of God, not an effort to create a more godly society on earth through the progressive, human-oriented work of Christians.

To pray ”Thy kingdom come” is to pray for God’s kingdom, the kingdom over which he, and he alone, is Lord and King. It will be a kingdom on earth (Matthew 6:10a), but it will not be a kingdom of this world, like the present world system. Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). We do not advance God’s kingdom to improve human society, no matter how worth y the cause. Supporting those causes neither build the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ nor bring it closer.

Practically as we pray for God’s kingdom to come we need to ask ourselves if we have surrendered to the reign of Christ in our lives. Our ministries’ focus ought to bring everything within our sphere of influence under Christ’s reign.

9. How often should we pray for God’s provision? (Luke 11:3; Matthew 6:11) God wants us to have a daily dependence upon Him (see Rev.3:17). The word translated “daily” was difficult to translate for centuries, since this is the only place the word occurs inside or outside the Bible. Then a few years ago, an archeologist dug up a papyrus fragment that contained a housewife’s shopping list. Next to several items the woman had scribbled this word for daily: It probably meant, “Enough for the coming day” The phrase should be translated, “give us today bread enough for tomorrow” When prayed in the morning, it is a prayer for the needs in the hours ahead. Prayed in the evening, it is a request for the needs of the next day. The implication is that God will supply what we need to honor Him and do His will.

In our culture, with freezers and refrigerators, we seldom purchase food for a single day. We store up food in such abundance that we mutter only thoughtless words of thanks as we eat. We hardly acknowledge that the meal we eat and clothes we wear have come from the Father’s hand. We must re-establish a daily dependence upon the Lord.

10. What happens when we pray for God’s pardon but have been unwilling to forgive others? (Luke 11:4: Matthew 6:12, 14-15) God doesn’t forgive us. In Luke’s account, Jesus says to tell God you’re forgiving everybody, so please do the same for us, but in Matthew 6:12, Jesus made it more conditional, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus instructed them to ask the Father to forgive them only to the degree that they forgive other people. Jesus provides a brief commentary on this aspect of the prayer in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you… but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

The kind of forgiveness that the disciples are seeking in the Lord’s Prayer is “parental forgiveness.” They are already members in the family of God; this is why they are instructed to address God as their “Father.” These verses are not suggesting that God will withdraw justification (Judicial Forgiveness) from those who have already received the free pardon he extends to all believers. Judicial forgiveness is a permanent and complete acquittal from the guilt and ultimate penalty of sin, and belongs to all who are in Christ (John 5:24; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:7). Yet, Scripture also teaches that God chastens His children who disobey (Heb. 12:5-7). Believers are to confess their sins in order to obtain a day-to-day cleansing (1 John 1:9). This sort of forgiveness (parental forgiveness) is a simple washing from the worldly defilements of sin; not a repeat of the wholesale cleansing from sin’s corruption that comes with justification. It is like a washing of the feet rather than a bath (see John 13:10). Forgiveness in this sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others (Matthew 18:23-35).

11. Why do we need to pray for God’s protection? (Luke 11:4; Matthew 6:13) God does not tempt men toward sin (James 1:13), but he will subject them to trials that may expose them to spiritual assaults from the enemy, as in the case of Job and Peter (Luke 22:31, 32). This petition reflects the believing one’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether. God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8), and he promises that no one will be subjected to testing beyond what can be endured. He also promises a way of escape, often through endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13).

12. What two aspects of prayer are being stressed in the story found in Luke 11:5-8? Jesus tells the story of a one-room house with a common sleeping area shared by the whole family, which was common in Palestine at that time. If one person arose and lit a lamp to get bread, all would be awakened. The man in the story finally responds to the request because of his neighbor’s persistence. The word “persistence” can be translated ”without shame, without embarrassment, without modesty.” Vines suggest “shamelessness.”

Jesus’ point is if shameless persistence can obtain bread from a neighbor who doesn’t want to be bothered, then certainly earnest prayer will receive our Father’s answer.

The second aspect of prayer that is being stressed here is interceding on behalf of others. The reason this man was so immodest about his asking was he wasn’t asking for himself. This is the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus didn’t say to pray “My Father, give me this day my daily bread, do not lead me into temptation, but deliver me from the Evil One.” Jesus taught them to pray “our” and “us.” The strength of our prayer life is not determined by how much time you spend on your knees pleading for your own needs, but for the needs of others.

