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Ask, Seek and Knock

by Graeme Tattersall

"Ask, and it shall be given unto you: seek and ye shall find:
knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children,
how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

Matthew 7: 7-12.

The sermon Jesus delivered on the mount that day was the first of two such lessons, the second is recorded in Luke 6:17ff. Included in the first audience were people from the eastern territories, Decapolis and beyond the Jordan (Matt. 4: 25). However, those who heard the second address included people from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon, places on the western side of the country. Some would argue that both Matthew and Luke are recording the one and same occasion, but, to me, the Scriptures are pointing to two gatherings.

Be that as it may, by the time Jesus had reached the portion of Scripture we know as Matthew 7: 7-12 He had taught many things, and also thrown new light on many important teachings that had always been in the Law given to Moses. He stripped away the suppositions and the "add-ons", and cut through the scribal oral law that made Judaism such a ponderous and burdensome religion. He contrasted their ritualistic practices with the true goodness God had always sought in His people, He made it clear that there were no "ifs" about the righteousness God expected from them, nor were there any "ifs" in His teaching about the habits and practices that had to cease. (No one that day, nor any other ever heard Jesus say: "may", "might be", "could be" or "perhaps") - Jesus spoke with authority!

He spoke freely, there were no parables as He put in place the ground rules for those who follow Him until the end of time. From that day forward, His every follower was to be a disciple, and be bound by His teaching, and so conduct themselves to be pleasing to God, and a blessing to man. Peter would later say in Acts 2:22 Jesus was a man proved to them by God Himself through the works of power, and miracles and signs. When the "multitudes" came to Him to be healed, and to see Him healing, He would use the opportunity to teach them.

And what He was teaching, what they had to learn, was that if they were to be pleasing to God, they had to make some difficult personal changes. If they were sincere in their desire and accepted His teaching, they had to do a turn around in their thinking, they would need to repent, and with that change of heart, there were before them difficult duties that they would be required to perform. Duties like "going the second mile", "turning the other cheek", "to bless rather than curse", "caring about enemies", "to quietly go about doing good", etc. etc.

Like them, we listen intently to this great sermon, a sermon that begins with the promise of blessings, and which closes with the challenge to obedience. My lesson today is to show that not only does a follower of Christ need to persist and seek the truth, but having found it, he is to accept it, embrace it, and be transformed by it. So we begin:

In Matthew 7: 7-11 Jesus directs our thoughts upward to God, the source of strength needed for our journey into faithful obedience; for strength to keep to our promised repentance to ever face away from worldliness. Jesus tells us to ask of God, and that prayer is the appointed means of obtaining what we need; and we do need grace to obey the precepts Jesus has given, many of which are so difficult and displeasing to our natural selves.

We are to pray and to pray often, we are to pray sincerely and earnestly but we are also told that though we are to ask God for strength to remain obedient to His call, more is required of us. We are to "seek" and "knock", and that implies that "seeking" and "knocking", is something more than asking and praying. God has promised whatever we ask for, if we do His will, (1 John 3: 22): and being obedient to Him is doing His will! And Jesus says in Matthew 7 :7-8 to those who would follow Him, to those who would seek to do the Father's will: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.". We're being told that no matter how difficult it may seem to do the will of the Father, that the possibility to do so, is open to all. Everyone is invited to "ask", "seek", and "knock".

There is the sure promise of God's help to those who hear and obey the teaching of Jesus Christ. He will hear our prayers, when we search we will find, and the door will always be opened to us. In this, God is extending an invitation, He is inviting men to life! To eternal life, and an abundant life. Mankind is being invited back to God, that rather than being condemned through our sins, we can turn around, and through Jesus, have life everlasting. But meantime, we are invited to the abundant life, that can be ours now through His Son. Jesus said "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10: 10).

What a wonderful invitation! A life of eternal bliss with the Lord, when we pass from this world, and an abundant life now! Here Jesus tells us about this invitation, how we are to accept the invitation, and the welcome awaiting us. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus brings to an end any ignorance of God, and any ignorance of the attitudes, and behaviour God expected from His people. These days, we would say, Jesus supplied us with product information. God knew that we needed to know what to ask for, we needed to know why we should make the request. When men come to God and want to be in a right relationship with God, they have to be aware of their needs, and why it is urgent to ask for those needs to be met.

It is a sad thing, but millions of people, including those in denominations, believe that so long as they believe in Jesus, believe in God, they will be saved. But the truth is that the gospel of Jesus Christ not only reveals that all men are sinners (Rom. 3: 23), it also reveals the only way of salvation, it reveals the only way we can be saved from our sins.

When man knows the gospel, when he understands and accepts its message and all that it implies, he turns to God (the biblical word is repentance), he believes the gospel, and in that belief, he confesses his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. In his first act of faith, being baptised by immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins, he is forgiven; he has made his first request, and proves God to be true. "Ask, and it will be given to you". At this point God's invitation has been received and accepted. The forgiven sinner has responded to God's plan of salvation. We have come to know our needs, we have made our request, and it's been granted. We've made it! We're saved! We've satisfied our religious obligation! But that's only the beginning!

