Today we celebrate Pentecost, the ancient harvest festival of the Jews, the great day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church, and three thousand souls were harvested into new life. This giving of the Spirit was a great event in the history of the church, but this gift of the Spirit also has great significance for each individual believer. Today we are going to consider three important activities of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer here.
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:9–13).
Summary of the Text
We too often interpret these words of Jesus as though He were speaking about answered prayer with regard to material things. Now Jesus does teach elsewhere that we are to trust God for material things—like our daily bread (Matt. 6:11), and what you will wear (Matt. 6:30)—but that is not what is happening here. Jesus is not here saying that if you need a new car, then ask, and you will receive it. You should still ask for that car if you need it, but you need to find a different verse.
In His teaching here, the Lord is very specific about what we should ask for, what we should seek, and where we should knock. First comes the promise. Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened (v. 9). And then He goes on to reiterate the certainty of this. Everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. Everyone who knocks, stands before an open door (v. 10). The Lord then sets up a comparison between God’s goodness and ours. If a man’s son asks for bread, will his father give him a rock? If he asks for a fish, will his father give him a snake? If he asks for an egg, will he receive a scorpion? (vv. 11-12). These are rhetorical questions, and the answer to all three questions is obviously no. So then, if evil human beings know how to not betray their children, how will it be with God? Obviously, our heavenly Father will give us the good gift whenever we ask for it.
What is that good gift? What will everyone receive if they ask for it? The Holy Spirit. What will everyone find if they seek for it? The Holy Spirit. Who will open the door for everyone if we knock there? The Holy Spirit.
“How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Luke 11:13b (KJV)
The Infinite God
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, and not to be regarded as some kind of impersonal force. We are sometimes tempted to think of Him this way because He works in such a way as to not draw attention to Himself. His task is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:13-14), and the Lord Jesus is the one who brings us to the Father (John 14:6). And so Christian prayer is to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18). In a manner of speaking, all Trinitarian prayer is away from the Spirit. But not “away” from Him as though we were leaving Him behind, but rather facing away, the way the bow of a sailing ship is facing away from the wind in the sails.
To remind you of another illustration we have used before, the triune God encompasses the entire journey. The Father is the city we are going to. The Son is the road we travel on. The Spirit is the car we drive.
But never interpret His behind-the-scenes work as that of an impersonal force, like electricity. When Peter rebukes Ananias and Sapphira, he says to Ananias that he has lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). And in the very next verse he says that it was a lie told to God (Acts 5:4).
And now we must consider that the work of the Holy Spirit in your life includes, but is not limited to, the following three realities.
Lord of Life
The Spirit is the one who gives the new birth. He is the one who quickens you, and brings you to life. He is the one who regenerates you.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Rom. 8:2 (KJV)
You were previously dead in your trespasses and sins, and the reason the principle of new life suddenly appeared in your heart is because of the Holy Spirit. He is the Lord and Giver of life.
Dealer of Death
But God does not save us, and then rocket us up to Heaven that very instant. He wants us to learn some things about ourselves first, and He wants us to do this in a difficult environment. Because of the Spirit’s presence and the new life He brought us, we no longer have to deal with reigning sin. Reigning sin, the old man, the unconverted you, is forever dead. But that transformation is not entirely complete. We still have to deal with remaining sin, and the Holy Spirit in you is an effective killer.
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
Rom. 8:13 (KJV)
The Spirit is the one in your life who helps you hunt down and kill the sins that would, if they had their way, be killing you. But He is the one who must identify and pick the target.
Giver of Gifts
One Spirit knits us into one body (Eph. 4:4), and that Spirit joins all of us together in love. In that context, He gives particular gifts to His saints (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Rom. 12:6-8). Those gifts cover a wide array of abilities—helps, administration, mercy, faith, teaching, and so forth.
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office”
Rom. 12:4 (KJV)
So as you rejoice in the new heart you have been given, and as you hunt down remaining clusters of self-centeredness in order to pull them up by the roots, don’t forget to look down at your hands. What has God placed there that you might be privileged to give to your brothers and sisters in this community?
The only gift we can ever give one another is the gift of Christ. But we must also remember that Christ, and the love of Christ, comes in many different shapes.
The Spirit gives new life, and that new life produces the fruit of the Spirit in us (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9). The Spirit is at war with all remaining traces of the old life in us, and so through the Spirit we learn to mortify those impulses (Rom. 8:13). And the Spirit not only gives us a new heart that wants to love our brothers and sisters, but He also equips us to love them through the gifts that have been given to us (Col. 2:19).