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Bible Search
Rightly Dividing the Word
“Ask, Seek, Knock”
Matthew 7:7-12
Last week we took a look at the first six verses of Matthew 7 to kick off a new series called “Rightly Dividing the Word”.  There are a lot of Bible verses that are misquoted and misapplied, and the first verse of Matthew 7 probably ranks very near the top of that list when it says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
And that is the motto of today’s culture when it says, “You have no right to judge me!”  But Jesus was talking about having a critical spirit.  He wasn’t saying we shouldn’t be discerning or never make a moral judgment or even a conduct judgment.  We have to do that to rightly minister and share the faith.  But we don’t have to be hateful and critical and look down our spiritual nose when we do. 
Now this verse is found in a section of Scripture that deals with human relationships and as I said last week, every conceivable problem in human relations is addressed in this section of Scripture. The first six verses deal with it in a negative way; the final six, in a positive way. 
And even though it isn’t necessarily a misquoted or misapplied section, since it is a part of the context of what we looked at last week, I want to deal with the remainder of the text tonight. 
On the negative side, as far as human relationships go, Jesus says, “Stop criticizing!”  On the positive side, He says, “Start loving.”
Listen to what we read in
Matthew 7:7-12
Now verse 12 is the key verse, and the first part of verse 12 is the focal phrase of the key.  You will recognize that phrase as a version of the “Golden Rule”.  And that is why I say this passage of Scripture addresses every conceivable relationship issue. 
Every other part of the passage connects to and flows from and relates to this one great truth.  Now there is the problem with this instruction:  it can’t be done in human strength.  That means the ethical requirements of the Golden Rule are only possible to believers.  There is no ability within a natural human to function as this verse instructs.
Let me explain what I mean by that.  If we had time to study the first six chapters of the book of Matthew leading up to this passage, we would discover that Matthew’s perspective on the ministry of Jesus is two-fold. 
First, he sees it as a monarchy in which God is a reigning, ruling, sovereign king, and we are the subjects of His kingdom.
But also Matthew points out the fact, and so does our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, that we are a family.
And here’s how life works for a believer:  The kingdom concept deals with rules of conduct in the kingdom and the family concept deals with relationships in the family.
I explain that only so we will have in mind as we come to this particular section of the Sermon on the Mount that we are dealing with relationships among people. We are dealing with relationships.  That is the subject of these first 12 verses.  We are a family, and it is hard to over-emphasize the importance of that fact. 
In fact, I am convinced that the two greatest, strongest elements of Christian truth are within the framework of that relationship. I mean by that, “God is our Father, and Christians are our brothers and sisters.”  There is nothing more important in the Christian faith than those two relationships. 
Want proof?  Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:  "The first and great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second is like unto it, to love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus said you can sum up all Biblical revelation, you can sum up all divine data, and you can boil it down to the reality of two things: relationship with the Father and relationship with brothers and sisters. We're a family. God is our Father. Christians are our brothers and sisters.
Now it seems to me we put a whole lot more emphasis on the first than we do the second.  We talk a lot about our Father in Heaven.  We pray that way, we speak of Him in that way, we sing about it and rightly so. 
But Jesus said, the second is like the first.  And sometimes we treat our brothers and sisters terribly!
But the second is the natural outgrowth of the first.  In fact, you can't have the second unless you have the first. But if you have the first, the second should be true as well.  Unless we are rightly related to God, it is impossible to fulfill this ethical standard in verse 12. But when we are rightly related to God, it is expected that we will fulfill its requirements. 
So, in a nutshell, after warning us to not have a critical spirit that ignores our own problems, the Lord then turns His attention to teaching us how to love one another. 
By the way, one other thing I want to note about the Sermon on the Mount and this passage in particular. 
It is designed to bring listeners to the point of saying, “We can’t do that.  If these are the qualifications, then we are unqualified to be in God's kingdom or His family”  And when a person comes to that point, then they are ready to be saved.  We must come to the end of ourselves and understand how hopeless and helpless we are in order to be saved. 
