Pastor David Boone continues his series on “The Kingdom: What it’s like” by drawing out God’s relationship to his children and our response to him. This week’s sermon can be found in Matthew 7:7-12.
New Covenant Fellowship is a Georgetown Church.
part 15 – people of prayer
December 20, 2007. Let us not forget that a few months ago, we prayed in our triad/tribe meeting that God would provide financially for the Davis family as money was looking slim. In the past month God has provided in HUGE ways in the fact that Richelle has received two raises (a dollar an hour each) and a humongous Christmas bonus.
Praise God for His provision and let us not fail to give Him thanks and glory and honor!!!
November 26, 2012. For years and years the Curlees tried to have children but could not. For a few years Dustin and I prayed and prayed that God would open Jennifer’s womb that she may bear a child. And lo and behold, on November 26, 2012 Jameson Dean Curlee was born at 5:14 pm He was 7 lbs 1 oz, 18″ today we see post after post on Facebook of that beautiful child who is the answer to persistent prayer.
I could share with you example after example after example from my own life of God answering prayer.
He is a God who calls us to pray and to pray persistently and he answers those prayers. This morning we move forward in our series on life in the Kingdom and we see that as citizens of the Kingdom we are called to be a people of persistent prayer and that God, our Heavenly Father gladly and graciously grants the requests of His children, for he is the giver of good gifts.
Turn with me to Matt 7. As you turn there, I will catch you up on where we are.
Text Matt 7:7-12 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.
Now, this passage has been misunderstood and misapplied and on the surface of it, we can understand why. As humans we are selfish by nature so our attitude is usually “what’s in it for me?” And I remember when I first became a believer I read this text and I thought to myself, “Wow, now that I’m a Christian, I can ask God for whatever I want and he will give it to me.” Because after all, the text says, “Ask and it will be given to you…everyone who asks receives.”
So I first understood this text in such a way that rendered God as sort of a genie in a lamp who exists to grant me not only 3 wishes but an infinite number of wishes, and when I pray, my wish is his command.
GOD IS NOT A GENIE WHO EXISTS TO GRANT ME WISHES
However over time, as I grew in my faith and my understanding of God, his nature, and in my knowledge of the Scriptures, I began to understand that God is not a genie who exists to grant wishes. My wish is not his command. If that was the case, then that would make me the master and God my servant, but it’s actually the other way around. God is my master and I am his servant; I exist to serve Him and His wish is my command.
So before we go any farther in discussing our text, I believe it is important to understand that posture first and foremost. When we approach him in prayer in response to Ask and you will receive, we must do so with the proper posture; we, the servants are beseeching the Master.
COMPARE SCRIPTURE W/SCRIPTURE (JAMES 4)
One of the things that we want to keep in mind is that we have to compare scripture with Scripture. The Bible is the best commentary on the Bible. Since we are discussing the doctrine of prayer, it is important to compare Jesus’ words here in Matt 7 with other passages on prayer. Keep your finger in Matt 7, and turn with me to James 4.
Notice how often we have turned to the book of James for commentary on the SOM.
James 4:1ff 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battlewithin you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
So James is pointing out that people quarrel and fight because of selfish desires. We want something and don’t get it. We have this earthly limited horizontal perspective. And we tend to try to obtain everything we want by earthly means, fighting with others, quarreling, taking from others. Then look what he says in verse 2. You do not have because you do not ask God. There it is. Very similar to Jesus’ words: Ask and you will receive…everyone who asks receives. You don’t have because you don’t ask. Instead of a limited, earthly mentality that says I will procure my desires by my own means and methods, we should look to God. We don’t have because we don’t ask God. You’re looking horizontally instead of vertically.
Then look what James says in verse 3. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, He says you don’t have because you don’t ask God. And when you ask you don’t receive. But I thought that Jesus said ask and you will receive. Why would they not receive? He answers that: because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. So very clearly here, we see that God is not a genie in a lamp who exists to simply grant every request that is asked of him. That selfish earthly mentality that leads to quarreling and fighting is also what makes people ask God for things they shouldn’t ask for.
Again, in the Kingdom, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. If our prayers are uttered with selfish motives we cannot expect that God will grant those requests.
Ask and it will be given to you, for everyone who asks receives, but what are we asking for and why? This comes down to the motives of the heart, which God sees and knows.
NOT A GENIE, BUT THE KING
So God is not a genie in a lamp who exists to serve us, but he is the Sovereign King and we exist to serve him. His wish is our command. And we see clearly that Scripture plainly says that prayers driven by selfish motives are not the kind of prayers that God answers. Well…he answers them but the answer is no. And there is a good reason for that.
The reason is that God is not only our sovereign King, but he is our Heavenly Father and generally speaking, a father seeks to protect his children from harm, which means that sometimes the answer should be no.