13. What are we commanded to do in Luke 11:9? Jesus commanded His disciples to keep on “asking, and it will be given to you; seeking, and you will find; knocking, and it will be opened to you” (all present imperatives).

14. What bizarre examples does Jesus give to point out that God will respond to our petitions only in kindness? (Luke 11:11-12; Matthew 7:9-11) Asking for a fish (get a snake), ask for an egg (get a scorpion).

15. Why does God only respond to us in kindness? (Luke 11:13) God’s gifts reflect His character or his nature. God is good all the time, in contrast with man who is “evil” (James 1:17).

16. What have we already been given at salvation that the disciples had to ask for? (Luke 11:13) We were given the Holy Spirit at Salvation. Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit was ”with” them but when He came at Pentecost the Spirit would be “in” them (John 14:16). Since Pentecost the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of every believer at the moment of salvation (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and baptizes them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). At Pentecost, the apostles prayed (Acts 1:12-14) and the Holy Spirit came in great power.

Commentary: 1

Luke 11:2 – The model prayer which the Lord Jesus gave to them at this time is somewhat different from the so-called Lord’s Prayer in Matthew’s gospel. These differences all have a purpose and meaning. None of them is without significance.

First of all, the Lord taught the disciples to address God as Our Father. This intimate family relationship was unknown to believers in the OT. It simply means that believers are now to speak to God as to a loving heavenly Father. Next, we are taught to pray that God’s name should be hallowed. This expresses the longing of the believer’s heart that He should be reverenced, magnified, and adored. In the petition, “Your kingdom come,” we have a prayer that the day will soon arrive when God will put down the forces of evil and, in the Person of Christ, reign supreme over the earth, where His will shall be done as it is in heaven.

Luke 11:3 – Having thus sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the petitioner is taught to make known his personal needs and desires. The ever-recurring need for food, both physical and spiritual, is introduced. We are to live in daily dependence upon Him, acknowledging Him as the source of every good.

Luke 11:4 Next there is the prayer for the forgiveness of sins, based on the fact that we have shown a forgiving spirit to others. Obviously this does not refer to forgiveness from the penalty of sin. That forgiveness is based upon the finished work of Christ on Calvary, and is received through faith alone. But here we are dealing with parental or governmental forgiveness. After we are saved, God deals with us as with children. If he finds a hard and unforgiving spirit in our hearts, he will chastise us until we are broken and brought back into fellowship with himself. This forgiveness has to do with fellowship with God, rather than with relationship.

The plea “And do not lead us into temptation” presents difficulties to some. We know that God never tempts anyone to sin. But He does allow us to experience trials and testings in life, and these are designed for our good. Here the thought seems to be that we should constantly be aware of our own proneness to wander and fall into sin. We should ask the Lord to keep us from falling into sin, even if we ourselves might want to do it. We should pray that the opportunity to sin and the desire to do so should never coincide. The prayer expresses a healthy distrust of our own ability to resist temptation. The prayer ends with a plea for deliverance from the evil one.

Luke 11:5–8 – Continuing with the subject of prayer, the Lord gave an illustration designed to show God’s willingness to hear and answer the petitions of his children. In applying this illustration we must be careful to avoid certain conclusions. It doesn’t mean that God is annoyed by our persistent requests. And it doesn’t suggest that the only way to get our prayers answered is to be persistent.

It does teach that if a man is willing to help a friend because of his persistence, God is much more willing to hear the cries of His children.

Luke 11:9 teaches that we should not grow weary or discouraged in our prayer life. “Keep on asking … keep on seeking … keep on knocking …” Sometimes God answers our prayers the first time we ask. But in other cases he answers only after prolonged asking.

Luke 11:10 teaches that everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and everyone who knocks has it opened to him. This is a promise that when we pray, God always gives us what we ask or he gives us something better.

Luke 11:11-12 teaches that God will never deceive us.

Luke 11:13 – A human father would not give bad gifts; even though he has a sinful nature, he knows how to give good gifts to his children. How much more is our heavenly Father willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. J. G. Bellet says, “It is significant that the gift he selects as the one we most need, and the one He most desires to give, is the Holy Spirit.” When Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given (John 7:39). We should not pray today for the Holy Spirit to be given to us because he comes to indwell us at the time of our conversion (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14).