Back then when we turned to God, when we repented, we promised God we'd be faithful to Him, so our request for salvation was simply the first step in a lifetime of walking faithfully with our Lord. Until then the responsibility for our salvation had been God's. Christians are told, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2: 8-9). But the walking faithfully is our responsibility, and to do that, we have to know all of our Lord's teaching. We are to seek out the truth, the standard for life God sets before us, and live to it. That Scripture in Ephesians 2 continues in v.10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them".

On the mountain that day, Jesus told His disciples and all who would believe on Him through their word, "Seek!". To "seek" implies searching, it implies that we are to exercise diligence, and that involves a deliberate and practical effort on our part. In 1 Timothy 4: 16 is the command that a Christian must take heed of himself, and to the doctrine (the teaching of Christ). That he must continue in them, for in doing this, he will save both himself and those who hear him. The we should know the truth and live it, thereby showing God's way to others. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we read in effect that the man of God must be diligent to present himself approved of God, a worker who does not need to ashamed. That is something that does not come with our baptism!

Rather than a faith that is passive, we're to leave "no stone unturned" to rightly understand the Scriptures. To seek, requires an individual work on our part, it's our personal responsibility. That's the way it's always been for God's people. As the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:29 "But if from there you shall seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul". Those who prefer a "laid-back" approach to a life in Christ should look at this verse, because no Christian is that strong that their endeavours to seek the Lord can be anything less than earnest. That was the message to the Israelites, and today it is the same message to Christians.

But like the Israelites of old who crossed into the Promised Land and proceeded to do their own thing, there are so many Christians whose souls fail to prosper after being translated from the power of darkness and into the kingdom of God's dear Son - the church! Their problem is that they've asked, but they have failed to seek. They will look at a brother or sister in Christ who is strong in faith and see the difference between their spirituality as being a matter of individual disposition; the strong brother or sister have temperaments that incline them that way. What nonsense! If they would seek, if they would search the Scriptures, they would find men and women of ALL dispositions whose faith was strong and whose souls prospered. For instance they may read the account of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There they would discover that each of these men had very different personalities, different temperaments. Isaac, it seems was the quiet on of an illustrious father, and the quiet father of an illustrious son. Each of these men life began with different goals, but as time passed each became men of faith in the living God. Each were hard workers, each of them had trials, great trials of faith, but, these men with their differing natures, humbled themselves before God, accepted His way for them, and they were made great!

Isaac didn't point to his dad saying Abraham was a better man because that was the way God made him, nor did he declare Jacob to be better than himself, because that was the way God made him! The Christian whose soul is not prospering should see that each of these great men of the past, bowed before God and accepted His way for them, and their souls prospered.

Christians whose growth in faith is somewhat stunted might look also at the twelve disciples Jesus called. Peter was rash, forward and presumptuous; on the other hand his brother Andrew seems to have been a strong communicator. Jesus called the two other brothers, James and John, "sons of thunder". It seems from Luke 9: 54 they both had fiery dispositions. It is very probable that Nathaniel (John 1: 45ff) was later known as Bartholomew, (Luke 6: 14), Jesus noted this about him in John 1:47 "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile". There was no deceitfulness in him.

That fact is, that as we continue to study the various dispositions of these twelve men, it must be concluded that their natures were "poles apart", and all, save Judas Iscariot (the son of perdition), went on to become faithful apostles of Jesus Christ. How was that? Well, some would argue that having received the Holy Spirit who would lead them into all truth, living faithfully would be the natural outcome in their lives. In a way that is correct, but when they received the Holy Spirit they were empowered as we read in 1 Corinthians 2:12 "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God". They were, through the Holy Spirit, able to reveal the word of God. The Holy Spirit also gave them power to confirm the word by performing miraculous signs.

As to the advantage they had over us, that was the extent of the Holy Spirit in their lives. From then on, it was their responsibility to "seek" to use that knowledge by applying the revealed truth, the teaching of Christ, to their lives. Each of those apostles had to work out their own salvation, had to make the same commitment to a Christ led life, exactly as we do today!
Peter, is another one example of the change that took place in these men who became apostles. Once a rash, forward, and presumptuous man, he humbled himself, and learned. He became the apostle to the Jews, (Galatians 2: 7) A shepherd to the flock (1 Peter 5: 1), and a Christlike example to all (1 Peter 5: 3b). Peter followed in his Master's footsteps. What he taught, he did.

In his second letter 1: 5ff having already told us that now that we are saved, that we have through Jesus Christ the most precious promises made to men, that God by His own action has given us everything that is necessary for an abundant life and holiness. He says that it is now up to us to be diligent, to be determined to escape worldliness and its lusts. And He gives us vital steps for living faithfully, by telling us to be persistent about implementing the whole of the revealed will of God in our lives.