WHAT A PRIVILEGE
This is amazing news. God is not only the Sovereign King, but he is our Heavenly Father. What an awesome privilege. We get to call God, “Father.” Jesus encourages prayer (and if you want to look at it this way, he commands it, in a sense). He says, Ask. That is imperative. Ask, he says. He’s not just saying, hey, try to do what you can with your limited earthly resources and then if all else fails, pray as a last resort. Prayer should be the way of citizens of the Kingdom. It should be a regular part of our daily lives. We serve a God who is not a far off God who has nothing to do with his people, but a God who is intimately involved in the affairs of our lives and comes into a covenant relationship with us through his son Jesus Christ. And that relationship is not just any relationship, it is that of a father with his children. What a privilege!
A FATHER PROVIDES FOR THE NEEDS OF CHILDREN
And just as a father provides for the needs of his children, so also our heavenly father provides for our needs. In our text, Jesus gives a few examples. In vv 9 & 10 we read: 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?
Consider those examples. If a son asks for bread or fish. Those are needs. A father provides for a child’s needs and so also God as father provides for our needs.
I can tell you that as a father I am honored when my children come to me and say, “Daddy, I need your help. I have a need and I know that you can help.” I believe that God is also honored when we express our needs and desires to him, for he is delighted to help; he is delighted to provide for our needs, to come to our aid.
And so, we are called, even commanded (if you will), to ask. For whoever asks receives.
GIVER OF GOOD GIFTS
And look at the nature of that which God gives. God is the giver of good gifts. He says in Matt 7:11ff 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!
Wow. Not very flattering, is that? The point is that God is infinitely better than earthly fathers. This text may not resonate with you. You may be thinking, “well, maybe your dad knew how to give good gifts but my dad gave me nothing but a broken home. Maybe your dad was a good provider, but my dad was a deadbeat. Maybe your dad was eager to help and wanted you to ask him, but every time I went to my dad, it was clearly a bother and an irritation; he would rather have been left alone. Maybe you didn’t have the ideal dad.
Jesus is pointing out that all dads, even the best of dads, are evil, fallen, sinful, flawed. So if you had the worst dad on the planet you may play the comparison game and say that the difference between your terrible father and the best father is ginormous, in reality, when you bring our Heavenly Father into the comparison game and compare the best dad to God, the difference between your terrible dad and the best dad are but a sliver, minute, they almost look identical. Because our Heavenly Father is infinitely better than our earthly fathers, no matter how great they were.
And if you had a terrible dad, I’m sorry if a passage like this brings up painful memories, but the good news is, if you are in Christ, you now have in God the best father you could ever imagine.
And if evil human beings know how to give good gifts, how much more does our heavenly father in whom there is no evil, know how to give good gifts to those who ask. He is the giver of good gifts.
DOESN’T MEAN NO PAIN, NO STRUGGLE, NO PROBLEMS
Again, notice the nature of that which God gives; good. He gives what is good. Now that does not mean that he is promising that you will have health, wealth, prosperity and a life of no struggle, no pain, no problems. It means that he will give us what we need and what is for our ultimate good.
It may not always be what we think is good for us, but we can trust our infinitely wise and infinitely good Father to know what is best for us.
For example, as a father, if one of my children is ill, and they say, daddy, I want to get better. I know that the best thing for them may be some medicine that tastes bitter & disgusting. They don’t see how that is good for them; it tastes horrible and so from their perspective it’s terrible. They say, no daddy, not that. But I know as a father that it is what they need and it is for their good. So while they don’t want it and they don’t see the need for it and they think it’s not good but bad, I will do what is for their ultimate good and I will see that they take that bitter medicine. So sometimes our Father in Heaven likewise will give us a bitter cup to drink; we may not see the good in it, but He knows what is best for us and we should trust Him to give us what we need.
SCISSORS, WALKING IN STREET
Other times we may want something. We see something that we think is the greatest thing ever. Maybe it’s a relationship with someone. Maybe it’s a new position at work. It could be any number of things that appear to be good from our perspective. You and I are looking from down here. God is looking from not only a bird’s eye view, but like God’s eye view. And from His view, in his infinite wisdom He knows that it is not for our ultimate good. In that case, as a good father, his answer will be, “No, my son or no, my daughter.”
Consider my 6 year old daughter doing crafts, using scissors to cut out construction paper. She gets up to use the restroom and my one year old son spots those shiny scissors. He thinks that is the prize. He wants them. He thinks it is the greatest idea ever. If he climbs up on the chair and grabs for those scissors, as a father who wants what is best for his son, my answer will be no, son. The reason, is that it is not good for my son to have those scissors. Or if he wants to walk out in the middle of the street with cars coming. The answer is no.
