Turn away from the influence of self-achievement.
Luke 11 (NIV)
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
In order to set up my point I digress somewhat. Consider that I am coming to the text obliquely.
It appears that someone bent the gospel message of Christ years ago so that it does not really resemble the one we have in the New Testament.
For example, for centuries the message of self-denial crept in and became an end in itself. It has led people to believe that if they fast more, flagellate themselves and perform all kind of religious acts, some which are even more ludicrous, that they can appeal to God to pass over them with his “judgments.” What they have done is take away the power of the cross and replaced it with a self-help doctrine or a Stoic doctrine of “suffer enough and God will bless you with enlightenment and good stuff.” These words of Jesus are not associated with such works.
The New Testament does speak of denial of self but not as an end in itself. The call of Christ to deny ourselves is really one to turn away from the influence of self-achievement. It is intended to make room for a new joy, a new prosperity, and a new life in Christ. The self-denial which the Bible teaches is for serving others, not pleasing God in order to get His attention or to appear pious. The self denial the bible teaches is to let God rule in our lives. By doing so we can enjoy being heir of all things and master of the fears which drive us to compete, kill, destroy and win.
The parable to which this text is connected is not about working harder to get God to do what you want. It is not about denying your comfort in the night and praying as a bargain with God. It is about believing that God will give you good things especially things which will enable you to minister to the needs of another. It is about caring intensely not just about yourself but about persistently caring about others enough to believe God will hear your appeal on their behalf. (This interceding for others is almost always missed in this parable.)
Look at the man in the parable to which our text alludes. He was persisting to find food for a visitor. The believer lifts up others and finds a higher joy and purpose. The believer affirms what gives worth and meaning to human beings and brings the Kingdom ofGod’s goodness among us. The believer builds up, edifies, and strengthens those around him and wins a crown of wholeness with all that it signifies.
That is what Jesus is saying about asking, seeking and knocking. He tells us we need to be energized to get answers. After all, if a mere cranky human being will finally answer the door to a persistent knock we can certainly expect our great and good Father in heaven to fulfill our specific, especially unselfish, needs.
“…if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis