THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the life of Christ, we began looking at Matthew 7 and we learned what Jesus meant when He said, judge not, that you be not judged. In this lesson, we are going to continue on in:
Matthew 7:7 " Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.† 8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.†
Jesus already talked about prayer earlier in His sermon, but He revisits the topic again. He mentions 3 things: †Ask, seek, and knock. The Greek behind these words show these things are to be continuous. Asking is when we speak the words of our prayer. Seeking is when we diligently seek out God in prayer, knocking shows our focus of knocking on heavenís door to the only person who can answer our prayers.
While God knows what we need before we ask for it, He expects to pray and ask for those things that we need. A great example that shows the necessity of persistent prayer comes from what Jesus taught in:
Luke 18:1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,† 2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.† 3 "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.'† 4 "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man,† 5 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' "† 6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said.† 7 "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?† 8 "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
Far too many Christians give up on God too soon. Some think that if you pray for something one time that it should be sufficient, but that is not the case. Jesus emphasizes this fact in this parable. He is trying to get His disciples to understand about the power of prayer and how it works sometimes. We must never forget that prayer can and will cause God to make something happen that would not happen otherwise. Just because we do not see the result of our prayers today should not cause us to lose heart.
Instead, when you continue to pray for something it should make us feel good knowing that God is listening and that He is in control. He will make things work for the good according to His timing. As Paul said:
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Jesus uses this unjust judge and a widow to make the point. If this unjust judge would bring justice for this widow who persistently asked for justice from this unjust judge, think about what our Father in heaven will do for us as we continue to pray to Him.
James 5:16 †The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Our parable concludes with the same message that Jesus taught in His sermon. Those who ask, seek, and knock, it will be given to you, you will find what you are looking for, and it will be opened to you. Jesus continues pointing this out as we read in:
Matthew 7:9 "Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?† 10 "Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?† 11 "If you then, being 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!
I know some pretty awnory men who might actually give their children the opposite of what they ask for just for fun, but not even they would ultimately deny their children of what they ask for. The majority of earthly fathers, whether they are evil or good love their children. As Jesus points out they would not give their child a stone or serpent when they are seeking bread or fish.
If earthly fathers have enough love for their children to give them what they ask, certainly we can see that our heavenly Father will do the same for us. Does this mean that we will get everything that we will ask for? No, because it has to be in accordance to Godís will. As John said:
1 John 5:14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.† 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Praying for dishonest gain or for sinful worldly things are going to be wasted prayers because God is not going to help you sin. Also, when we pray, we are to do so without doubting as James says:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.† 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.† 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;† 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
What is the point of praying to God if you do not believe in prayer or do not believe that God is listening to your prayers? There is no point. However, for those of us who put our faith in and trust in God and know that He is listening and answering our prayers, we will continue to ask, seek and knock. As Christians, we also understand that sometimes the answer to our prayers might be yes, no, not right now but later and sometimes God may give us more than what we asked for.
I want to take a few minutes to talk about some of the things prayer is not for.
1.† Prayer is not something we do as a ritual
where we just chant the same message or some memorized prayer over and over
again. We talked about this several lesson back when Jesus was talking about
vain repetition. Can we say the same prayer every time and use some of those
same phrases that seem to be popular to say? Yes, we can. Even if we are
repeating some popular phrases, if we make them our own and mean what we are
saying then it is coming from the heart and is not a vain repetition or just
saying the words.
When it comes to praying, letís make sure that whatever we say is coming from our hearts and that we are not †just mindlessly saying words for the sake of saying them.
2. Prayer is not a last minute lifeboat. Some have a tendency to only speak to the Father during times of great crisis. While God will certainly hear our prayers during a crisis, but if only pray during a crisis then our attitude is all wrong. Prayer was never meant to be a last ditch effort. We must never forget that God loves and wants to hear from us daily, not a couple times out of a year. As Paul said:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 †pray without ceasing,
3. Prayer is not a time about bragging to God about how good you are or how better you than everyone one else. I know this is an example I have used often, but it is the perfect example to illustrate this point. Here it is:
Luke 18:9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:† 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.† 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.† 12 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'† 13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'† 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
You might think there is no way that anyone calling themselves a Christian would have the mentality of this Pharisee but you would be wrong. There are those who claim to be Christians that are just like this Pharisee. They are so prideful and full of themselves that they actually boast about their righteousness to God. Instead of being like this, we need to understand who we are praying to and realize that no matter what great things we might have done or whatever feats of righteousness we have may have accomplished, we have no right to boast about what we have done to God because without Him we would be nothing. Besides He knows what we have done and what we have not.
Our attitude should be that of the tax collector who was humble and just poured his heart out to God to be forgiven of his sins. We certainly all will have those moments where sin sneaks into our lives, but even if we go days or even weeks without sinning, we should still approach the throne of grace with a humble attitude thanking God every day that He allows us to be His children and recognize the fact that all glory and honor belongs to Him.
4. Prayer is not like a get of jail free card in Monopoly. In other words, we cannot use prayer as a tool to be lazy. For example, we cannot continue to forsake the assembly of the saints and just pray to God for forgiveness every Sunday for not going. We cannot keep from moving forward in our Christianity by simply praying to God instead. For example, we cannot continue to neglecting reading Godís Word, being evangelistic, or being a good example to others by simply praying.
We have to have action our part. We must actively live for God and use prayer as it was intended. I am reminded of what God told Moses in:
Exodus 14:15 And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.† 16 "But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.† 17 "And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen.† 18 "Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen."
God heard their prayers, but these people were not going to be saved without doing their part by moving forward. We must realize this same point when it comes to our prayer lives. Not only are we not to use prayer as a get out of jail free card, when we pray for something, donít expect God to make it happen without some effort on our part.