But it is certainly proper and necessary for us to pray for the Holy Spirit in other ways. We should pray that we will be teachable by the Holy Spirit, that we will be guided by the Spirit, and that his power will be poured out on us in all our service for Christ.

It is quite possible that when Jesus taught the disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit, He was referring to the power of the Spirit enabling them to live the other-worldly type of discipleship which He had been teaching in the preceding chapters. By this time, they were probably feeling how utterly impossible it was for them to meet the tests of discipleship in their own strength. This is, of course, true. The Holy Spirit is the power that enables one to live the Christian life. So Jesus pictured God as anxious to give this power to those who ask.

In the original Greek, Luke 11:13 does not say that God will give the Holy Spirit, but rather He will “give Holy Spirit” (without the article). Professor H. B. Swete pointed out that when the article is present, it refers to the Person himself, but when the article is absent, it refers to his gifts or operations on our behalf. So in this passage, it is not so much a prayer for the Person of the Holy Spirit, but rather for his ministries in our lives. This is further borne out by the parallel passage in Matthew 7:11 which reads, “… how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1411). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). With the Word Bible Commentary (Luke 11:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[Questions and responses by Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Supernatural Church

Here are my notes for the final session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

One of the most striking similarities that most churchgoers share with the non-Christian world is their ability to complain about the way the church operates.

1. If you could create the perfect church, what would it look like?

Could that perfect church be accomplished through human talent and strength? Or would it require the power of the Holy Spirit?

We could duplicate most of our successful churches by assembling the right group of talented, winsome people. If a church has the right worship leader, an exciting children’s program, and entertaining speaker, it will grow. But is that really the secret to life changing ministry? Is that how God designed the church to operate? Where does the Holy Spirit fit in that model? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zachariah 4:6

I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through.

2. Consider your involvement with church life. In what ways do you tend to rely on natural talent as we strive to fulfill the church’s mission?

The tractor illustration from the video segment: We get excited about the tractor, and then we wear ourselves out by pushing it inch by inch through the field. At the end of the harvest, we barely managed to finish the job and end up with just enough food to go around. Tragically, this is how many churches operate; they are built on the sweat and efforts of a few talented but exhausted leaders. When we consult the owner’s manual, however, we find that the tractor is actually designed to run and plow the field on its own. When we discovered that the church was designed to function through the power of the Holy Spirit, it changes everything.

3. Do you see yourself and/or our church pushing and pulling the tractor and enter the time?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 – Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth to address the factions that were dividing the church. Groups were forming around attractive personalities.

4. How does Paul describe human effort as compared to the power of God?

5. According to this passage, why is it so important to rely on the power of the Spirit?

6. Think about the way you minister to the people around you. Can you say, “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)?

There ought to be a real difference between a spirit-filled person and everyone else. As Christians, we have the source of both joy and peace living inside of us. Sometimes the difference isn’t apparent until tragedy strikes.

7. Have you ever witnessed a person manifesting the fruit of the Spirit to a supernatural degree?

The spirit wants to do more than just help us out a bit. He wants to transform us, patiently but steadily, into people who transform the corners of our world. Sometimes we get caught up in everything God wants us to do that we lose sight of who God wants us to be.

We won’t be transformed by simply trying harder. Remember, it’s never about you doing it on your own. It’s about the power of the Spirit in your life.

8. What would it look like for you to cultivate a relationship with the Spirit, allowing him to transform you, rather than simply trying harder on your own?

Perhaps we don’t recognize the Spirit’s power in our lives because we’re not stepping out and doing anything where we desperately need God to show up. Talk to hurting people around you, digging deeper to learn how you can love and serve them, that’s when you need the Holy Spirit, and that’s precisely when he shows up. God works in the most desperate situations so that no one can make it for anything other than by his power. Maybe he will grant you boldness to speak in a frightening situation. Maybe he will give you a divine compassion for the lost and destitute. Maybe he will give you wisdom to say exactly what a person needs to hear at a critical moment in their life. You won’t know what God will do until you get out there and follow His leading.