If it's essential to know the Gospel, to know the truth of God to become a Christian, it's crucial for the Christian to embrace that truth and let it govern his life. Peter says (v.4) our effort, our labour, will result in a loveliness of life like no other, because we'll share the divine nature. The first thing we have to work at is adding virtue or courage to our faith. Our faith must not be a hidden thing, it must be a living service to God and man; Christians must have the courage to show that we belong to God, and that it is Him only we serve. To virtue/courage, we must add knowledge, that is, the ability to enable us to decide rightly, and to act honourably, in the day to day circumstances of life. (If you don't think seeking this quality in life is hard, there is a strong possibility you haven't tried it!)

Peter hasn't finished with us yet, he says the next thing we must add to our faith, (incidentally, none of these qualities are optional, we must see to them), the next thing we are to add to our faith is temperance. The realism of this quality, is seen in the fact that with all our human passions, when we have temperance, or self-control, we can keep those passions under perfect control, so that instead of them being our tyrants, they are our servants.

To this self-control we are to add patience. That is, we are cheerfully to endure, no matter what life throws at us, to consider every happening as just another step on our upward way. The Hebrew writer speaking of Jesus in Heb. 12:2b "...who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame..." That's the patience Peter says we're to add to our faith. Next we're to add godliness, That is the quality that correctly worships and serves God, and also serves man by giving him his proper due. Do we see the practical qualities God wants us to seek and have in our lives?

Following, is brotherly affection, which is literally the love of the brethren, it is the quality that allows a Christian to handle the claims on his personal relationship without fuss. Those familiar with this Scripture know that the last quality we are to seek is love. That's the love we are to show forth in our lives. The Christian is to show all men the love which God as shown to him.

None of these virtues that we're to add to our faith come easily. We are to seek them, we are to want them, we are to work for them. No one else can claim them for us! Those divine blessings promised by Jesus in what we now know as The Beatitudes, Matthew 5: 3-11, are not blessings for a group of people. When Jesus spoke on the mountain that day, He wasn't talking to a group of disciples, or a stack of people who had gathered there, He was inviting each individual to "ask", "seek", and "knock". And the invitation is still being made.

The way we are to ask is by prayer, meaningful, sincere, earnest, persistent prayer. Ideally we should listen to God first by reading His word; when we listen to Him this way we understand our needs far better, and our requests are much more heartfelt and in harmony with His will.

Seeking is the strenuous and personal and spiritual effort to have our lives square off with Christ's teaching. And it is not sufficient to attain the minimum degree of those qualities. 1 Peter 1: 8 tells us that the qualities that must be added to our faith are to abound, they are to be lavish and generous. And this is the way we can be if we "seek", and seeking means that we are prepared to work at being changed, so that we have attitudes and behaviour pleasing to God. These efforts will be crowned with success, because He has promised that if we "seek, we will find". Day by day we will change from what we are, to what we can become. And when the time comes we may not even have to "knock".

When Jesus invites us to "knock", He is telling us that we can enjoy the rewards of the invitation. Those rewards are an Eternal life, a fulfilling life now, by helping brethren, and reaching out to the lost. In 2 Peter 1: 10b and 11 we read "...for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ". We won't have to knock because the door will be held wide open for us.

Finally we come to Matthew 7: 12 a portion of Scripture we know as the Golden Rule. It tells us that we should do to all men as they would do to us, if our circumstance and theirs were reversed. Here is a teaching that we should carry, into every relationship in life. It embraces every moral obligation, every duty between man and man. It eliminates backbiting, talebearing, cheating, falsehood, unjust criticism, sensuality and the like. It makes us charitable, merciful, helpful, honest and considerate.

When Jesus invited us to "ask", "seek", and "knock" we were being shown how to behave as the children of a heavenly Father. In this last part He is instructing us in how to behave in a brotherly relationship with those with whom we have to do. And much better we are able to have this relationship, if we have sought to live as Jesus has thus far taught us. God acts in a fatherly manner toward us, therefore we should act in a brotherly manner toward each other. The fatherhood of God involves the brotherhood of man. If God is your Father and if God is my Father, you and I are brothers. That is the brotherhood we invite all the world to hear, we want everyone to hear, so that as many who will, will accept it! We want folk to know that a life in Christ, that a Christian, has available to him the most fulfilling life of anyone. If you haven't responded to the gospel invitation, you are without God, and without hope. Christ asks you to come, the Spirit asks you to come, and we ask you to come. If you've heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and believe it, and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then if you believe these things, why go on without hope?

Repent, and confess Jesus is God's Son and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins, then "seek" to do the will of God from then on. The abundant life Jesus promises is a life of inner contentment that comes with having the peace of God. More than that, you begin the path to eternal life. There is no other way these things can happen.

Then again there may be brethren who have failed in seeking to apply the teaching of Christ, have not changed their attitudes nor their behaviour, who have not sought to become as God has planned for them. That is a sin and if that is your problem, you too need to repent of it. There may be others who are being dragged down by troubles or weaknesses, who desperately need the prayers and comfort of their brethren. Please make that known.

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