Ask, Seek, Knock, Love

Posted: December 4, 2011 in Matthew

Matthew 7:7-12, “Ask, Seek, Knock, Love”

One of Olivia’s favorite games has always been hide & seek.  Over the years, she’s gotten to be a pretty good seeker – always being diligent to search every nook & cranny of the house.  Of course God does not hide Himself from us, but He certainly desires that we seek Him.  Of course what we find when we seek God & His kingdom is far more than a prize during a kid’s game; we find the very character & nature of our loving God!

Jesus has been teaching a masterful message during the Sermon on the Mount.  He’s taught about our dependency upon God – the perfection of God’s law & heart – the importance of sincerity in our worship & priority of seeking Him first and foremost – and then (most recently) about Godly judgment and wisdom.  Now Jesus turns to asking in prayer & the Golden Rule.  Change of subject?  Not really.  The context of prayer is seeking the kingdom of God in prayer.  The golden rule is directly related to not judging unfairly.  To not judge unfairly is the negative; to treat others as we want to be treated is the positive.

Instead of judging & criticizing someone, pray for them.  Truly seek after God – that you might act more like Him in His love towards one another, and seek God on their behalf.

Matthew 7:7–12 (NKJV)
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

  • What are we looking for?  Obviously Jesus is talking about someone who is looking for something.  What is it that they want?  The kingdom of God.  Matt 6:33 is the immediate context.  Although there is definitely application to personal prayer (which we’ll see), the last time Jesus mentioned seeking anything was only 9 verses earlier as Jesus wrapped up His teaching on the right priority we are to have in life & in devotion.  Instead of being consumed with worries & material things, we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  The first priority of a child of God is the kingdom of God.  We need to be made citizens of His kingdom in order that we be eternally saved, and we are to live as citizens of the King today in this world as well.  The main message of the Sermon on the Mount is living as a citizen of the eternal kingdom today, and this is to be the primary pursuit of a Christian.  We seek God – we are granted the righteousness of Christ, but we continue to pursue Him as well.  A Christian’s life is not divided into the sacred vs. the secular (Sunday morning vs. all the rest), but our pursuit of Christ is all-consuming.  Not that we’re going off to live as a monk somewhere, but we are to seek after Christ in our workplace, ask God concerning the needs of our family, knock upon His door for daily strength, & more.  Seeking the kingdom is certainly not limited to not worrying about physical needs & financial stewardship – it encompasses everything there is about the Christian life.  For every believer who asks: “What’s God’s will for my life?”  The answer is given: “Seek first the kingdom of God & His righteousness.  Ask, seek, knock – keep after it.  God will answer & God will give.”
  • Ask…seek…knock…”  There are many ways of looking at this.  There’s verbal request, visual imploring, and physical action.  There’s petition, action, and perseverance.  The Lord Jesus never told us specific interpretations for each phrase, so perhaps it’s best simply to take it at the most basic level: three descriptions of someone appealing to another.  Perhaps Jesus gave three different examples simply to help us get the point. (After all, we can be rather dense sometimes. J)  The grammar & tense implies continual action, meaning it’s something that’s going on right now (and right now, and now, etc…).  Keep on asking – keep on seeking – keep on knocking.  Don’t do it once and give up.  You can often tell the value of an item to someone else by how they look for it when it’s lost.  Someone may search the couch for a quarter they dropped somewhere, but if a wedding ring was lost, the whole house gets turned upside down. [parable of the lost coin – Lk 15:8-10]  How intently are you seeking the kingdom of God & His righteousness?  That’s likely its value to you.  The person who mutters a sinner’s prayer out of a need for “fire insurance” easily falls away from walking with Christ.  They don’t seek Jesus in prayer – they don’t read His word – they don’t seek to live righteously.  They aren’t continually seeking because they never understood the value of salvation to begin with.  But the person who understands that they were truly lost & now have been loved by Jesus & given new life by Him…that’s a person that values the kingdom!  That’s a person that’s going to persevere no matter how many times they fall down & get hit by the enemy or the temptations of their old life.  They’re going to continue to seek, continue to ask, and continue to knock time & time again.  As Winston Churchill proclaimed during WWII, the true disciple of Christ “never gives in. Never, never, never.”
  • Why?  Because God promises to give.  Note that there is an action & a response.  The action is ours: we ask – the response is God’s: He gives.  When we seek, there is Someone to be found.  When we knock, there is Someone ready to answer the door.  The Someone is God, who is prepared to give to His children.  The interesting aspect of this is that when it comes to our salvation, God is always the initiator & we are the responder.  No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44).  The Spirit is the One who convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8).  Left to ourselves, no one seeks after God (Rom 3:11), but God loved us & sent Jesus when we were still hating Him as His enemies (Rom 5:8).  The list could go on showing as God as the initiator.  Yet in this example, Jesus shows God as waiting to respond to us.  Obviously the relationship is already there – someone can only go to God in prayer as their Father after Christ has already made that person God’s child.  But there is an aspect of our ongoing relationship with God in which God puts upon us the responsibility to continually seek Him out.  He is certainly ready to respond to us the moment we call upon Him, but we are the ones that need to ask. … [teaching child to swim, ride a bike – they need to reach out???]  God is teaching us dependency.
    • When we reach out to God, we can be sure that He will respond.  When we knock upon the door, we can be certain that God will answer.  When we know God through Christ Jesus & continually seek Him in faith, there’s no doubt about God’s response.  Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." []  Are you diligently seeking?
  • Although it is easy to see an application to salvation, remember the immediate context is actually to someone who is already a born-again believer.  We need the grace to live in the righteousness that God makes available to us.  Ask for it! …  “I always fail in my walk with Christ!”  Have you asked for the strength to endure?  Have you laid everything aside to seek God & God alone?  Have you been persistent to knock upon the door of the throne room in prayer? [parable of the persistent widow – Luke 18:1-8]  Or have you asked once & never asked again?  (Guzik) “Many of our passionless prayers are not answered for good reason, because it is almost as if we ask God to care about something we care little or nothing about.”  Ask!  Seek!  Knock!  Don’t give up – keep going before the throne of grace!  Does it matter that you have not yet received what you’ve asked for?  All that simply means is that God desires to do something in you by your continual asking.  George Mueller often wrote of the desperate needs that his orphanages had, yet he did not complain about any delay in seeing an answer from God.  It was merely more opportunity to trust his Savior.  Likewise with us – the born-again believer has every right to come to the throne of God and ask.  We are invited to do so & to do it repeatedly.  God has promised to respond according to His will.  So do we simply give up after one or two times of asking – or will we take God at His word, knowing that He will respond?  ASK!
    • That’s not to say there’s no application to salvation here.  The person who has finally come to the understanding of his/her desperate need for Christ has but to lay down his/her life and ask to be saved!  The problem is that we so often get the idea that coming to Christ is such as casual thing.  People think, “All I need to do is raise my hand at the right time (slipped up quickly with every head bowed & every eye closed), mutter a few words under my breath, and then I’m good to go as long as I show up in church once every blue moon.”  That’s NOT saving faith.  How can we be so sure?  Because that’s certainly not what Jesus describes here as someone so desperate for God that they continually ask, seek, and knock.  The reward is to those who diligently and desperately seek after Christ.  Jesus doesn’t want your hand; He wants your life.  Seek Him out with fervency, casting yourself to His feet upon His mercy & grace.  The person who does that is the person truly seeking the God who has already placed it upon their heart to seek His face.

