Ask. Seek. Knock. (Matthew 7:7-11)
Ask. Seek. Knock.
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
July 7th, 2019
I. The Call of the Kingdom
As we return to the gospel of Matthew this morning, specifically to this message, to this discourse, to this large block of teaching we've called the 'mountain message' of Jesus, I think it would be helpful to summarize what we've seen so far. Think about this question for just a moment: how would you sum up what Jesus has taught us here? Go ahead and scan over Matthew chapter 5, then Matthew 6, and the first part of Matthew 7. If someone were to ask you about this 'Sermon on the Mount', how would you explain it in just one or two sentences?
That's not a simple task, is it? There's a lot here. Well, I would suggest that any proposed summary be tied to Matthew 6:33. Look back at what Jesus tells us there...
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
I would suggest that this 'mountain message' helps us do exactly that: it describes for us the inside-out righteousness of one who is living under God's blessed reign as God's beloved child.
Or to simplify it even more, if God is both your King and Father, how should that change your life? Jesus makes it clear in this message that the realities of God's gracious reign and his fatherly care should radically affect the way we understand love, lust, prayer, prestige, persecution, money, marriage, seeing, serving, forgiveness, fasting, and the list could go on. That covers a lot of your life, doesn't it?
Well, I'd like for us to keep those big themes in mind as we look together at Matthew 7:7-11. Turn there if you haven't already.
II. The Passage: "It Will Be Given to You" (7:7-11)
We're picking up this morning right where we left off in May. You may recall that Jesus has just spoken to his disciples about being judgmental. And before that, he was encouraging them in regard to battling with anxiety in light of material needs, and about God as provider. And before that he was talking to them about a right view of God and money. But beginning in verse 7 of chapter 7, Jesus seems to be winding down; that is, he seem to be moving toward a conclusion. Listen to how he does this in verse 7...
“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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. >>>
 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
So... one of the questions we might ask about this passage is, “Is Jesus really wrapping things up here? And if so, how?” Well, to answer that question, we need to break this passage down into some smaller pieces. Let's go verse by verse here and see if we can make sense of what Jesus is telling us, AND, make sense of how that fits into the broader context of this mountain message. Sound good?
1. Three Calls to Action (v. 7)
Okay. Look back at verse 7. Notice that Jesus, once again, calls his followers to action in three specific ways. He calls them to “ask”, he calls them to “seek”, and he calls them to “knock”. And along with each of these, he gives a promise of success. Did you see that?
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
That sounds pretty reassuring, doesn't it? But wait... “Ask”? Ask for what? “Seek”? What am I looking for? “Knock” where? “Knock” how? One passage that can help us with these questions is one that we've already heard this morning. Listen again to Luke 11:5–10...
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,  for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;  and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence [that is, because of his persistence] he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  And I tell you, 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Did you see what Jesus has done here? Not only do we find another instance of the ask, seek, knock command, but this time, it's introduced by a simple parable, traditionally called “the friend at midnight”. Why is the parable important? Because, even though the words are not used in the parable itself, asking, seeking, and knocking are all implied. The friend is seeking provision for his unexpected guest. He is knocking at the door of a second, local friend in order to secure this provision. Finally, once he wakes up the second friend, we hear him asking for this needed provision.
What does this mean in terms of understanding these three commands? It means these three commands are simply three ways of talking about prayer. In fact, anyone know what comes right before this passage in Luke 11? The Lord's Prayer! The same prayer Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew's previous chapter, chapter 6.
So what is Jesus doing here in 7:7? He is calling his disciples to pray with confidence, with a sense of expectancy, with persistence; reoriented, reassured, renewed in light of God's grace.
2. “Everyone” Means Everyone (v. 8)
And if we down to verse 8, at first glance, it seems Jesus is just restating what he declared in verse 7. Look at verse 8 again:
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
The promise of success is definitely restated there. But did you notice the main difference? It's the word “everyone”. Just in case his disciples were confused about who these reassuring words were spoken for, to whom these promises of success are available, Jesus leaves no room for confusion: everyone.
Neither age, nor gender, nor country of origin, neither past sins, nor current struggles, nor anxieties about the future, neither opportunities rejected, nor track record, nor the assessments of others can disqualify a person from receiving, finding, or gaining the access Jesus speaks about here in regard to prayer. “Everyone” means everyone.
3. A Good Father (vs. 9-11)
But how? How can Jesus speak with such certainty about prayer and a divine promise of success? Well, that's exactly what Jesus goes on to explain in verses 9-11. Look again at the argument set forth in verses 9 and 10...
Or [to put it another way] which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
The basis for Jesus' argument here is that parents take care of their children by giving them what they need. Now, we know, sadly, that is not always true. But it is universally true, to the extent we know neglect or abuse are deviations from the standard. So the majority of parents do not need to be cajoled or policed when it comes to feeding their children. The majority are not looking to toy with or harm their children. They genuinely want to provide for their needs. If we can agree on that, then that's the foundation for Jesus' point in verse 11...
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Jesus is not evil. But we are. That's why he says, “if YOU then, who are evil”. As we see here, being “evil”, that is, being sinners, does not mean we only do evil. Sinners CAN take care of their children. But they will never do it for God's glory, and their care will always be tainted in some by the me-centeredness of sin.
