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Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 10, 2017 – Matthew 7:7-14

We Can Do this the Easy Way or . . .

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. Matthew 7:7-8

Intro: Working our way through a passage like this,

We have to occasionally step back to see the whole canvas
– otherwise we lose perspective
• a couple of verses in today’s reading are familiar–even famous
• but they are usually quoted in isolation from their setting
◦ because their perspective is lost, we lose some of their meaning
– so stepping back to what we’ve seen over last few weeks:

  1. The first half of chapter 6: we do not need to be hypocrites
    ◦ because our heavenly Father knows our devotion to him
    ◦ and that alone is what matters
  2. The second half of chapter 6: we do not need to be anxious
    ◦ because our Father, who cares for birds and flowers, knows our needs
  3. In first six verse of chapter 7: we do not need to judge others
    ◦ today we learn why

We can go to God with every need or concern

What motivates someone to critique and condemn another person?
– many do it to feel better about themselves
• perhaps because they feel:
◦ deeply insecure
◦ socially awkward, unable to connect face-to-face
◦ unimportant and overlooked
• perhaps they assume that exposing the flaws of others:
◦ improves their social status
◦ gives them power or influence
– I’ve know judgmental people who are trying to prove something
• not just they are right (e.g., doctrinally) and others are wrong
◦ but to prove that they are experts and therefore important
◦ they create the impression that people should listen to them
• then there are those with an inflated ego
• narcissists really believe they are better than everyone else

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant [“puffs up” in KJV], but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1)

We do not need to equalize social imbalances by judging others
– or build ourselves up by putting others down
• we can take our psychological issues and social problems to God
• we can come to God with everything–and discover that he is everything
– this is the point Jesus has made throughout this section of the Sermon
• he has been telling us, Trust your heavenly Father
• if we need fixing or reassurance, ask, seek, knock

I believe there is also something more to verses 7 and 8
– that they are conditioned by what has gone before
• the person who is asking is the same person described in the beatitudes
◦ this is someone who is learning to seek first his kingdom and righteousness
◦ someone who wants to live as close to God as possible
– Jesus is teaching his disciples that:
• if they desire to walk with God, they need to ask
• if they desire to know God, they must seek

(Throughout the Scriptures we are encouraged to seek God; for instance, You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart–Jer. 29:13)

• if they desire to encounter God, they only need to knock

Jesus’ illustrates God’s willingness to respond

Or what man is there among you who when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being [imperfect] know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him? Matthew 7:9-11

Do you remember me mentioning this “much more” logic?
– Jesus is arguing from the lesser to greater
(or here, from the finite to the infinite)
• this is third time he has said something like this
◦ our Father in heaven knows what we need before we ask (Mt. 6:8)
◦ the Father knows that we need all these things (Mt. 6:32)
• this is how he ended the sections on hypocrisy and anxiety
– what do you suppose Jesus is doing here?
• he is encouraging us to trust God
◦ we assume we’re on our own; that God doesn’t know or doesn’t care
◦ that we have needs, or that we have been sidelined, unloved
• Jesus says, “Look, even you know what’s good for your child”
◦ using these terms, he makes God more real to us and more intimate
◦ God can be trusted to be a good Father–and infinitely more

Jesus closes this section by returning to its opening theme

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets Matthew 7:12

How do you want to be judged? (vv. 1 & 2)
– in verse 12 the question is generalized, How do you want to be treated?
• well, that’s how you should treat others
– I think it’s important to look closely at a specific line in this verse
the Law and the Prophets
◦ in 5:17-19, Jesus announced that he did not come to abolish, but fulfill the Law and the Prophets
◦ it was in that context he introduced the need for a superior righteousness (Mt. 5:20)
• there’s a deeper level to the Law than rules on the surface
◦ and a deeper place in us than mere compliance to rules
superior righteousness is living the deeper level of the Law from a deeper place in ourseolves

So Jesus closes the circle he began at 5:17
– and doing so, he gives us a simple formula for fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Treat everyone else the same way you want them to treat you

• Jesus will use this same line, the Law and the Prophets, again later on
• when he is asked by an expert in the law, What is the greatest commandment? Jesus answers

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and [first] commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (Mt. 22:36-40)

• in this regard, actions really do speak louder than words

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth (1 Jn. 3:18)

◦ like asking, seeking and knocking, the emphasis is on doing

As Helmut Thielicke observed, we are “presented with a clearly defined and utterly simple task, namely to ask, to seek, to knock.” And later, “With Jesus we are always immediately sent to work.”

• this exposes a twisted interpretation of scripture that I hear too often

Someone asks:
“How can I love my neighbor as myself if I don’t love myself”
or says:
“The problem is, we do love our neighbors as ourselves, but we don’t like ourselves very much or treat ourselves well.”

