Introduction – Jesus on Authentic Spirituality
There is something that all people of every generation, every culture and of all time have in common. It is found in the most sophisticated and the most primitive of people groups. It is transcends all people groups and all time periods. It is the most universal thread that connects the human race.
It is the quest for meaning and purpose beyond our material existence.
It is the spirit of man that searches for contact with his creator. It’s the painting of Michelangelo of the finger of God and the finger of man trying to touch.
In the words of Pascal, it is the God shaped void that is never filled until we fill it with God in our lives. Until you are in a relationship with God you will always have that hunger and empty feeling and generally you will try to fill it with all kinds of things. Some of them may be good things and some may be destructive things that ruin your life and relationships.
Augustine wrote about a “restlessness” that never seems to end until you find a relationship with God. In an effort to seek this relationship people will often go down one of three pathways. Here they are:
Rules: Trying to do enough to please God or in many cases trying to keep enough rules that God won’t be mad at you and destroy you.
Ritual: Traditions and patterns that people use to try to bridge the mystery God and man. They light candles, wear certain clothes, kneel at the right time and keep a rigid observance of certain religious holy days.
Religion: Man made systems of beliefs to explain the unexplainable when it comes to God.
It is into these rules, rituals and religions that Jesus comes and He makes a bold and sort of ridiculous claim. He said, “I have come to explain the Father.” “If you see me you have seen the Father.”
Jesus would say that if you want to understand the Father, I am the way and the truth. He proved it by doing miracles, raising people from the dead and ultimately by dying and coming back to life after a brutal death on the cross.
Notice with me for a moment what Jesus had to say about rules rituals and religion:
♦ “. . . Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness!”-Jesus
Luke 11:39, NLT
It’s not about rules.
♦ “And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”-Jesus Mark 7:13, NLT
It’s not about rituals.
♦ “. . .you like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.- Jesus Luke 16:15, NLT
It’s not about religion. It’s not about being seen but it’s always about your heart. Where does the allegiance of your heart take you in your life?
As men began to seek God look at what Jesus said to them in Matthew:
♦ “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”–Jesus Matthew 6:5, NLT
When you seek to touch God, motive is the most important thing.
♦ “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” –Jesus
Matthew 6:7, NLT
Human performance is a vain attempt to touch the Creator. Jesus would say that commune with God is not:
1. It’s Not About Rules, Ritual or Religion
The question for us then becomes, Okay Jesus if it is not about rules and rituals and religion then how can I know God in an intimate way. How can I communicate with God and know that He hears me and wants to be in my life?
We are going to discover that today. In Luke 11 we have a story of Jesus with His disciples and it is a time when they are searching to know God. We are going to look at how Jesus responded to them and their questions. They knew Jesus like nobody else. They saw His when He was in public and they saw Him in private. They saw Him when He was up and when He was down. They watched Him do miracles and teach and run for His life.
There was something that Jesus did that attracted them more than anything else. When they saw Jesus talk with the Father it touched a hunger in them that drove them ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus communed with the Father.
After observing Jesus’ deep communion with the Father the disciples make a request – vs. 1
“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 NLT
They could have asked Him anything but there was something He had that they didn’t have. Jesus broke all the rules about praying. He didn’t go through great rituals and patterns and forms, He just spoke with the Father like He really was His Father. There was an attraction and an authenticity about Him that drove them hunger to know a formula. (Formulas were given by Rabbi’s to their pupils to teach them to pray)
They were literally asking for Jesus to teach them what to say not how to pray.
Jesus condescends to their request and provides an approved pattern: The Lords Prayer – vs. 2-4
“Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.” Luke 11: 2-4, NLT
The first word He gave them would have startled them. He uses the word Abba or Father which is the Hebrew word small Jewish children would have used to call their earthly father when they wanted to be picked up or something similar. Judaism by this time had many rules about God and this kind of familiarity would have been sheer blasphemy in the religious world.