9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?

  • Simple enough example.  No loving father tries to break his child’s teeth with rocks rather than food.  Or gives the child a poisonous snake instead of lunch.  Mankind may be condemned in our own sinfulness (which we are) – but we at least know THIS much!  Parents who intentionally hurt their children are jailed and/or have their children taken away from them – it’s called “abuse.”  Even human courts recognize that.

11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

  • Jesus often argues from the lesser to the greater & does it again here.  If we love our children enough to give them what they need, how much more does our all-knowing, all-compassionate heavenly Father do the same?  To think that God would not honor His promises is to malign (or at least misunderstand) God’s personal character.  Is God less honorable than the most honorable of evil men?  Certainly not!  God IS love, and there can be no more compassionate father than that of our Heavenly Father.  God describes His own character has being merciful & gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Exo 24:6-7).  He is absolutely just in that He by no means clears those who remain in their guilt, but He is merciful to those who belong to Him by His grace.  Does this sound like someone who would give a snake instead of a snack?  Absolutely not!  One reason our retail stores rejoice at Christmastime is because parents delight in giving their children presents – we love the look on our kids’ faces when they receive a gift.  Dare we think that we are unique in that?  Where do we think we got that delight from?  Our heavenly Father!  God excels in giving, and there’s no restraint to His gifts.  After all, He’s already given all that can be given: His only begotten Son, who died on the cross for your sins & mine.  If God’s already done THAT, what is a few more issue in our personal life?  Comparatively speaking, it’s as if God has already given billions of dollars into our accounts, and we question if God is willing to spare us a few pennies, so we refrain from asking Him.  Jesus would tell us, “Don’t you know the character & personality of your heavenly Father?  Ask Him!  He’s ready to give!”
  • What does God give? “Good things.”  Not bad things – not random things, but good things.  A good gift is something that has been thought out & lovingly given. God does not give the equivalent of a bad garage-sale necktie where we struggle to smile & say, “Well, at least it’s the thought that counts.”  God knows our deepest needs – God knows our hearts’ desires – God knows are darkest struggles – God knows US & He knows the perfect gifts to give us.  We can be assured that what God gives us will be good. … Especially in the context of seeking the kingdom of God – God gives good things!  Those who truly & continually seek to live their lives as children of God in His kingdom will find that God graciously equips us for this very thing.  Granted, He may allow us to struggle from time to time, but even that can be a good gift.  After all, it’s only by exercising our muscles that we’re made stronger.  God may allow us to exercise the muscle of faith, but we will be far better equipped at the end.  That we haven’t received precisely what we’ve been asking for ought not be a discouragement from asking – we ought to trust that God is giving out the good gifts that He thinks we need.
    • BTW – Enough with this thought of “If I truly surrender my life to Jesus, God’s going to make me go be a missionary in the jungles of South America & I’ll hate it.”  Rubbish!  Our God gives GOOD things.  If you are not equipped to be a missionary, God will not call you to be one.  If you are not burdened to want to go to the jungle, God isn’t going to force you & twist your arm.  What a horrendous misunderstanding of the character of our God!
  • Jesus makes the point again: To whom does God give good things?  “To those who ask Him.”  If we haven’t received it, the most logical possibility is that we haven’t asked for it.  Why haven’t you asked? We have not because we ask not.