And notice the very next thing Jesus says: 
Verses 13-14
In so many words, He says, “I've shown you where you are. You can keep going down the broad way that leads to destruction if you choose.  Or, you can enter in at the narrow gate that leads to eternal life.”  He is simply extending the invitation. 
So we come, then, to this area of human relationships, and remember, these are written to believers.  This is instruction for the children of God. On the negative side, stop criticizing and on the positive side, start loving, and the key is that we are to do as we would have them do.
That is the principle.  So why should we do that? Jesus gives three reasons we should to obey it. 
  1.  The Purpose of God Demands It
Verse 12
Now we’ll look at the “therefore” in a moment, but for now, let’s focus on the last part of verse 12. Jesus says we should treat others as we want to be treated because this is the Law and the Prophets.  In other words, this is the whole point of all the Scripture. This is the sum of the Old Testament.
For example, we read in Exodus, chapter 20, starting in verse 12  that thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not covet, all of those things are simply a summation of, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." You don't want them to kill you, steal from you, covet from you, commit adultery against you, so don’t do it to them. 
All the Ten Commandments is simply an expansion and detailed explanation of the two principles of loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself. 
If I love God with everything I am, I will not have any other gods before Him, I will not take His name in vain and I will not desecrate the Sabbath Day.
If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I will not kill my neighbor, I will not covet what my neighbor owns, I will not steal from my neighbor, I will not commit adultery with my neighbor and so forth. 
All the Ten Commandments do is add some detail to this basic, fundamental instruction to love God and love my neighbor.   And Jesus says, all the law and the prophets hang on those two basics. 
People say, "Oh, the Bible is so complex. There are so many verses and it’s so diverse and hard to understand.  No it isn’t!  How about this: 
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s it.  That’s not hard to understand at all. 
That is the requirement and the purpose of God demands it. This is the whole reason for the whole revelation. This whole thing is wasted unless we are obedient to that.
The second reason we are to keep this ethic is because
  1. The Promise of God Delivers
Now let’s back up to the beginning of verse 12 and the word therefore and see what it is pointing to.  “Therefore” is directing our attention to verses 7-11 which lead up to the principle of the Golden Rule.
verses 7-11
Now just to be clear on the flow of the text, Jesus first of all talks about the problem of a critical spirit and warns against that.  Then to lead up to the governing principle He wants His hearers to learn, he provided an illustration and that’s what we have in these verses. 
Now in verses 7 and 8 He says that whatever we ask and seek and knock for, we're going to receive. I would venture to say that 9 times out of 10, when this verse is quoted or used, it is is apart from the context in which it is palce here in Scripture. 
But don’t miss this.  Jesus is not giving us a free pass to anything we want and all we’ve got to do is just come to God and ask.  He is talking about learning how to love others and treat others as we want to be treated. 
And in that setting, we can feel free to give to others and to do for others and to sacrifice for others and to love others because we can be confident that, in giving up all we have to someone else, we have an ultimate and eternal resource to replenish our own needs.
I mean, the promise of God to me that what I ask for and seek for and knock for will be given to me frees me up to bestow anything and everything I have on the one that has the need.
Therefore, I can do unto others what I would do for myself without fear of having nothing left, because all I have to do is turn to my loving Father and He will take care of me.
He gives me bread for every day and takes care of me in every way, and I will never do without that which I need when I am free of a critical spirit and determined, by the Spirit of God, to love others as I love my self. 
That is a far cry from the way we live, and by the way, it is a far cry from the way we usually handle this verse. 
We are so selfish and possessive, and so arrogant we think we can live any way we want to and God is obligated to take care of every need and it’s all about us.  We have it complete backwards. 
But there is even more to this passage that we need to see.  At first reading, this passage seems to be a jumbled collection of random tidbits of information that don’t fit together.  I don't believe that.
I think there is a masterful handling of this information as the Lord transitions from 6 into 7 and then from 7 into 9 and 10 and then into 11 and then into 12.  There is this beautiful, majestic flow as this teaching comes together.  Let me show you what I mean. 