There were so many things they couldn’t do because they were filled with rules and rituals.
He is now teaching them that God is accessible and He is warm and inviting. We are to acknowledge God’s holiness. We are to pray for God’s agenda. He then teaches them to pray for forgiveness and for our protection. He gives them a pattern but not necessarily a ritual. They were looking for a formula but in reality that’s not what Jesus was giving them. That’s what we like to make it even today. There are churches that pray the Lord’s Prayer every week together and while there is nothing wrong with that it is so far from what Jesus was teaching them. Once again man takes something God does out of context and make a ritual out of it when that was never the intent.
He goes on in this chapter to really touch the heart of the matter which is simply which is how can we be connected to God the Father like you are in touch with the Father. How can we touch the heart of God and experience a real relationship with Him?
Jesus now teaches that “the secret” to communion with the Father transcends any pattern or form by teaching them:
An Astounding Parable – vs. 5-8
“Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” Luke 11: 5-8, NLT
To understand this you have to put yourself into this culture. If we had someone come to our house at midnight we would likely have food or we could run to an all night restaurant or grocery. They of course could not do this. Hospitality in this culture was the ultimate and if you couldn’t offer a guest food and refreshment it was a really big deal. This was not something you could just blow off as no big deal.
What kind of friend could you go to at midnight? (Refrigerator rights)
What Jesus is teaching is that the only person you would go to would be someone that you believed you have the relationship with that is good enough to call in the middle of the night. When you have a crisis you automatically know right now who you would call. Who you would get out of bed to come and help you?
Ever had one of these calls from someone and you are a little amazed that they are calling because you didn’t realize that they thought you were their best friend? You all of the sudden realize they perceive the relationship to be a lot closer than you perceive it. At first you are a little put out but you quickly respond because you feel a little guilty and the fact is that have call with shameless persistence.
This friend is going to respond because you call without shame.
Jesus summarizes the message of the parable: “God is not like that”
Jesus is teaching that God is not like this friend. God never sleeps and He is always ready to help us. He sits proverbially on the edge of His chair longing to give us a hand. The logic is that if a friend will eventually get up and help you how much more will a God who loves and cares for you help you?
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11: 9-10, NLT
Jesus is simply teaching that God will do more than even a friend would do at midnight when you are in need. He has used a negative example but now He nails it with a positive example found in verses 11 through 13.
2. Rediscovering the Ancient Path of Communion with God
Jesus reveals the Ancient Path of Communion with God: An Enduring Principle – vs. 11-13
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people 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?” Luke 11:11-13, NIV
Jesus point is that communion with the Father is not about keeping rules or saying the right words at the right time in the right way. It’s not about having all your life in order so that God will maybe just maybe answer your prayer. It’s not about doing things so that everything aligns and you can twist the arm of God just right with your actions so that He will answer the way you want Him to. Do you know how many people think this about God?
When we think about communion with God we more often than not fall into the trap of rituals and rules.
How long should I pray? Should I use scripture when I pray? Should I sit or kneel or stand when I pray? Should I close my eyes when I pray or should I leave them open? Where should I pray? Can I pray in the car or when I’m taking a walk? Should I use written out prayer? How can I get God on my team? What can I do to manipulate God to always be there when I need Him?
What Jesus is teaching is that it’s not about the right words, twisting God’s arm or praying for long periods of time. It’s about understanding who God really is. Most of the time when we talk or think about his subject it is with an eye toward what we do and what we think and how we act. It’s about how we pray and where we pray.
This is the classic teaching of Jesus Christ on communion with the Father and yet we miss it normally by miles and have for centuries. Today we are opening a window just a crack and some of you may actually see for the first time what you have never seen before.
This entire teaching is about seeing who God really is.
He is a God who loves you.
He is a God that is concerned.
He is a God that is warm and receptive.
He is a God that is not impressed with your performance.
He is a God that says, Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden I will give you rest.
He is a God that says every perfect gift comes from the Father above.