BUT, if even sinful parents can take care of their children by giving them what they need, how much better is the care of a perfectly pure heavenly Father? Isn't it infinitely better? Isn't my love for my children, in both quantity and quality, a mere drop in comparison to the vast ocean of God's love? Jesus can speak with certainty about prayer and the divine promise of success because he is absolutely certain, as God the Son, about the perfect, pure, provision-making love that God the Father has for all his children.
III. A Reassured Response
Now, let's stop and look back for a moment. What have we learned from this passage? We've learned that Jesus is calling us to confident, persistent prayer in light of the glorious goodness of a heavenly Father. Therefore, it is not simply God's character that is meant to reassure us. It is our relationship to or with God. If we know him as Father, we can find both comfort and confidence in prayer.
But that conclusion brings us to two clear and critical questions. The first is this: to which prayers does this promise apply? Is Jesus giving us a 'blank check' here, in order to get whatever we want, whenever we want (as long as we “ask”, “seek”, and “knock”)? Absolutely not. Even human parents know they cannot simply give their child whatever he or she wants, whenever they want it. They understand a huge part of their job as parents is to identify and provide for their child's true needs. And helping a child understand the difference between their needs and 'greeds', or, their needs and wants, is part of this provision.
Well, brothers and sisters, friends, hasn't God done the same thing for us here, in the 'mountain message' of Jesus? Next Sunday we will discover how Matthew 7:12 represents a closing bracket to Jesus' teaching on kingdom righteousness. And in the following weeks, we will discover how the rest of chapter 7 really is a conclusion to the whole message. What does that matter? It matters because that 'lay of the land' confirms for us that Jesus' words about prayer here are strategically placed.
Let me explain what I mean: Jesus understands that after hearing this radical, revolutionary, counter-intuitive teaching that any honest, self-aware person will say, “How could I ever hope to walk this path of righteousness? To stay on this path? To follow this path to the end? To purge anger and lust from my heart? To turn the other cheek when insulted? To love my enemies? To think nothing of people's praises in light of God's? To forgive all, all the time? To keep a right perspective on money? To trust God for my material needs? To avoid a critical spirit? To be both salt and light in a dark and decaying world? ”
How is it possible for people like us, who crave a crown and regularly fight for the throne, who always stray toward self-rule, how is it possible for us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”? It's possible because Jesus has reassured us with promises of success. If we will but “ask”, and “seek”, and “knock” in faith, we will find redeeming and renewing power.
One of the men listening to that original message expressed the same truth many years later with these incredible words:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (II Peter 1:3-4)
Friends, all that is available to the one who “ask”, “seek”, and “knock”. How is this redeeming and renewing power given to us? Well, if we go back to Luke chapter 11, we discover an amazing variation on what Jesus has given us here in Matthew 7. Listen again to these amazing words and to the difference we discover in the final words of Luke 11:9–13...
And I tell you, 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
How is this redeeming and renewing power given to us? Through the Holy Spirit. Through him, we become partakers of the divine nature. Through him, the power of God is made available to us, power to live a new life for Jesus, to the glory of God.
So many of our prayers are prayers for change. But is the change you seek the change Jesus speaks about here? Change in light of this 'mountain message'? Change in light of His kingdom (or your own)? Change from the inside-out? Change in light of God as Father?
Your response to the teachings of Jesus, to his call to follow, truly can be a reassured response. 'Ask, seek, knock' means praying with confidence, with a sense of expectancy, with persistence in light of God's promise of receiving, finding, and entering in. Jesus is addressing our fears and doubts here. “What if I ask, but am turned down? What if I seek, but end up going in circles? What if I knock, but no one answers?” Acknowledging our fears and doubts, listen again to the powerful words of Christ:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
But remember, there were TWO clear and critical questions we wanted to address. The first was “to which prayers does this 'ask, seek, knock' promise apply”. The second is even more important. “How can I personally know God as Father”. As I said earlier, “it is not simply God's character that is meant to reassure us [here]. It is our relationship to or with God.” Everything in this passage rests on the reality that this divine promise of success is given to sons and daughters of God. As Jesus made clear, this success is fixed to the Fatherhood of God.
But someone might respond, “Wait a minute. I thought you said 'everyone means everyone'?” It does. It most definitely does. Jesus is telling us here that everyone who asks, seeks, and knocks, in faith, in light of the kingdom message, the Good News, everyone will receive, find, and gain access to the life-changing grace of God. Jesus' listeners understood that he wanted them to see God as Father. What they didn't understand at that point is how they would come to know God as Father.
Jesus, the Son of God, suffered on the cross for your crown-craving, throne-lusting, self-rule straying heart. He died for our sins, and rose again, that he might secure those kingdom promises for any who would believe; that God's own Spirit would cleanse and remake us. If you haven't, I pray you will surrender to him today. That you will lay down your arms and open your heart to the Father's love.
And for those who have, remember I John 3:1... See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. If you are his child this morning, then “ask”, “seek”, and “knock”, confident your prayers for change will be heard. Don't give up, brother. Stand firm, sister. Receive His reassurance this morning, and press forward in light of the power and provision of the One who is both your King and Father. Let's pray.