September 06, 09
INTRODUCTION – I don’t know if any of you, who have known the Lord for a while can identify with this; but when I reflect about my first feeble attempts at ministering to others in the name of the Lord – – well it’s a little embarrassing. Certainly nothing to write home about. Kind of ugly actually….
In great contrast to my beginnings, when Jesus Christ started His ministry, huge crowds were drawn, every person He ministered to who needed healing or deliverance from demons received it, and according to Matthew 4:23-25, His ministry was an immediate and complete success. Had He wanted to, He could have just continued healing the sick and casting out demons and proclaiming the kingdom of God; and we would have all marveled at how great a minister, teacher, healer and deliverer He was.
But Jesus didn’t come to make a name for Himself. He left that to the Father. He wasn’t secretly hoping that He would some day be called “The Preacher of the Year” by Christianity Today; or that He would have been thought of as the greatest Healer that ever hit the planet.
Jesus came to make a people; an ecclesia; an ever growing, expanding, glowing, community transforming church, through whom as Paul said in his letter to the church in Ephesus, “The manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” That’s why Jesus Christ early on ducked the crowds to call a handful of men in whom He would invest His life so that they could lead this amazing, ever expanding organism called the church. That’s why jesus Christ early on put the brakes on all the ministry to the crowds He was doing; and invited those who were serious about following Him up on a mountain – – so He could teach them how they could be a part of this movement that would never die, and that would increasingly impact the nations, and de-throne the demons until His return.
I’m sure the demons and those they inspired on the earth scoffed and scorned when they saw the early stumbling and failures of the Peters, and the Randys, and the Bev and the Judy’s; but lo and behold, as these people stayed connected to their brothers and sisters, and continued to humbly submit to their Lord’s will and way – – they began to look and operate more and more like Jesus did. Especially as they learned to cultivate that hidden secret life of prayer that so typified Jesus as He walked the earth; and as they learned to say no to fleshly desires and ambitions; and instead submit to the will and way of the King.
A could of weeks ago Rob taught about the latest of many fleshly characteristics or activities that we in the church are to run from – that being the sin of unrighteously judging. Jesus in Matt. 7:1-6 commands us in no uncertain terms to not judge our brother or sister. Rather we are to focus on our own areas in need of growth and transformation, which are always plentiful. Surely one of the reasons we are so apt to judge is because we are so blind at times to our own desperate need for the mercy and grace of God to enable us to turn from sin and embrace righteousness.
But there is another reason why we so quickly tend to judge others and that is because being a part of the church requires us to be around, and to get intimately acquainted with other sinners – – which inevitably surfaces things that seem unfair or inequitable; and opens us up to conflicts and clashes. Why do they live in such a nice home? Why does he get to be on the worship team? Why did he get to go out to lunch with the pastor? Why does she always seem to be surrounded by friends? Why does he always seem to get prophetic words for people and prophetic visions and dreams? Why does she glare at me like that? Why does he always seem to ignore me? Why is my boss always so quick to affirm her, and rarely affirm me?
For sure – Jesus’s full expectation as seen in this foundational sermon we have been studying is that every one of us will be meaningfully, lovingly and fruitfully involved in His church, which is the light of the world and the salt of the earth (according to chapter 5). But sometimes it seems like the more we dare to do that, the more thee kinds of inequities and offenses surface. What are we to do? How can I this fall give myself more than ever before to being a meaningfully and fruitfully involved member of this church called LOCF, and enjoy it, and not be slimed and side lined by the inevitable clashes and conflicts and inner struggles that seem to come with the territory?
Well Jesus, who is always a step ahead of us, answers that question in Matthew 7 starting with verse 7. Let’s read vs. 7-12 together.
One of the things I love about the Head of the church is He never commands us to not do something, and then leave us to our own devices to stop it.
Jesus says, instead of blaming, judging, accusing or slandering, when seeming inequities or offenses take place, we are two ask, seek and knock in the direction of our heavenly Father. Let me ask you something: If you were totally content with your life; if you knew deep in your spirit that you were deeply loved and tenderly cared for by a Heavenly Father who is smitten with you; if you knew that He has a good, acceptable and perfect will and destiny for your life that will be revealed in due time; if you knew deep in your gut that were just as valuable and important to the life of this church as any other person; if you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that everything you will ever need to fulfill your calling in life will be provided in perfect timing, would you be as apt to judge others? I doubt it very seriously.
James, the brother of Jesus, says in chapter four of his epistle, “you do not have because you do not ask.” And for those of you who maybe did ask once or twice, “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” James says in vs. 3. Or you gave up to soon. Jesus Christ constantly asked, sought and knocked; and He received everything He asked for because He asked with right motives for the glory of the Father. When Jesus left His times of prayer and communion with the Father, He knew He didn’t need anything else; or He knew that what He needed would be provided in due time.
Can I just state at this point that it is not an option to ask. Jesus commands us to ask in vs. 7, and then goes on to explain why in the rest of the passage. Jesus Christ throughout His ministry with His disciples encouraged and/or commanded them to ask. Listen as I read some of them:
Matthew 18:19 “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 21:22 “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
John 14:13 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
John 14:14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
John 15:7 “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whoever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
John 16:23 “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.”