He is a God that longs to bless His children. He came to this planet and took on the form of a human being and lived among us to bring us eternal life.
Do you want to know how the Father feels about people who have blown it, listen to Jesus words to the woman caught in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you go and sin no more.”
Do you want to know how He feels about people who think they are better than other people religiously and who are hypocrite? Just listen to the language He reserved for them when He was on this earth.
Do you want to know what the Father’s like when people lose a love one take a look at Jesus when He weeps at for Lazarus an his sisters or people suffering that he healed time and time again.
Jesus is teaching that the ancient path of communing with God is not about rules but one abiding principle.
Abiding Principle – The God of the “how much more!”
There are all kinds approaches the people have taken when it comes to being in communion with God. Some are very rigid and deal with rule keeping. There is nothing wrong with having a prayer list to pray through on a regular basis but if it becomes something that you become obsessive compulsive about or you fall apart if you miss a daily time of prayer then there is a chance that you are doing it for the wrong reasons. On the other hand you may have a wonderful daily discipline established that you long for each day and you find your devotions to be the best part of the day for you that’s wonderful.
The idea here today is that we become aware of who God really is and how much He really wants to be in our lives.
Prayer is keeping company with God!
Can you believe that God is for you?
Can you believe that every moment of every day He is waiting to hear from you and be in communication with you?
Can you believe that He wants the first thoughts in your mind to be that He is for you today, He will bless you today, He will be with you today when the devastating phone call comes and threatens to destroy your peace and tranquility? Can you hear Him?
“I know what’s coming in your life and I want to put my arm around you as your read my word today and spend time with me.”
“All I want you to do is come to me. It’s not about rules or how long you stay in fact I want to be in touch with you all day long.” “I want to love you and bless you and wrap my arms around you.”
When you see who God is it will change your attitude about prayer and communion with God. We make prayer about us but we will be most successful when we learn who He is and we learn to keep company with the God of the “how much more.”
He is our Heavenly Father. This is not about material things but it is about the fact that God wants to bless you with the best, highest, deepest and the richest of things that last forever like nothing else can. His love is better than money, power, health and any number of things we put a premium on.
Jesus said without faith it is impossible to please Him but He never said without rules, rituals or religion it is impossible, He said without faith.
Do you have faith today? Faith is believing what God has said about Himself.
Three ministers were talking about prayer in general and the appropriate and effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system in the background. One minister shared that he felt the key was in the hands. He always held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of symbolic worship. The second suggested that real prayer was conducted on your knees. The third suggested that they both had it wrong--the only position worth its salt was to pray while stretched out flat on your face. By this time the phone man couldn’t stay out of the conversation any longer. He interjected, "I found that the most powerful prayer I ever made was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole, suspended forty feet above the ground."
PRAYER DOESN'T CHANGE GOD, IT CHANGES ME In a scene from Shadowlands, a film based on the life of C.S. Lewis, Lewis has returned to Oxford from London, where he has just been married to Joy Gresham, an American woman, in a private Episcopal ceremony performed at her hospital bedside. She is dying from cancer, and, through the struggle with her illness, she and Lewis have been discovering the depth of their love for each other. As Lewis arrives at the college where he teaches, he is met by Harry Harrington, an Episcopal priest, who asks what news there is. Lewis hesitates; then, deciding to speak of the marriage and not the cancer, he says, "Ah, good news, I think, Harry. Yes, good news." Harrington, not aware of the marriage and thinking that Lewis is referring to Joy’s medical situation, replies, "I know how hard you’ve been praying .... Now, God is answering your prayer." "That’s not why I pray, Harry," Lewis responds. "I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God; it changes me." SOURCE: Thomas G. Long, Whispering The Lyrics, CSS Publishing Company
Benediction: We have looked at our Heavenly Father today on this Mothers Day but let me send you out with the promise of God found in Isaiah 66:13, “I will comfort you in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.”