12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

  • Typically we know this as the Golden Rule.  Our children are taught it in public school & people uphold it as one of the highest ethical standards – though in the public square, it’s always divorced from Jesus.  But Jesus didn’t leave us the option of taking it away from the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.  His sentence isn’t even finished before He calls the Golden Rule the summary of the Law & the rest of the Old Testament.  The Golden Rule & part & parcel with the rest of His teaching here – and it can only be truly done by a born-again believer…someone who is seeking after the kingdom of God & His righteousness.  …  Objection: “Wait a minute!  Anyone can do this.  If you want to be shown respect, you show respect to others.  That doesn’t require a profession of faith.”  True, but try doing it consistently.  It can’t be done.  People may succeed several times in a row, but there’s going to come a time in which we get selfish again.  That’s true of Christians & non-Christians alike.  In ourselves, not even Christians have the ability to consistently live out the simple principle of doing unto others what we want done unto us.  All it takes is a quick trip to the mall during the holiday rush to prove it!  No – the consistency of the golden rule necessitates faith in Christ.  Just as Jesus told us to be perfect as God is perfect (which is impossible without Christ), so He tells us to perfectly abide with men, which is also impossible without Christ.  There’s simply no way to always do unto others what we want done unto us unless we live completely selfless lives – and that requires us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily & follow Jesus.  We need to continually reckon ourselves dead to our flesh & live by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    • From a historical perspective, it’s interesting that other religions have their own version of the Golden Rule, but apparently it was always placed in the negative. (“Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to doing to you.”)  Jesus is the first person to put it into the positive.  Anybody can “not” murder someone; a disciple of Christ lays down their life for another.  Anyone can “not” steal from someone; a Christian gives sacrificially to demonstrate the love of God.  The kingdom of heaven isn’t merely concerned with the absence of sin, but also the presence of the righteousness of God.  Refraining from sin is good, but to merely refrain from sin is not enough to grant someone entrance into the kingdom of God.  For that, we’ve got to receive the righteousness of Christ Jesus.  (Praise the Lord that blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled!)
  • Therefore” – tied in with earlier teaching.  We’ve seen this throughout the Sermon on the Mount.  After teaching about the heart of God in the law of God, Jesus said, “Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (5:48)  After teaching about sincerity in prayer, Jesus said, “Therefore, do not be like them.  For your Heavenly Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” (6:8)  After teaching about the priority of heavenly treasure, Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” (6:25) & then repeated the phrase two more times. (6:31, 34)  This last particular “therefore” sums up the section on judging & praying.  At first glance, they seem so unrelated to each other, but the more we look at it, the more we can see how they flow together.  Men usually don’t want to be judged, though we’re more than happy to judge others.  Men want to receive the kingdom of heaven, but they’re not willing to live out the principles of the kingdom before they enter in.  Jesus brings us back to reality here.  We’re going to be measured back with the same measure that we’ve used.  The person who truly seeks the kingdom of God & knocks on the door in prayer is going to be someone who’s truly seeking after the heart of God.  They aren’t going to be unfairly judging & criticizing one another – they are going to exercise righteous wisdom – they are going to intercede for one another in prayer.  They will not be hypocritical in their outward spirituality, but single-mindedly devoted unto God, showing compassion towards one another.
  • This takes us to another other tie: the Golden Rule is how Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that He had come to fulfill the Law & the Prophets (5:17).  Jesus fulfills the requirements of the Law & Prophets through His personal sacrifice at the cross.  Jesus fulfills the perfect holy teaching of the Law & the Prophets through His own life & righteousness.  After all, who is the One Person who has ever perfectly loved God with all His being & loved His neighbor as Himself?  Not you – not me – only Jesus.  Who is the One Person in all the universe who has ever perfectly done unto others as He would have men do unto Him?  Never unjustly criticizing them, but exercising righteous judgment – giving out good gifts and praying for others – even laying down His life for those who hated Him.  Only the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • What Jesus has done, He calls us to do as well.  Objection: “But it’s impossible!”  Correct.  That’s why we need the Holy Spirit and His power to do it.  BTW – that’s exactly the full context of Jesus’ teaching later in the gospel of Luke.  Luke 11:13, "If you then, being evil, 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!”" []  God gives the good gift of the Holy Spirit to His children in our initial salvation, and God continues to give the good gifting of the power of the Holy Spirit to His children as we walk with Him.  As we ask for the Spirit’s empowerment, God graciously grants it.
  • There’s another instance in which Jesus sums up the Law & the Prophets: the Great Commandment.  Matthew 22:36–40, "(36) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (37) Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (40) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”" []  The Great Commandment = the Golden Rule.  (Try teaching THAT in the public schools!)  If we’re truly loving our neighbors as ourselves, we’ll be doing unto them what we want done unto us.  And the only motivation for doing so is to love God with our heart, soul, and strength.  The person who lives in rebellion against God has no reason to sacrificially love others.  Sure, he might do some altruistic acts for someone else, but only if he sees some sort of personal benefit from it.  If nothing else, he gives money to the homeless because it makes him feel better about himself.  But the moment the personal benefit stops, so does his compassion.  The person in rebellion to God can never truly act selflessly, because all he/she has is him/herself.  It’s only the man or woman who has completely surrendered their life over to Christ Jesus that can act in total selfless compassion, because our actions are not done for our glory, but for the glory of God.  Because we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we desire to love our neighbors as ourselves & do unto them what we want done unto us.  Even our summary of the rule is different than Jesus’.  We say “treat others like you would like to be treated;” Jesus says “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.”  Our grammar makes us the focus; Jesus’ grammar makes others the focus.
    • [Haman & Mordecai.]  Haman thought of all the ways he wanted to be honored, thinking it was intended for him (Esther 6).  Without the evil selfishness of Haman, how would we wish to be treated?  How would we wish to be loved?  How would we wish to be honored?  That is the way we want to treat others.  We are to think of them first; not how we are to be benefited from it.
    • Objection: “What about other religions?  Surely they can be altruistic, because they’re doing it for their god as well.”  Not really.  This is the difference between works-based religions, and Christianity (grace-based).  Other religions might teach people to positively do unto others what they want done to them, but it’s all about gaining merit to continue earning their way into heaven/paradise, etc.  In Christianity, we’re saved by the free gift of God’s grace through Christ.  Thus the motivation we have is to give honor, praise, and glory to God.  We’ve already received our salvation, and the fruit of our salvation is seen in the way we treat other people.