We absolutely need to step beyond our own abilities. You get praised for using your own talents well. God gets praised when his power accomplishes the humanly impossible.

9. Have you ever walked away from a ministry opportunity because it would take you beyond your natural talents? In what areas would you need the Spirit to empower you in a situation like that?

This is by far the most difficult. It’s time to follow the Spirit’s leading, even if you’re not sure where he’s taking you or how you’ll get through it.

10. What would it look like if every Christian in our church fully submitted themselves to the spirits leading?

11. What practical steps can you take right now to pursue the spirit and live in dependence on Him? Will you rely on your natural abilities, or will you allow the Holy Spirit to use you in incredible ways? If you rely on your own talents, you will be stopped so easily. You will get tired, distracted, overwhelmed, and attacked.

12. Pray that the Spirit of God would radically transform your life from the inside out.

Quotes from The Forgotten God book:

  • I bet you would agree that a group of talented, charismatic leaders can draw a crowd. Find the right creative team, musicians, and speakers, and you can grow any church. It doesn’t even have to be a Christian Church. The fact is that without making a conscious choice to depend on the Holy Spirit, we can do a lot.
  • I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for him to come through. That if he doesn’t come through, I am screwed.
  • We created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the spirit, the whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, a new group of followers who do not follow.
  • God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of his bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of him. And while I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus.
  • Regarding Elijah and the prophets of Baal: Is that what happens at the Christian gatherings you attend or does it feel more like what the prophets of Baal experienced before Elijah prayed? We can have a great time singing and dancing ourselves into a frenzy. But at the end of it, fire doesn’t come down from heaven. People leave talking about the people who led rather than the power of God.
  • We all can choose to face life’s issues and circumstances in exactly the same way as someone without the Spirit of God. We worry, strive, and grieve know differently than non-believers. While it is true that we are humans like everyone else. It is also true that we are humans with the Spirit of God willing in us. Yet, whether consciously or not, we essentially say to God, I know you raised Jesus Christ from the dead, but the fact is my problems are just too much for you and I need to deal with them by myself.
  • He desires to do more than “help out” a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so that people know something supernatural has taken place, life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from heaven. He wants to give us wisdom because he is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, (Ephesians 1:17, Isaiah 11:2).
  • What disturbs me most is when we are not really bothered that God living in US has not made much of a noticeable difference.
  • Don’t keep yourselves from praying desperately and courageously put the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah as this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently, (James 5:17).
  • I know that I tend to run from situations where I need God, and I think that is true in most every one of us. It is safer to avoid situations where we need God to come through than to stake it all on him and risk God’s silence.
  • The church is tended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where one rejoices, everyone rejoice. A place for everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.
  • When we stock up on knowledge without applying it to our lives, we are actually sinning. You would think that learning more about God would be a good thing, and it can be. But when we gain knowledge ABOUT God without responding TO God or assimilating his truth into our lives, then it is not a good thing. According to the Bible, it is sin.

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Forget God’s Will for Your Life

Here are my notes for the sixth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

What might you accomplish with your life? How often is this just asking about your five-year or ten-year plan? Sadly, we often focus only on the future rather than on the here and now.

1. Why might it be safer to follow “God’s will for your life” than following God in what he may lead you to do today?

2. If you were absolutely, 100% submitted to the will of God at this moment, what do you think he might ask you to do?

Read Romans 8:1-13

That which is impossible to do, and live up to, in Romans 7 is possible in Romans 8. What makes the difference?

3. In Romans 8:5-8, Paul writes about the difference of the mind set on the flesh and set on the Spirit.

4. In Romans 8:9-13, what does Paul mention that set the Spirit-filled person apart?

5. What do you think it means to “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The process of following the Spirit’s leading is walking according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4, Galatians 5, 16, 25).

6. The analogy of walking: We don’t really think about the getting from point A to point B when we walk, we are focusing on the next step. Practically, what would it mean for you to walk by the Spirit in your daily life?

  • Walking by the Spirit means we are moving in a particular direction, and that direction is set by the Spirit.
  • What is the real difference between adding the Spirit to your life and actually following him step by step?
  • When you just add the Spirit to your life, you are not open to change, you want the Spirit to enhance what you are already doing.
  • When you follow the Spirit, you will find yourself changing, maybe letting go of some things that were once important to you, maybe even giving up some good things in your life.

