[continuing from the previous message]
In his commentary on Matthew, William Hendriksen defines that knocking means “asking plus acting plus persevering” (emphasis his).The point is we have to knock again and again until the door is opened. As a saying goes, persistence pays off (cf. Luke 11:5-10).
In the NT sometimes door is a reference to ministry opportunities. It maybe an opportunity to share the gospel at school, work, friends, family, neighbors, or whoever God may sovereignly orchestrate for you to speak God’s truth.
- Luke writing of missionary journey of Paul states in Acts 14:27, “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”
- NAU 2 Corinthians 2:12 Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord,
- NAU Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;
Although those three aspects may have slight differences, I want to emphasize that all three points to a type of praying that is “a burning pursuit of God.” According to D.A. Carson, “This asking is an asking for the virtues Jesus has just expounded; this seeking is a seeking for God; this knocking is a knocking at heaven’s throne room.”
Do you pray like you’re desperate? I don’t mean praying when you are desperate, but praying like you’re desperate; and I think there’s a difference. If you don’t pray like that you should start. Pray like a person who is drowning. Cry out to God and throw yourself at his mercy as if every breath that you breathe is depended on God. Such prayer truly recognizes who God is and who you are. Ask, seek, and knock as though you are a poor person who is desperate. Pray like John Knox who cried out to God, “God, give me Scotland or I die!”
And when you pray, pray with some pathos, especially for those that are lost. When was the last time you wept in your intercessory prayer for someone who is lost and need of Christ? Even our Lord Jesus lamented over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37-39:
- NAU Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'”
Some people kick and scream over some sports game, and some go all out for their hobbies or entertainment, but why is that when it comes to engage in the most high calling and duty for Christians, we don’t show such passion? Have we forgotten that we cannot accomplish much without prayer? George Muller said, “No one should expect to see much good resulting from his labors if he does not spend time in prayer and meditation.”
There are a lot of church growth methods, gimmicks, and seminars that suggest how to attract people into the church. But I believe that many of the churches have forgotten the basic fundamental of truth, which is, seeking God through prayer! If I read my Bible right, especially, in the book of Acts, I find that the early church was devoted in much prayer. It was natural and functional part of the church. The church leaders didn’t attend any of church growth seminars nor tried to use methods or gimmicks in the name of evangelism, but they regularly prayed. What was the result? The Bible says the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. That’s a result of persistent praying.A.W. Pink said, “We cannot improve upon God’s methods – real prayer will accomplish far more than worldly devices for attracting people for Christ.” And I say Amen to that.
Now verses 9 and 10 leading up to verse 11, Jesus then offers the reason why God would answer prayer of persistent petitions. He says in verse 11 (this is my translation): If therefore you (all) are being evil knowing how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your father who is in heaven will give what is good things to the ones who are asking him.
Note the difference between two complete natures of beings. One is the nature of man, being evil and the other is the nature of God the heavenly Father, being good. Although Jesus is fully man, he excludes himself from the sinfulness of humanity by saying, “You then, being evil,” not “we.”
Let me close this message with several important implications. First of all, it is important to identify who are the “you” that Jesus is referring here. As you heard this evening this portion of Scripture contains wonderful privileges and promises of God. I mean what can be more encouraging to hear privileges and promises than what’s found here, namely “for everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened”? What a wonderful word of privilege and promise of God!
But I would be misleading you if I suggest somehow that such wonderful privileges and promises of God come without qualification. I don’t want to be guilty of giving anyone a false hope and a false assurance that somehow the “you” that Jesus is directing are really you. So let me help clarify who the “you” that Jesus is directing this message.
Back in Matthew 5:1-2 I’ve already pointed out that the Sermon on the Mount is specifically addressed to the disciples of Jesus Christ, not to the mass public. Jesus is not talking to the Muslims, Buddhists, the whole world, and not even to all Jews, especially the Jewish elites like the scribes and Pharisees. He is specifically talking to his disciples that he chose. Thus if you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ, though you ask it will not be given to you; though you may attempt to seek, you will not find; and though you knock it will not be opened to you. Hence this simple pronoun “you” is exclusive.
That is why throughout the Sermon on the Mount, including this section of Matthew 7, you need to simply ask yourself, “Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ?” However, you can’t simply stop and be satisfied with your own answer because Christianity is not a personal or private matter. I think this is where American Christianity is guilty of contributing such error. We Americans are known around the world for putting too much premium on individualism. Just look at our culture and examine a continual resurgence on unholy trinity, namely me, myself, and I. Unlike other cultures that have a very few selections of clothing style and cars, we have countless choices, just to name an example. We value individualism and we reward individualism in our culture. And such individualistic attitudes influence the way we view Christianity, instead our individualism get influenced by biblical Christianity. That is why a typical American evangelical views Christianity as “having a personal relationship with Jesus.” May I say to you that everyone who is in hell and who are on their way to hell all have “personal relationship with Jesus”? Hence to say that Christianity is about “having a personal relationship with Jesus” is so dangerous and erroneous. And it is this type of messages that are exporting to all around the world in the name of world missions.
Therefore, you can’t simply stop and be satisfied with your own assessment of yourself whether you are a disciple of Jesus Christ because self-deception is very possible, but also you need affirmation or denial from the local congregation where you worship and serve. That is why Christianity is not a private or personal matter. Such individualism is foreign in the NT and many cultures outside of U.S. That is why time to time members of a local church should ask their pastor or elders to honestly assess them whether they exude evidences of grace and whether they exemplify a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple means a student, learner, and follower. Hence a disciple of Jesus means one who diligently studies, learns, follows, and emulates the teachings and the teacher of Jesus.
Secondly, when you ask, seek, and knock, make sure to check your motive. The Bible clearly teaches that though you may ask, seek, and knock as a disciple of Jesus Christ, if your prayer arises out of selfish or sinful motive, your prayer will not be answered.
- NAU James 4:2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Hence a key to effective prayer is to pray according to God’s revealed will. Some people say, “If you really pray sincerely, then God will answer your prayer.”But I want you to know that you can be sincere all you want, but if it’s not aligned with God’s Word then God will not answer your prayer. Why? Because God does not contradict His Word no matter how sincere you pray. You may be sincere but sincerely wrong.
- NAU 1 John 5:14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
Third, even when you ask, seek, and knock with a clear conscious and accordance to God’s will, God is still sovereign in how and when he answers. In his book Praying Backwards Bryan Chapell writes, “God always answers in one of four ways: yes, no, not yet, or immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Accept the reality that God may not grant you not because he doesn’t care or love you but that he may have a higher purpose or reason that you may never find out in this life. Remember, Paul asked three times that the thorn from his flesh might be removed, but God did not grant Paul’s request, but told him that His grace is all sufficient for him. Well, what do we do in that situation? Continue to trust him, thank him, and serve him.
Finally, pray like this when praying for others too. Persistent asking, seeking, and knocking also implies in our intercessory prayer for others. I believe that our genuine love for others is reflected in our persistent praying for others. In fact, that’s how I would interpret verse 12: In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Our asking, seeking, and knocking are all meaningless if we mistreat people, especially to the members of same body of Christ.
- NAU 1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
 D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World (Toronto: Global Christian Publishers, 2001), 117.