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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Christian Life

Matthew 7:7-29

(Matthew 7:13-29 )

To understand this lesson, one must take into consideration the entire flow of the Sermon on the Mount. Up to this point, Our Lord has been quite specific. He has told us not to care for the world; nor for the flesh, nor even for the spirit of pride in judgment. All is to be cast upon the Lord. But how? We've been taught "what;" now we need to hear "how."

Ask, Seek and Knock

(Mat 7:7-12 NIV) "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. {8} For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. {9} "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? {10} Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? {11} If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! {12} So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Ask

"Ask" usually is verbal -- done with the mouth, or at least the voice of the mind. It cannot stand alone, as words without action cannot, but it is a starting point.

The Necessity of Asking

One might reasonably ask our Lord: "Why do I have to ask? You tell me that our Father knows before I ask, so why do I have to ask at all?" A reasonable question -- if the Lord were not omniscient, all knowing. He knows all -- but we don't. In particular, we do not know him, not as we should. It is so that we should know him better that he tells us to ask, for asking is something that human beings do when they depend on someone else. The relationship is what counts. Indeed, we are to ask and seek with all our hearts, as the Lord commanded Israel,

(Jer 29:12-13 NIV) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. {13} You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

The "Anything" of Asking

One of the puzzles of "ask" is the repeated statement that we can get anything we ask for. To quote it in full:

(Mark 11:24 NIV) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

It appears from this that if we have pure, blind faith we shall get anything -- absolutely any foolish thing -- if we but ask. Again, the solution to such silliness is in the relationship with our Lord Himself. Consider a parallel passage:

(John 14:13-14 NIV) And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. {14} You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Here we have a glimpse into God's intention -- for it is God who will give, or not give -- that such giving is designed so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. It's a good test of our "ask" -- does this allow Christ to bring glory to God? Will people see the results of this and give God the glory? If not, why are we asking for it? Perhaps it is because we ourselves are not in good relationship with God. And what is that relationship?

(1 John 3:21-22 NIV) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God {22} and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.

That should make it clear: we are given what we ask because of our obedience, because we do what pleases him. There is that relationship made plain.

Seek

We normally associate seeking with geography -- or at least, where did I put my keys? The Bible usually associates it with the heart. The concept would have been familiar to Jesus' listeners from the Old Testament.

(Psa 10:4 NIV) In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Note the "geographic" image: there is "no room" in the heart of the wicked for thoughts of God.

One of the most common associations of the word "seek" in the Old Testament would be with the word "rejoice" or "joy" - so that to his hearers would have felt echoes of the joy of being with God. The most prominent association of seeking and God would be from the injunction given to Amos:

(Amos 5:4 NIV) This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live;

You can almost imagine this as a child's memory verse at the Synagogue. Joy and life are the lot of those who seek God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who seek him. But the most "heart" like association with seeking is this:

(Psa 27:7-10 NIV) Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. {8} My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek. {9} Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. {10} Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

That last verse will later have great significance, for we must be ready to give up all for the sake of the Kingdom.

Knock

Asking is verbal; seeking is in the heart, but knocking is action. If the words of our mouths and the meditations of our heart produce no action, what good are they? But if we do produce action, then our Lord has a wonderful promise for us. Hear this same message in Luke's Gospel, where the last part of the promise varies slightly:

(Luke 11:9-13 NIV) "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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. {11} "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? {12} Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? {13} If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Note that the gift in this case is the Holy Spirit. God wants to give Himself to us -- but we must ask, seek and knock to complete our relationship to Him.

"Therefore"

In the old King James, verse 12 begins with "therefore" (in place of "so.") Whenever you see that word, you must see a conclusion. The conclusion follows from what precedes. But does this make sense:

1. We need to ask (with our mouths)

2. We need to seek (with our hearts)

3. We need to knock (with our actions)

and THEREFORE we should do unto others ....

Does this make sense? I submit that it makes divine sense. The comparison just before gives you the secret. Consider the argument that Christ is making in these steps:

1. I told you to ask, seek and knock. What is that but building the relationship between yourself and God?

2. As you build that relationship, you will become more and more like your Father in Heaven. You will get closer to Him.

3. As you become more like Him, you will act like Him. And what does He do? Think about it. You are not God; you are a sinner. Yet even you give good things to your children! How much more will He give good things -- indeed, the ultimate good thing, the Holy Spirit, God Himself -- to those who ask?

4. So as you become more like Christ, you will do the same. But how do I know what things are "good things?" Easily enough determined; if I would want to be treated in a particular way, then should I not treat others that way, as a child of God would, naturally?