◦ but the Scriptures are not talking about sentimental feelings
◦ in God’s dictionary, love is about what we do to and for others–how we treat them

That brings us to a decision that must be made

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14

The formula is simple, but doing it is so difficult that most people give up
– they look for an easier way through life
• one that is less concerned for, or complicated by others
• they will still say that love is the answer, and with the crowd sing:

“What the world needs now, is love sweet love” or
“All you need is love”

◦ and go skipping merrily down the broad path and through the wide gate
– Jesus says that we must find the small gate
• the natural way is the path of least resistance
◦ it is the only option that many people see or know
◦ “normal” is strolling along the path and into the gate
• but the other path–well, you have to look for it to find it
◦ and Jesus already encouraged us, Seek, and you will find

Which is easier, following rules or practicing love for everyone?
– is it easier to share your time, your resources, your self?
• we need to break the spell of our love-illusions
◦ God’s love cannot be reduced to being nice,
◦ or neighborly, or polite, or even honestly concerned
• God’s love is hard work for us mortals

And, as Thielicke points out, “There can be no relationship with the Father that does not also include a relationship with our neighbor.”

◦ God’s love does not run down Easy Street, but gives and gives and gives

For God so loved the world, that He gave . . . (Jn. 3:16)

“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Conclusion: Yesterday I experienced a “little death”

Yesterday at the memorial service for our friend, Tom Daxon,
– I was deeply moved by Jo and her children as they shared Tom’s life with us
• Jim and Karyn also touched my heart by their loving and insightful comments
• I felt pain for our loss, but my eyes remained dry
◦ my purpose for being there was not myself, but to comfort and reassure others
◦ and, this is my job — I am a professional and must behave professionally
– so even when the video montage of Tom’s life played, I maintained by focus
• until photos began to dissolve one into another of Tom’s grandchildren sitting or sleeping on his lap
◦ I am a grandpa and know the joy of a grandchild climbing onto my lap
◦ I know what passes between these two souls
• those images dismantled my professional composure
◦ it was painfully impossible to imagine losing those moments
◦ to go without the security felt when held in the arms of an unconditional love

I would rather not love any more than feel that deep hurt repeatedly
– I see the appeal of the broad path over the demands and wounds of love

Would you agree that for many Christians,
– it seems like Jesus is an insurance policy
• insurance is something you hope you never need
• but we buy it just in case
◦ we’re purchasing peace of mind, so we can say, “At least it’s insured”
◦ and pay the premiums
– our culture does not make it easy to believe in the God of Bible, eternal life, and so on
• but we invite Jesus into our lives just in case
◦ just in case it is all true
◦ and we pay the premiums; we go to church, make donations, volunteer for food drives
• we do these things without bringing God to the center of our everyday lives
◦ without seeking first his kingdom and righteousness
◦ without a trust so real that if God did not exist, neither would we

Jesus hands us a dark invitation to the narrow road leading to the small gate
– the entrance to the kingdom of heaven and eternal life
• but do not try to start with the narrow road and the small gate
• and do not try to start with treating everyone as yourself
– instead, start back up in verse 7

Start by asking for directions,
by seeking the narrow way,
and when you reach God’s door, knock.
Do this, and all shall be well,
all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.


Leave a comment
  1. Bill Livingston / Dec 12 2017

    Beautiful, Chuck. Attempting to follow rules is not very uplifting; I’m going to try love.

  2. Ed Northen / Dec 13 2017

    Chuck as always, thank you for your thoughtful, stimulating and challenging words.

    One of the great mysteries and foundations in our spiritual journeys is to perceive the wonder of God Incarnate. Not only in the person of Jesus Christ who was fully God and fully human, but in us as well. The divine God indwelling us, that we may be one with Him, even as the Father and the Son are one. (John 17: 20-23)

    I bring this up because it is the foundational goal and resource of our life as followers of Jesus.
    We are formed into Jesus image as we yield to the immeasurable love of God. Though we are each unique we all are being formed into His image with the same goal in mind, to be one with God, which results in His His love being formed in us and then distributed to the world through our actions and character. We knock, seek and ask, not that we may consume it upon ourselves but that we might be the hands and feet of Jesus is this world. It is the hard work of death to ourselves which allows Gods formation in us. We live our lives in this world but are not of it, knowing our citizenship and allegiance is to another realm / kingdom, the kingdom of God present in this world, in us.

    When we die to self, to our old nature, that part of us is resurrected formed into God’s character and image. As this process continues we eventually ( in a sense ) become invisible. This thought of loosing ourselves in God and becoming one with Him was the impetus for this poem ” The Invisible Man”

    The Invisible Man

    I exist
    Have substance
    My form comprised
    Like a mummy

    Of clay and strips of cloth
    Layers upon layer
    Bound to create
    A human shape

    To replicate
    something former
    an illusion
    of what once was

    Beneath the garment
    The former self
    Is slowly atrophying
    Undergoing a metamorphosis
    from one substance

    To another
    Earthly to eternal
    Mortal to immortal

    The outer form unchanged
    reveals nothing
    except, perhaps
    my bandages are a little more worn

    But unwrap my death suit
    Peal it away
    And you will find


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