The Greatest Sermon Ever - 15 -On Faith -
Matthew 7:7-12 New International Version (NIV)
Ask, Seek, Knock
7 “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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your 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, seek, knock, it’s a call to simple faith, right? Well, no, the longer I walk the Christian road, the less I say simple faith and more I say child-like faith. Because let’s be honest; faith is anything but simple; we have complex understandings of faith, and life itself is not simple! We do not need simple faith we need a trusting child-like faith.
I have discovered that the more God takes me through the less I need simple faith, because a simple faith cannot carry the complexity of what I am going though; and the more I need that child-like trust that even when I don’t understand, even when I can get my head around every complexity; I know I have a good father in heaven and although I am an emotional mess, although I cannot understand this, all this doesn’t seem good, I ask, seek and knock to see my good father! He is what I need nothing more nothing less.
This passage church, is about the Father more than it is about his gifts and we make it about the latter to the detriment of our faith and our sanity and the very joy of our faith.
So, what is Jesus teaching us here in this passage? What is his point? Well we will follow the logic of the passage and see, so if you look at the start of this passage we see…
1. God hears us as a good father
This is such a radical notion to the audience, God will give us what we ask, he will enable us to find if we seek and he will open up doors that we knock on. The radical notion of all this is that God is a good Father that is for us and not against us! This is deeply profound!
Essentially, Jesus is establishing for us an idea of God that we do not naturally tend towards because it in an idea of God that goes against the notion of almost all ideas of identity that human kind has formed. These ideas are do and you will be valued. Or put another be good and God will be good to you.
So because of this backward idea of God, most of us deep down struggle with the idea that God is good to us; or let me put it in a harder way; most of us struggle that in all things, even the bad, that God is a good father working things for our good. We struggle to trust God to be who he says he is when things are not going our way. We struggle in the darkness, in our pain to ask him and expect him to answer, to seek him and for him to be found to knock and doors to be opened.
So, we play it back and forth with a peculiar game of I have been good, why is this happening, or I know I have not been good this is why God is against me. And this is the struggle church, how can we be good enough for God to be good to us, or how can God be good to us when we know what we have thought or done?
The real answer (The honest answer) is that he can’t; a good God to be good needs to bring judgment and punishment down on people who are bad, this is the obvious and painful reality that people find themselves in. The question we must ask is; how does a good God respond to inherently bad people?
This crisis causes us to not run to the good father, not to risk the terror of this question; it is to work the system, I will prove I am good enough for God; I will overcome what is preventing god being good to me.
This approach misses God and leaves us empty because it focus us on ourselves, and on the gifts and ignores the father and his goodness.
All this leads to the second reality that Jesus points out:
2. God gives as a good father
This is such an obvious point it almost seems not worth making. God gives good gifts. In fact Jesus leans on the common knowledge of his audience; you though you are evil know how to look after your own, so why do you think that God will be any different?
Jesus makes this point because we do think that God will be different from earthy fathers. We fabricate ideas of God as this tyrannical ruler in the sky waiting for us to mess up so that he can take us out. Or we paint a picture of this gentle benign indulger which is so focused on our trivial needs that in fact he has no place running the universe.
Because we don’t get this, because we can’t get this we reduce him to a parody of himself, He is no longer the good father Jesus paints Him to be. We have to ask the question why? Why do we do this? Why do we struggle with this so much?
Well it leads back to the pervious point I made, God is a good father and that should terrify us, and if it doesn’t it wrecks our soul because deep down we know it to be true.
Most of us don’t even live up to our own standards of goodness, never mind God’s standard, and we know this.
But rather than running to God to be exposed (for who we truly are), we hid ourselves, we pretend, we fake it until we make it.
This is where we miss it church, we think that God is a good father because we have earned his goodness towards us (but deep down we know we have not)! Now we say it is because of God’s grace, but we deep down believe it because we have read our bibles and we pray, and we are here and I know this because this is how we live our Christianity out!
The crisis of this passage and of the human heart, is I don’t deserve God to be good to me, I don’t deserve the good gifts of the father, if God is truly good that should be more terrifying, because I know I am not!
What I have done so that I can ask the king of the universe? What have I done so that he might come down off his throne and help me in my seeking or knocking? Nothing! I have been against him my whole life, and at best, I have simply been indifferent to him.
I don’t deserve a good father, never mind a good father that answers when I ask, or helps me when I seeks or opens the door when I knock! I don’t deserve this, and yet Jesus says this is the father I have. And this is the beauty of the Christian message and the beauty of the gospel.
The very message of the gospel is completely different to any message out there, we are children of the father not because we have earned his acceptance, not because we are religious, moral, or good enough, but because Jesus made us good enough! The important reality of this is that we are his not on our own merit (and that changes everything), therefore we can trust him to be a good father!
This is truly profound and this is why I said in the beginning simple faith doesn’t help! Childlike faith is what is important! I need a faith that has the complexity of what Christ did because I am a complex mess of short-comings, and but because of Christ I am a child, and so I can trust my father to be good!
I can lean heavily upon him, ask deeply of him, knock loudly and know he will be there, precisely because he is good!
So what if I ask wrong, what if I ask for the wrong thing, what if I seek the wrong thing, what If I knock on the wrong door? Well, does that change what Christ did? Does that make me less of a child, so can I trust God to be a good father? Of course! But in this I can trust Him to give good things precisely because he is a good father!
So what if I ask for the wrong thing? Well he will be a good father and not give it to me! What if I seek the wrong thing? Well, he is a good father he will steer me clear, what if I knock on the wrong door? Well as a good father he will keep that door shut! Precisely because he is a good father!
I don’t know about you, but this gives me a child-like dependency, coupled with a child-like security to know that my good father is good.
We had the experience of this a while back when after years of my boy being sick (in and out of hospital), that a test came back positive of him having cystic fibrosis (which is a heart wrenching disease – basically meaning that my son will be profoundly sick his whole life). I remember sitting on the corner of my bed and just weeping, I was devastated, and had every right to be. But in that pain and heart ache I did not have the answers, I did not have hope that we would come out of this, I did not even have hope that my son would be miraculously healed – all that would be too simple. I had the small cry of a child to my good father, and in waves, through the pain and uncertainty, I knew that even this even the worst he was still my good father!
I believed Rom 8:28
“28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”
The peace came through the pain, in the struggle, in light of the circumstances. And it was precisely because I knew that his goodness to me was guaranteed, not on what I had done, but on what Christ had done. That I knew my father to be good!
Do you see? Do you get it? God is good!
Now, Jesus tells us if we do we will live this out in our love to others.
3. We should respond as children
Jesus finishes this passage saying; So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
It is precisely because God is our good father, by the grace of Christ that we have the abundance of love and hope to treat others with undue love and care, as if we are caring for ourselves.
If you can through Christ, trust that you have a good father, what is it to do treat others with love.
If God is for us, who can be against us? What is it to sacrifice, because our father will be good. What is it to go without, our father is still good.
Church, we don’t want to care for and love people and draw them into the kingdom because this will give us brownie points, we want to do this because we know our father is good to those who don’t deserve it, we want to share that reality because we have discovered what we could never earn on our own. This motivates us towards the other, to the helpless to the lost, because we are the other, we are the helpless we are the lost and yet because of Christ we are the fathers.
So, I come to you this morning not to stoke up simple faith, but to call you to rest in child-like trust! If Christ has paid it all, we can know our father is good, so ask, seek knock and in all this live out your sonship in the world you find yourself.