Conclusion:
With this, Jesus wraps up His major teachings in the Sermon on the Mount & will start to transition to a close & application.  The true citizen of the kingdom of heaven continually lives for God – and in doing so, experiences the glorious grace of God in incredible ways.

  • Seek the kingdom – God desires for us to ask.  Again, this is primarily for the believer in Jesus Christ.  Are you continually seeking His face?  Do you continually knock at the door for grace and strength?  Do you diligently and desperately ask for what is needed to live the life that is glorifying to God?  Seek His kingdom on a daily basis!
  • Trust your Father – our God gives good things.  When we seek God’s face, God will answer.  When we knock at the door, God will open.  When we ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit, God will give Him.  Our God can be trusted to give good gifts – necessary gifts – gifts that are thought-through, and perfect for the situation at hand.  Trust your Heavenly Father to supply you for what you need to live as His child.
  • Live selflessly – Jesus is our example.  Those who continually seek after the kingdom of God will walk in the footsteps of our King.  We’ll seek others’ best interests first, sacrificing for them in order that they might know the grace of God.  That’s what Jesus did for us; that’s what we’ll do for our neighbors. 

 

The challenge for the believer today is this: are you continually seeking & asking?  Is it shown in your treatment of other people?  Take the time to address it today before the throne of God.

If you’re not yet a Christian – know that you are invited to seek the kingdom of God as well.  It’s not something to be casually minded about; it’s something for which you are to fervently and passionately seek.  God promises to give grace to all who come through the Lord Jesus in faith, but you’ve got to respond to His offer, surrendering everything to Jesus as Lord.

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