7. Which is more frightening? Giving up everything you own or going through life without the Holy Spirit?

  • Remember the rich, young, ruler (Mark 10:17-22). He didn’t realize what was keeping him from Jesus until Jesus asked him a similar question.
  • By definition, submitting to the Spirit leading means giving up control. This is not a one-time act but a lifelong process. Walking by the Spirit comes down to daily dependence on God. Falling into sin means you are disregarding the Spirit’s leading.

Identify a particular sin in your life. What would it look like to be Spirit-led in a moment of temptation?

There can be real pressure to try harder to produce the Fruit of the Spirit. Truth is, you can’t try harder! Obedience comes through the power of the Spirit.

Quotes from The Forgotten God book:

  • And to expose our hearts to truth and consistently refuse or neglect to obey the impulses it arouses is to stymie the motions of life within us and, if persisted in, to grieve the Holy Spirit into silence. – A.W. Tozer
  • It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).
  • To be honest, I believe part of the desire to “know God’s will for my life” is birthed in fear and results in paralysis. We are scared to make mistakes, so we fret over figuring out God’s will. We wonder what living according to His will would actually look and feel like, and we are scared to find out. We forget that we were never promised a twenty-year plan of action; instead, God promises multiple times in Scripture never to leave or forsake us.
  • My hope is that instead of searching for “God’s will for my life,” each of us would learn to seek hard after “the Spirit’s leading in my life today.” May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now. To say that we are not called to figure out “God’s will for my life” does not mean God doesn’t have purposes and plans for each of our lives or that He doesn’t care what we do with our lives. He does. In both the Old and New Testaments He tells us that this is true. The key is that He never promises to reveal these purposes all at once, in advance.
  • Nowhere in Scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate. Yet when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.
  • I think repentance is one of those words we hear a lot but maybe don’t incorporate into our lives very often.
  • Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel.
  • I say I want to give it all to God, to truly submit myself to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I won’t lie, sometimes the reality of what that means leaves me wanting to hold back a little. There are things on this earth that I really enjoy, like surfing, golfing, eating out, and laughing with friends. I know what you’re thinking: that those things are not sinful. And you are right. But that doesn’t mean the Spirit will not lead me to forgo those things occasionally or maybe even permanently for His purposes and the glory of the Father.
  • Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not limited to the day we first meet Christ. Instead, throughout Scripture we read of a relationship that calls us into an active pursuit of the Spirit.
  • Imagine I buy a treadmill to lose some weight. Three months later I take it back to the store and complain to the clerk that it didn’t work, I didn’t lose a pound. He would asked me, “What’s the problem? Did it not work properly?” I respond, I don’t know if it works. I never ran on it. I just know I didn’t lose weight, so I am done with it!
  • Receiving freedom and healing in answer to prayer is generally not something that is done to you, a situation in which you are just a passive participant. Occasionally God works this way and simply heels or freeze a person outright. He is certainly capable of this. But in my experience, he typically asks us to play an active role in the journey toward wholeness. He doesn’t need our help but invites us to participate. Also this journey to freedom takes time, sometimes a very long time.
  • Have you been stuck in a cycle of sin for a long time? Have you given up on the Holy Spirit and resign yourself to thinking that he doesn’t work or doesn’t have the power to bring freedom, at least not in your life? If this is you, then maybe you have not internalized the reality that walking in the spirit requires action on your part.
  • The hopeful part in all this is that even when I do ignore the Spirit and sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us of that sin. Though at times we sin, we are not ruled and enslaved by sin as we once were.
  • The Holy Spirit will not, cannot, lead you into sin. If the Holy Spirit is in you, as a believer, then when you sin you are not listening to the Spirit’s leading.
  • Living by the Spirit implies a habitual, continual, and active interaction with the Holy Spirit. While this sounds exhausting, it really isn’t because all of this living and action is done in the power of the Spirit. It is not by your own strength.
  • I love the apparent contradiction in Philippians 2:12-13. Paul says in one breath, work out your own salvation, and then the next, it is God who works in you. The both-ness here doesn’t allow us to escape a simple conclusion. Yes, it is God who works in you. And yes, there is work for you to do. Yes, the spirit empowers you to do the work. And yes, you do the work.

