June 9th, 2019
I. Our Posture Before God (7:7-11)
Jesus continues his discussion on rightly evaluating and judging others (7:1-6) by asking his disciples to consider their evaluations of God Himself.
These verses confront us with two questions:
What should we be asking, seeking, and knocking about?
Is this really true?
By this point of the Sermon on the Mount, the disciples and the readers have been confronted with our own shortcomings. We have been called to a “greater righteousness” than the Scribes & Pharisees (5:20); we have been called to sexual integrity, to make peace, to honor our commitments and word, not to store up treasures here on earth, to love our enemies, and to inhabit the Kingdom of Heaven as citizens.
However, none of this comes naturally to us in this “upside-down Kingdom.” Which means, simply: we need help. Jesus, in a moment of encouragement to his disciples, is inviting us to ask our Heavenly Father for help in these things. We are to ask, seek, and knock for Christ to be formed in and through us.
“I have a great need for Christ. I have a great Christ for my need.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
There are (at least) three different ways to pray:
Praying to a ‘Cosmic Genie’
If we view this invitation to ask, seek, and knock as an opportunity to satisfy our own lusts and desires, then we are essentially buying into the false and dangerous teaching of the prosperity gospel.
James 4:2b-3: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
“Unless we know that God is the one thing we truly need, our petitions and supplications may become, simply, forms of worry and lust. We can use prayer as just another way to pursue many things that we want too much. Not only will God not hear such prayers (because we ask for things selfishly to spend on our own lusts), but the prayers will not reorient our perspective and give us any relief from the melancholy of self-absorption.” ~ Tim Keller
2. Praying to a ‘Boss’
If we approach God in this way, our prayers will be very formal and infrequent. We will feel the need to “clean up” before coming before God, and we will try to impress or manipulate him.
3. Praying to ‘Our Father’ (7:9-11)
The anecdote to these improper postures before God is to remember that he is our Father. Do we pray as if he is our Father?
If we really grasped that we are praying to our Father, we would pray:
Constantly (knowing he desires to hear from us)
Expectantly (knowing that he will give us good things and not evil)
Persistently (trusting that “unanswered” prayer is because of his Fatherly wisdom and care)
“The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” ~ Tim Keller
In all this, we can trust that our Heavenly Father is good, wise, and trustworthy because of the work of Christ. Jesus is the one who experiences separation from his Father (Matt. 27:46); he is given “stones and a serpent” (Cf. Matt. 4:1-11); he has the ultimate “unanswered prayer” (cf. Matt. 26:36ff). He does all of this so that we might be children of God.
“For most of us, the problem is not that we are too eager to ask for the wrong things. The problem is that we are not nearly eager enough to ask for the right things.” ~ N.T. Wright
II. Our Posture Before Others (7:12)
Every religion/philosophy has something like this “Golden Rule”, so what makes this different?
Most state this in a “negative” sense, but Jesus calls his disciples to the harder work of seeing this positively. We are not just avoiding negative behaviors but actively looking for ways to love and move toward others.
This commandment “is the Law and the Prophets.” This hints that this verse is a summary of everything Jesus has said from 5:17 to this point in the Sermon. It is the “greater righteousness” (5:20) and the fulfillment of the whole Law.
The “Golden Rule” is essentially the second great commandment. But we can’t forget the first great commandment (cf. Matthew 22:36-40). We will never be able to rightly move toward others with this kind of love until we have first loved God. Otherwise, we will be using others or asking too much of them.
“You cannot love your neighbor as yourself until you love God. You will never see yourself or your neighbor right until you have first of all seen both in the sight of God. We have to take these things in the right order. We must start with God. We were made by God and for God, and we can function truly only in relationship to God… But in turn, it also helps us to see others as we should see them. We see them as we see ourselves.” ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones
7:7-11 is a reminder that God doesn’t deal with us as we deserve, but instead relates to us as a Father. He looks upon us with grace and mercy. The more we get wrapped up in this, the more we will move toward our neighbor in this same posture.
“Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a hard, hidden battle.” ~ Scott Sauls
This is an invitation to put ourselves in the place of another. This is precisely what Christ has done for us. The only way to live this out is to follow the way of Jesus. The “Law and the Prophets” all point to Christ and his work. Now, by his grace, we are invited into a life that is marked by this same vision. We look to Christ as the only way, and we ask our Heavenly Father for help.