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ASKING BREAD FOR SINNERS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, October 14, 2012


Turn with me in the Bible to Luke 11:5. It’s on page 1090 in the Scofield Study Bible. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word.

“And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. 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 11:5-13).

You may be seated.

Last week I read a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that said the number of Protestants in America has declined by 14% in the last forty years. In 1972 62% of Americans were Protestants. Today the number has fallen to 48%, a drop of 14% in that length of time. The United Methodist Church shrank by about 800 thousand in the last ten years alone (Los Angeles Times, October 10, 2012, p. AA1). The report said that those who have stopped going to church “overwhelmingly expressed disenchantment with religious organizations for being too concerned with money, power, rules and politics.” The report implied that many people do not feel their spiritual needs are met in those Protestant churches today. This is particularly true of young people, who are leaving the churches in droves.

The passage of Scripture we just read gives the reason why so many young people are leaving the churches. In verse six Jesus gave the reason,

“A friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:6).

What a confession! “I have nothing to set before him.” That is what many young people feel when they visit a church today. They simply feel that the church doesn’t offer them anything they need! All they hear is talk about money, rules, and politics! The churches have nothing to satisfy them, nothing to set before them but some political concern, or a lifeless verse-by-verse Bible teaching! Nothing to set before them! No power! No reality! No life! Nothing to set before them!

That was the way I felt when I first went to church as a teenager. The people next door took me to a Baptist church when I was thirteen years old. I kept going to church for a few years because of the activities they had for young people. But I thought very little about God. There was really nothing in that church to attract me spiritually. Finally I was about ready to stop going to church altogether. But I happened to read the biography of James Hudson Taylor, a pioneer missionary to China, and a condensed version of John Wesley’s Journal. I was captivated by the living Christianity I read about in those two books. I felt like the young man in Pilgrim’s Progress who cried, “Life! Life!” as he fled from the City of Destruction, seeking Christ. Searching for spiritual life, I joined a Chinese Baptist church. Shortly after joining that church, Dr. Timothy Lin became the pastor. Dr. Lin emphasized prayer, the Second Coming of Christ, revival, and other spiritual subjects. About that time I was converted in a chapel service at Biola College, when I heard a powerful sermon on the Second Coming of Christ by Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge. In that service, and at the Chinese church, I finally found spiritual food. Before that, when I went to the other Baptist church, they had nothing to set before me! Church was just a ritual, and the sermons and Bible studies had no life in them, nothing to feed my soul! It seemed like everything was designed to please the middle-aged ladies and their husbands. It was not a dynamic, challenging religion. Going to church there was a dry, dead experience. There was nothing there to appeal to a young man like me. That takes us to our passage of Scripture, which the Scofield Study Bible calls, the “Parable of the Importunate Friend.”

In this parable a man’s friend comes to visit him at midnight. He has nothing to set before him, no bread to give his guest that night. So he goes to the house of a nearby friend and knocks on the door, and says, “Friend, lend me three loaves.” From behind the locked door of the man’s house, he hears the neighbor say that he is in bed and doesn’t want to get up. But the man won’t take no for an answer! He keeps pounding on the door until his neighbor gets up and gives him the bread that he needs for his guest. Jesus applied the parable by saying,

“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” (Luke 11:9-10).

And Jesus ended the parable by telling us what the bread represented – “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). The bread represents the Holy Spirit.

Several of you are here for the first time this morning. Several more of you have only been coming here to church for a few weeks. We have to confess to you that we, too, have nothing to set before you that will satisfy your soul, and inspire you to become a disciple of Christ. Like the man in the parable, we have nothing to give you that will satisfy your spiritual hunger! If we depend on ourselves, we haven’t got anything for you but a few hymns, a sermon, and a birthday party! That’s all we have for friends like you! We have nothing powerful and life-changing to give you. So we have confessed to God,

“A friend of mine...is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:6).

And when we start to pray for you, God seems to say to us, “Trouble me not: the door is now shut...I cannot rise and give thee” (Luke 11:7). God does not answer us, even though we have been fasting and praying for you every Saturday. I have to admit to you that we have felt like giving up some times. The Devil has thrown one obstacle after the other in front of us as we fasted and prayed for God to give you bread. It seems like Satan has put up a new barrier every other weekend, to stop our prayers from being answered. Last weekend he literally tried to kill me in an accident, to keep me from preaching on persistent prayer in the evening service. We have found it very difficult “to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). And God has not yet seemed to answer our prayers for you. God seems to say, “Trouble me not: the door is now shut...I cannot rise and give thee” (Luke 11:7).

But our Christian brothers and sisters need to remember what Jesus told us in the parable,

“Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Luke 11:8).

The word “importunity” in the Greek text means “shameless persistence.” Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said,

      This beggar had no shame to bother a friend in such a way; he was stretching friendship too far; yet he succeeded because of his very shamelessness. This illustration is a strong encouragement to prayer, to let nothing deter us from praying; and the encouragement lies in the implied promise that our praying will receive an answer even as Jesus states explicitly in v. 9 (R. C. H. Lenski, Ph.D., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 edition, pp. 625-626).

“Because of his [shameless persistence] he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” Amen! We must keep on shamelessly. Yes! In verses 9 and 10 Jesus clearly said,

“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” (Luke 11:9-10).