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A Real Relationship with God

Here are my notes for the fifth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

  • What comes to mind when you think about relationships?
  • What if your experience is not so warm and cozy?

1. Honestly describe your relationship with God.

  • How does it feel?
  • How do you maintain it?

Read Galatians 4:1-7

2. Paul contrasts slaves and sons…

  • What are the differences?
  • What are the privileges?
  • How does each feel?
  • What confidence does each possess?

Incredible truth: believers are adopted by God, we are his children whether we feel like it or not. But God wants us to feel adopted… Abba, Father.

3. What is the significance of Paul’s statement? How should it affect our relationship with God?

Read Romans 8:12-17

Paul says about the same thing, but notice he adds something (Romans 8:15-16). How is this like the Prodigal Son?

4. Sometimes guilt or perfectionism keep us from enjoying our intimacy with God, so how can Romans 8:15-16 help us?

5. We tend to take relationships for granted, but what makes close personal relationships so incredible? (Psalm 139:7)

6. If Psalm 139:7 is true, then why don’t I feel close to God?

  • COMFORT: we often live life so comfortably and safely that we don’t need the Spirit to be comforted (John 14).
    1. When was the last time you absolutely needed the Spirit to comfort or help you? How did he do it?
    2. If you answered “no” to the last question, have you ever thought about living a more radical life for the kingdom of God?
  • NOISE: If your life is not too comfortable, it is probably too noisy.
    1. When was the last time you had nothing in life to distract you?
    2. The purpose of a retreat: to get alone with God to speak and listen, regaining intimacy with God. So, make sure to set aside time for God.

7. List some things that tend to distract you from a real relationship with God.

8. What can you change to better pursue God?

Read Galatians 3:13-14

Jesus died so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit. Jesus purchased intimacy with God for us.

9. Are you guilty of taking the Holy Spirit for granted? If so, how can you reverse that trend in your life?

Quotes from the Forgotten God Book:

  • A study through Galatians helped me discover and destroy the strongholds of earning and insecurity. And it was while preaching the book of Galatians that I learned to enjoy being “known” by God. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Galatians 4:9) Have you ever thought about what it means to be “known”? Though I’d been telling people for years that I “knew” God, only recently have I explored the concept of being “known” by Him.
  • Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter.” Let me ask you a simple question: Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable? It is those who put their lives at risk and suffer for the gospel (Philippians 1:29) who will most often experience His being “with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NASB). Though this verse is true for all believers (of course God is always with us), if we are never alone or feeling like we need Him, how much do we care or need to know that God is with us?
  • Each of the twenty-three missionaries surrendered their lives to God that night and told Him they were willing to die for His glory. There was even an argument over who would get to die first. One of them had a small Bible that the missionaries secretly ripped into twenty-three pieces so each could glance at Scripture when no one was watching. The Word of God and the Spirit of God got them through the forty days of imprisonment.
  • One of the most fascinating things this man told me was about what has happened since. Now that they have been back in Seoul for a while, several team members have asked him, “Don’t you wish we were still there?” He tells me that several of them experienced a deep kind of intimacy with God in the prison cell that they haven’t been able to recapture in their comfort.
  • Our lack of intimacy often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
  • It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).
  • We have been chosen, grafted, adopted into the family of God. And now that we are a part of the family, the Spirit causes us to call out, “Abba! Father!” Remember that Abba is the most intimate form for referring to a father. It is like saying “Daddy”; it connotes a deep level of familiarity and intimacy. As God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, we can call out to God as our Abba. We will begin to experience this intimate relationship more deeply than we ever thought possible, so much so that we will begin to wonder, Does everyone feel this loved by God?
  • It takes faith to believe God is truly like the prodigal son’s father, who from afar “saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Lest there be any doubt, the father made it absolutely clear that his son was to be forgiven, with no questions asked. He invited his son back into his life without bitterness or requiring penance and guilt. In the same way, the Spirit speaks truth to our hearts, such as “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39) and “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). These are verses we could probably spout off, but often we need reminding of the power and veracity of them. And one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to do this reminding.
  • It makes sense that Jesus would say it’s to our advantage to have this “other counselor.” After all, Jesus merely walked beside the disciples; the Spirit would actually enter their human bodies (John 14:17).

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