5. If that were not reason enough, please also consider that such action is obedience, for this rule sums up the "Law and the Prophets" as far as our relationships with each other are concerned.

Doing it the Hard Way

My sister, who is a math teacher, tells me a story. She was teaching her junior high pre-algebra class the manual method of taking a square root. One of the students was called to the blackboard and asked to perform the task. He went through some of the motions, but left out several steps. Despite this, he came up with the right answer (probably because the answer was in the back of the book). When she corrected his method, he looked at her and said, "Do you mean we have to do it the hard way?"

The Scripture says we do:

(Mat 7:13-14 NIV) "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. {14} But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The "narrow gate" would have brought to mind three things to Christ's hearers:

1. The most important concept is that of separation. The Israelite was to be different from the rest of the world. The picture would be drawn of a few sheep going through a narrow gate, while the rest remained outside.

2. There is also the concept of the remnant. Over and over in the history of Israel, when Israel sinned, God saved out a remnant who were faithful to Him.

3. Mostly, however, there would come to them the idea that while many might hear God, only a few would follow.

How is it that this is so? Is it really the case that God is an arbitrary tyrant who selects -- seemingly at random -- some few of us for salvation, and condemns the rest to hell? I submit it is not so. He does not choose hell; we do.

(Prov 16:25 NIV) There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

This would have been a familiar passage to the Jew of this time. Jesus later tells his followers that many will try -- but few will make it:

(Luke 13:22-24 NIV) Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. {23} Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, {24} "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

This leads to a frightening thought. How can I tell whether or not I am one of the "few?" This fear has been used by many cults (particularly in conjunction with the 144,000 spoken of in Revelation) to insist on a life of works. But our Lord tells us the answer:

(Luke 14:33 NIV) In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

There it is. Our Father knows we need it -- and Jesus tells us to give it all up. Who could make such a claim, and why? I submit it is not a radical claim at all -- just a reflection of the truth:

(John 14:6 NIV) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If Jesus is the way -- and He is -- then only by our relationship with Him can we reach God. He is the narrow gate. Unless you give up all -- everything -- in exchange for the pearl of great price, you will in no way enter the Kingdom.

Pitfalls Along the Way

So we build our relationship (ask, seek, knock); we do it the hard way -- anything else? Yes. The way is booby trapped. There are people out there who want to lead you astray:

(Mat 7:15-23 NIV) "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. {16} By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? {17} Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. {19} Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {20} Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. {21} "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' {23} Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

This indeed is a frightening thought. There are people out there who are false prophets. What shall we do?

The Principle of Fruit

Christ gives us yet another reason not to judge, and the answer to the false prophet. Wait. Hang in there. Eventually -- and it will not take long -- you will see the results these people produce. It is a spiritual principle: if your heart is right, the results shown in your life, over the long run, will be likewise. If it is not, the results will show that too. Sometimes we're too anxious to do what God should be doing; we will not wait upon Him. Remember Gamaliel's argument concerning the Apostles?

(Acts 5:34-39 NIV) But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. {35} Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. {36} Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. {37} After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. {38} Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. {39} But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Gamaliel understood the principle of the fruit tree.

"Not everyone"

It's interesting to note what Jesus tells us are NOT the fruits of a devout life. At least we know what not to be impressed with:

  • prophesy
  • power over demons
  • miracles

That such people will appear, with powers like these, is stated explicitly more than once. The fruit we are to look for is that shown by the Spirit.

The Storm is Coming

(Mat 7:24-29 NIV) "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. {25} The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. {26} But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. {27} The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." {28} When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, {29} because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Again we see the word "therefore." The conclusion this time is very plain. Having dealt with the world, the flesh and the spirit as excuses for not following our Lord, our Lord has told us now to take action. The metaphor here is building a house. I've never built a house, but we have done a kitchen. Believe me, it was very important to us, if for no other reason than the money we spent. We wanted it built right. It is the same with our lives. The rains -- the Judgment -- will come.

Note the verbs: "hear" and "puts them into practice." We are to hear and do. Paul tells it to us this way:

(1 Cor 3:11-15 NIV) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. {12} If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, {13} his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. {14} If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. {15} If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Note two things:

  • Jesus is the only foundation of our building. Any other person or thing is useless. All must be based upon him. Those who try to say, "all things in proportion, don't get too religious" have missed this point.
  • The results are not created on the Day of Judgment -- they are revealed. We are creating those results NOW.

Finally, we see one last thing. Christ teaches this not like I do. I tell you, "I know the Way." Christ tells you, "I AM the Way." He is the ultimate authority. He has told you to ask, seek and knock for Him. He has told you to do it the hard way. He warns you against the false teachers and prophets. It all sounds so very serious. There's a reason for that. It is.

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