The “shameless persistence” of powerful prayer gets exactly what is asked for! Christ told us to ask, seek, and knock in prayer. Dr. John R. Rice said, “We should translate these verses, ‘I say unto you; keep on asking, and it shall be given to you; keep on knocking and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that keeps on asking receiveth; and to him that keeps on knocking it shall be opened.’ The form of the language in Greek involves a continued asking, seeking, knocking. Blessed assurance God gives here that everyone who really keeps on asking receives, and everyone who really keeps on seeking finds, and everyone who keeps on knocking at the door of God for bread for sinners will have the door opened and bread given. Yea, as many loaves as he needs for the sinner God sends to him!” (John R. Rice, D.D., Prayer: Asking and Receiving, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1970 edition, pp. 94, 95). Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

      I commend to you the reading of biographies of men who have been used of God in the Church throughout the centuries, especially in revivals. And you will find this same holy boldness...Oh, that is the whole secret of prayer, I sometimes think. [The Puritan] Thomas Goodwin in his exposition of the sealing of the Spirit in Ephesians 1:13 uses a wonderful term. He says, “Sue Him for it, sue Him for it.” Do not leave [God] alone. Pester Him, as it were, with His own promise. Tell Him what He has said He is going to do. Quote Scripture to Him...It pleases Him. The child may be slightly impertinent, it doesn’t matter, the father likes it in spite of that. And God is our Father, and He loves us, and He likes to hear us pleading His own promises, quoting His own words to Him, and saying, in light of this, can you refrain [from answering me]? It delights the heart of God. Sue Him! [That is, demand that He answer you because He has promised to do so!] (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1987, p. 197).

And a good place to start would be by quoting verses 9 and 10,

“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” (Luke 11:9-10).

Then say, “God, you promised if I kept asking you would give me what I prayed for. You promised that if I kept knocking in prayer you would open the door and give me what I asked. Now, God, I call on you to keep your word. I am asking. I am knocking. Oh God, I expect you to open the door and give me exactly what I ask for. Oh God, you said that every one that keeps on asking receives. Now I am doing what you said, God. I am continuing to ask you. You promised in Luke 11:10 that I would receive what I asked for. Oh God, I expect you to keep your promise in Luke 11:10! I require you to give me my request! I sue you for it – on the basis of your promise! I sue you for it! I sue you for it! And I am going to keep on pestering you until you give me what I prayed for!” That is the way men and women prayed in olden times, when God opened the gates of Heaven and poured down revival. And that is the way men and women pray today in the People’s Republic of China. No wonder tens of thousands of people are converted in China every week! The Christians there shamelessly pound on the door of Heaven until God gives them what they ask for!

And what is the “bread” that the importunate man asked for at midnight, pounding on his friend’s door? Why, the bread he continued to ask for, seek for, and knock for was the Holy Spirit! What else could it be that sinners need? At the end of verse 13, Christ said, “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). The Scofield note misses the point here. The prayer warrior is not asking for the Holy Spirit for himself. He is praying for the Holy Spirit for his lost friend in verse 6, of whom he said,

“A friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.”

Indeed, if God doesn’t give the Holy Spirit, in answer to your prayers, you do not have anything to give lost sinners! Dr. John R. Rice said,

      Jesus did not put in exact words until the very end of this lesson on...praying, that He was teaching the disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit...who really brings revivals, convicts sinners and converts them, who gives wisdom and power and leadership to the man of God! When we pray for bread for sinners, we really mean that we need...the Holy Spirit of God (Rice, ibid., p. 96).

I am now speaking to those of you who are still lost. The Holy Spirit is symbolized by bread in the parable. The Holy Spirit is what you need more than anything else! Unless the Holy Spirit comes down to you in our church services you will never be convicted of your sins. Jesus said,

“When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin”
       (John 16:8).

We are praying for the Holy Spirit to come down to make a lost sinner like you feel the awful sin in your heart, to make you feel wretched and deeply sinful. If the Holy Spirit never makes you feel any of that you will never really feel your need for Christ.

Then, also, we are praying for the Spirit of God to draw you to Christ for full salvation. Jesus said,

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).

So, we are praying for God to send His Spirit to draw you to Jesus, because only Jesus can save you from sin and Hell.

Up until now you have only heard the facts of the Gospel. You have only heard that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. You have only heard that the Blood of Jesus can wash away all your sins and justify you in the sight of God. You have only heard that Jesus has risen from the dead, and is alive up in Heaven, in another dimension, praying for you. You have only heard these facts, but you have never experienced them in your own life. And you can never experience those wonderful facts if you merely sit in church Sunday after Sunday and just hear about them. Something more than just hearing about those facts must happen to you or you can never be saved!

The Holy Spirit must come down and make you feel sinful. The Holy Spirit must come down and draw you to Jesus. The Holy Spirit must give you a divine-human encounter with the living Christ. It will take a miracle for you to be drawn to Christ. It will take a miracle for you to be born again. And only the Spirit of God can make that miracle happen in your life. If the Holy Spirit is not present to meet your spiritual needs in our services we can only say,

“A friend of mine...is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:6).

That is why we fasted and prayed for your salvation yesterday. We are continuing to ask. We are continuing to seek. We are continuing to knock – until God opens Heaven and sends down His Spirit to convert you. Jesus said that the “Father [will] give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke 11:13). And we are praying for you. We are asking God to send His Spirit to convict you of sin, and draw you to Christ in a miraculous conversion experience!

Please stand as Mr. Lee comes to pray for God to send His Spirit to convict you of sin, and draw you to Jesus, for cleansing from your sin by His precious Blood. (Mr. Lee prays). “For you I am praying.” Sing the chorus!

For you I am praying, For you I am praying,
   For you I am praying,
I’m praying for you.
   (“I Am Praying For You” by S. O’Malley Clough, 1837-1910).

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Am Praying for You” (by S. O’Malley Clough, 1837-1910).