John 16:24 “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
When I first moved to this area, I was encouraged to find that our church had a couple of scheduled prayer meetings each week. I immediately began to attend those; and while I was thankful for those who were taking the time to come to pray; I was confused at why they spent the majority of the hour in total silence. Someone, somewhere back then taught that in prayer it is spiritual to sit and wait and listen, and to speak or ask very little. But my study of Jesus’s teaching on prayer reveals something altogether different. I don’t care how many hours you sit in a prayer meeting; if you do not ask; you will not receive. Jesus commands us and expects us to ask. Silence is not golden; spoken requests are golden.
Brothers and sisters, this fall we must get better at asking. For me to fulfill my calling in this church and in this community this fall, I must deepen and strengthen my prayer life. For you to discern and fulfill your calling in this church and community this fall, you must deepen and strengthen your prayer life. The only way demons and scoffers are going to shut up and take notice of us is if you and I take this matter of prayer more seriously. Most of our angst can be dissolved therein.
OK, let’s see what we can learn about the difference between asking, seeking and knocking; how often we are to do it; and what two things should build our confidence to ask; and what the golden rule has to do with prayer.
I. Difference in terms or aspects of prayer: A. Asking – you know what you want or need, and you ask specifically and directly for it. If you lack financial provision, you know God has promised that for you as His child; so ask for it. If you have family members or relatives who have not been born again and come into a relationship with the living God, you know God’s will is for them to be saved, so ask for their salvation. You do not need to seek more clarity on this. These things are clearly God’s will, and He will gladly grant them to you if you ask.
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” I John 5:14,15
B. Seeking – implies there is some mystery; some uncertainty; some need for more revelation and understanding and clarity. Finding implies something was lost or not discovered or understood yet. Seeking God in prayer produces proper perspective, which we often do not have before we seek God in prayer.
“Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand all things.” Prov. 28:5
As I’ve been reading through first and second Samuel in recent weeks, I’ve noticed how many times the scriptures say King David “inquired of the Lord.” When David didn’t know what to do or whether He should take a certain action, he sought or inquired of the Lord until He got an answer.
C. Knocking – implies roadblocks; closed doors; mountains that need to be moved; resistance that needs to be worn down; favor that needs to be granted. There are doors that the Father is ready to open for you; but you must first learn to knock in prayer persistently for that door to be opened. Only the Father can open those doors. And only knocking will cause Him to open them.
Paying off the church building by June of next year is going to require some serious knocking by each of us in the prayer. There is no apparent practical way that our present congregation can come up with $139,000.00 in nine months. Yet some of us are inclined to believe God wants us to pay it off by then instead of refinancing. We need God to move this mountain, which will most likely include a greater level of faith and sacrifice on our part, though it will not necessarily be limited to that. And of course in this instance we must seek before we knock.
II. Issue of Persistence – The tense in each of these commands in the greek is the present imperative which speaks of persistence, of continually asking. Amplified Bible translates like this, “Keep on asking and it will be give you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking (reverently) and the door will be opened to you. For every one who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking it will be opened.”
This is the first, but not the last time Jesus will teach or exhort us to persist in our praying. We have a tendency to give up too soon if we do not receive an immediate answer or response. Persistence increases our dependence, which in turn releases God’s responsiveness.
III. Issue of Father’s Heart for His Children – Jesus paints a sharp contrast with the best father the earth can produce – vs. 9-11
IV. Issue of “What is good” – vs. 12 Barclays’ explanation p. 271 is very helpful
V. Why the golden rule here? vs. 12 Why the “therefore”? Because the prior discussion was about judging people. Now that Jesus has revealed the secret to being able to resist that sin; He rejoins our horizontal relationships and gives us a very clear standard for the way we treat, or speak to, or think of, or speak about others.
Let me ask you something: Would you rather people judge you, or would you rather them ask, seek and knock on your behalf? Then do the same for them. The greatest gift you can ever give anyone on the face of the earth is to ask, seek and knock in the presence of almighty God for them and for yourself so you do not demand from others what only God Himself can give you.
Because you have a ready audience with the living God of the Universe who happens to be smitten with you as His child; and who wants to solve your internal angst and struggles with an intimate relationship with Himself through prayer – – access that resource, and resist putting your hope and expectation on people, and resist trying to get from them something you were never meant to get.
Four quick and simple things to help you make asking, seeking and knocking more a part of your lifestyle.
1. use a list. Someone said “if you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it.” A list gives us the joy of accomplishment and keeps us on track and focused. 2. use those frustrating awake times in the middle of the night or early morning to pray. My feeling is – if the enemy has anything to do with my being wide awake at 3:00 in the morning, then I want to make him pay in terms of kingdom advance through prayer as a result. 3. Ask the Lord to help you be more intentional with your use of the computer or watching t.v. or use of your cell phone, or your tendency to always be working or accomplishing some project. 4. Start as early as you can. How you start the day has a lot of bearing and influence on the tenor or tone of the rest of your day. The clear biblical pattern is rising and praying early. (e.g. Mark 1:35, etc)
Handout – 15 things to ask, seek, and knock re: this fall at LOCF