One of the main questions people have regarding this text is why Jesus doesn’t give the principle, then share the illustration.  It is because the illustration fits both sides of the teaching.  The illustration goes with verse 6 and with verse 12 so it’s in a perfect place. 
Watch:  The negative principle of human relations in verses 1 through 5a is don’t judge. Don't criticize. Don't be a gossiping, backbiting critic.
But the danger of that is we never deal with sin or just ignore what is going on.  We have to use discernment when it comes to doctrine and teaching as well. 
That’s why, in verse 5, it says, even though we're not to judge, we are to see clearly to cast a splinter out of our brother's eye. We have to go to fellow believers and see the sin in their life and confront it and do all we can to see them restored. And we have to be careful we don't throw holy things to dogs and we don't throw pearls to swine.
So how do we make those determinations?  How do we tell the dogs and the hogs? 
The answer is verse 6
“Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you." Listen, who is able to discriminate? Who is able to judge? Who is able to discern?  Who is able to know when you've got somebody that you don't want to throw your pearls to? Who is able to discern when you have someone there that you don't want to give a holy thing to because you know they'll tramp it under their feet? Who is it that's able to see sin in a believer's life and lovingly go and restore that believer?
I'll tell you who it is. It's God!  God alone has that kind of discernment. And so if you want to have it, there’s only one place you can go for that information and that is down on your knees.
And so we have to ask and seek and knock, and He reveals to us. And I believe that's the bridge that the Spirit of God would have us see there. It helps us know how to get that splinter out of a brother's eye and how to be careful about giving holy things to dogs and casting pearls before swine.
So in that regard, this text reaches back. But it also reaches forward to tell me how I can be free to give to others and love them as I am commanded. 
Jesus says, “If you will love others as you love yourself, I will resource you so you’ll have everything you need to do it.  “Just ask and I'll give it.”
The purpose of God demands that I do and the promise of God delivers when I do it.  So I do it not only because of the purpose of God to be obedient to the law and the prophets, but I do it out of gratitude for His generosity.
And, finally, there's a third reason. Not only does the purpose of God demand it and the promise of God deliver it,
  1. The Pattern of God Designs It
If I’m going to run around claiming to be a child of God, then there better be some family traits in my life to back up my claim.  Ephesians 5:1 says, “As dear children, we are to walk as God walks.”
People say our kids look like us. Tough, but true. Not only do they look like us, they act like us and they are like us. And if I claim to be a child of God, there ought to be some resemblance.
So in regard to that, Jesus uses this insightful illustration in
verse 9
Obviously, a loving Father would never do that.  I read last week about the arrest of the mother of a 10-year-old girl in Albuquerque, New Mexico who was found dead and dismembered who told police she looked for men online and at work to sexually assault her daughter, not because she needed money, but because she enjoyed watching. 
The normal mind can’t even conceive of such atrocities.  In fact, Jesus says we would find it abnormal if a child should ask for some bread or a fish to eat and his father should substitute a stone or a snake or eel. 
Obviously a child can’t eat rocks and snakes and eels are unclean animals.  The expectation is that a normal, loving father would take care of the needs of his son.  A father will not purposely deceive his son, nor will he purposely defile his son.
verse 11
If a father with an evil, fallen and sinful nature knows how to take care of his boy with nothing other than sense of parental love and responsibility, “then how much more” will your Father in Heaven give good things to you when you ask? 
The idea that I see here is that God is the absolute giving Father, who gives to all what they need, knowing full well they could never give back to Him anything, in kind or measure.
And if that's the way He is, then isn't that the way we, His children, should be toward others?
His purpose demands it. It's the whole reason for the law. His promise frees us up to do it, because He will replenish everything that we do for others. And here we find the majesty of this thought, His pattern is this way to us.
How can we say we are His children and do less for others?
“Therefore,” verse 12 says, “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them”. Stop criticizing and start loving!
Let's pray.
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