Of course he throws a fit and he thinks I’m a big meanie. He thinks it is the end of the world. He thinks I don’t love him and I want to keep him from good things, but in reality, I am doing what is best for him by withholding that which he wants.
If we as evil dads, want to give our children bitter medicine for their good though they don’t see it, and we protect them from sharp scissors and getting run over by cars because that is not in their best interest, can we not trust our heavenly father in whom there is no evil to give us what is good and withhold what is not in our best interest?
Sometimes, like my 1 year old, we don’t know what is ultimately good for us, so that means we have to trust God in his goodness. We think that struggles and pain and problems are always bad and we think God should keep them from happening to us. But I can say from experience that some of the biggest problems I have had, some of the most painful experiences I have had have drawn me closer to my heavenly father and taught me the most, brought me to greater maturity. And in hindsight, I am thankful that God gave me those things that I didn’t want, but he knew I needed them for my ultimate good.
I ask God for wisdom and maturity and spiritual growth, I say, father I want to get better, and he gives me a bitter cup of good medicine because that is for my ultimate good and he knows what is best.
SPIRITUAL NEEDS AS WELL AS PHYSICAL
Not only does he provide for our earthly needs, such as bread and fish, but he provides for our spiritual needs.
In the parallel passage in Luke 11:11ff we read11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] 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!”
God gives us His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to transform our hearts and sanctify us, making us Holy, making us more like Jesus. So Jesus doesn’t just give us this list of ways that we need to live and then say go and do it in your own strength, he gives his spirit to dwell in us and move us to holiness, to move us to obey his decrees. The Kingdom age is the age of the regeneration in which God puts his spirit in Israel and cleanses his people moving them to obey him in righteousness.
So we have this very interactive relationship with God in which we pray and ask for his strength and ability to walk in his ways and he gives us of his spirit to empower us to righteous living.
THE GOLDEN RULE
Now Jesus brings his sermon to a close. He says in verse 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Your version may say therefore. That is a connecting word that says based on what I have just said. In this case, I believe it is a massive therefore. I believe this “therefore” is not simply pointing back to this section on asking and receiving, but that it reaches all the way back into chapter 5 and encompasses the entire body of the message. The introduction was the beatitudes, those blessed are statements. Then he transitioned into the body of the message with the statements about the law and the prophets. Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.
Beyond AD 70, God’s true people are no longer under the bondage of the LOM, but Jesus calls his people to live consistently with the heart and spirit of the law and the prophets. And one can do so by living according to one simple command: Do to others what you would have them do to you. That sums up the whole thing. Our rule for life in the Kingdom which encompasses all of the specific things that the bible does address as well as those areas about which it is silent are all encompassed in this one rule, do to others what you would have them do to you.
To reach back into the text,
Wouldn’t you want your brother to come to you and reconcile with you if there was something between you? Then do that. Even if you are in the middle of worshiping God and you recall that broken relationship, go and make peace.
Wouldn’t you want your spouse to have eyes only for you instead of looking lustfully with wandering eyes? Then do not look lustfully upon others.
Wouldn’t you want your spouse to be faithfully committed to you and you alone as long as you both shall live? Then commit to a life-long marriage union.
Wouldn’t you want others to be people of their word, trustworthy to tell the truth in all matters. Then be people of your word, the kind of people who don’t need to say, “I swear” in order to undergird the truth of your statements because you are always trustworthy, your yes is yes.
Wouldn’t you want people to forgive you and forego vengeance? Then don’t be people of vengeance, be a people of pardon.
Wouldn’t you want people to love you? Then love others.
Wouldn’t you want other people to just be real, authentic, and not put on a mask and front, acting like they are better than they are? Then be real, authentic people who don’t put on a show to draw attention to yourself in order to give the impression that you are better than them or better than you really are.
If you were in need, wouldn’t you want others to be generous givers? Then out of the abundance that you have be generous givers to those in need.
This one command, do to others as you would have them do to you is the Golden Rule, which sums up the law and the prophets.
So we see that even though as believers in the New Covenant we are not under the stipulations of the Law of Moses, God does call us to have the same righteous character to which he has always called his people. The spirit of the Law flows into the New Covenant and is summed up in the simple command to do to others what you would have them do to you.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
So in conclusion, what does it mean? Having looked at Matt 7:7-12, what does it mean for you and I living as citizens of the Kingdom? It means that God is not a genie in a lamp who exists to grant our wishes, but he is the master and we exist to serve him. He is only our sovereign king but our heavenly father who is infinitely better than all earthly fathers, a father who is a giver of good gifts, who encourages, even commands us to ask of him; we should be a people of prayer and for those who ask with godly, noble, right desires which flow from a right heart, God is eager to grant those desires. For God is the giver of good gifts.