For example, if you pray that your marriage will be stronger, God can certainly help in this area, but you cannot just sit and stare at your mate and expect God to do something magically, you have to put forth the effort by moving forward in your marriage. This could be said about many things, but I think you get the point. Prayer alone is not enough. We must continue to be obedient to Godís will and do our part by moving forward in whatever we are praying for.
5. When we pray publicly, we are not to pray for show. Again, our prayers are to come from the heart.
6. When we pray publicly, it is not the time to rebuke our mates or some member of the Lordís body. When we do this, we turn the prayer into nothing more than rebuking session and our intent becomes wrong. Some people are really sneaky about this because only they know about a problem a certain person is having, and they will use public prayer to address that specific sin, while no one else has a clue what is going on, but the person hearing it will. We could go right back to our parable of the Pharisee who was rebuking the tax collector in his prayer.
there are more things that could be added to this list, but the main point is
that we need to be praying from our hearts with a humble spirit and use prayer
to help us grow closer to God, but never try to abuse prayer by trying to use
it to neglect the things you know you should be doing.
Next, Jesus gives what is often called the golden rule:
Matthew 7:12 "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
If this one sentence was followed by all, there would be very little strife between people because it sets forth the principle of treating others as you would want others to treat you. Certainly, there are some who would still be offended and hurt by those following this rule simply because we all have different ideas about how we should be treated, but those who are living by the principles set forth in Scripture would almost make this a perfect world by following the golden rule.
However, many fail at keeping the golden rule because we are good at having a dual standard. There is a standard for ourselves, then there is a standard for others, but in a perfect world, we would use the exact same standard for ourselves as we do for others. There are many verses that teach us how to have the right attitude in keeping the golden rule, and they focus on love. For example Paul says:
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;† 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;† 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;† 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.† 8 Love never fails.
When we can learn to have love be in the center of our lives, we will truly learn what it means to be Christ like. Love for God and love for others will cause us not only to keep the golden rule, but enjoy keeping the golden rule. The Bible is its own best commentary to sum up the Law of the Prophets for us:
Matthew 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"† 37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'† 38 "This is the first and great commandment.† 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'† 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
This is such a simple statement, yet it is very powerful indeed. Could you image how great it would be if every person on the face of this planet loved God and loved His neighbor as himself? If this simple plan was followed, there would be no more wars, no one being prejudice, and no deliberate crimes would be committed. Paul teaches this same concept in:
Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,† 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.† 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.† 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.† 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,†
Jesus is our example. He treated us like we should have treated Him, but He did get the bad end of the deal because man and his sin put Jesusí upon the cross and put Him to death. This is the perfect example of one not being selfish and esteeming others better than himself. So easy to say, but much harder to do, yet Jesus wants each of us to follow the golden rule.
Letís consider some ways in which we should all want to use the golden rule.
1. I think we all would like people to give us the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people might see us doing something that looks sinful, or maybe someone tells people we are doing something sinful. Now it might be the case that we are doing something sinful, but it also might be the case that we are not, but I feel confident in saying that we would want people to assume the best and not the worst about us
This is where that dual standard comes into play. Everyone wants people to give them the benefit of the doubt, but many times we do not want to do the same for others. How many times have we found ourselves playing the hypocrite in this area? I know I have been guilty of this, and I do not hesitate to say that we all have been guilty of this at some time or another because it is so easy to want the golden rule applied to us but no so much when it applies to others.
2. †We all want to be treated with respect and not have people be rude to us or belittle us. But are we treating others with that same respect, or do find ourselves treating others in this way? When we do, we are not living by the golden rule. A good way to evaluate ourselves is to listen to what we are saying to others and ask ourselves how we would feel if our words were being used against us.
3. We all want our friends to trust us with whatever they are telling us knowing that we will not go blab it to the whole world. Yet, what do we do sometimes, when we get bored or maybe we get mad at that friend? We have a tendency to break the golden rule and we start telling our friendís secret to others. Do really have any room to complain if someone does this to us, when we do it to our friends? Not really? After all, if you really are going to treat others as you would want to be treated and you are blabbing everything you know that your friend told you in secret, the obviously you want to be treated the same way. Of course, it is not true that we want to be treated that way, but it's certainly something for us to consider.
4. We all like it when people take the time to listen to what we have to say whether they are completely interested or not. We certainly do not want to be interrupted constantly while we tell our story. I have to ask the question, do you follow this same rule when listening to others? Do you listen intently whether you are interested or not? Do you interrupt often? If so, do you really have any right to get frustrated and angry when people are treating you as you treat them? No, you do not. We must be careful about having a dual standard in our lives because, if †it is ok for you to do it, then it should be ok for someone to do it back to you.
5. We should all expect people to be sympathetic when we lose a loved one, or when we have some kind of sickness that really knocks us down? Whatever we would like people to do for us during these times, we should do it for those who are hurting? When our loved one passes away and we start wondering why so few people have said anything or done anything, did we say anything or do anything for others when they lost their loved one. The same could be said about being sick. Maybe you start wondering if anybody even cares that you are down and out, but did you show others that you cared when they really sick? We have a tendency to play the pity card when we are affected, but play the ignore card when we are not.
6. We should certainly live by the golden rule in our marriages. Notice what Paul says:
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.† 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.† 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.† 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,† 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,† 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.† 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.† 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
If husbands and wife could actually follow this basic
rule of treating each other as they wanted to be treated, we certainly would
not have the 50% divorce rate we have in this country now. Think about how wonderful
our marriages would be if the man loved his wife as Jesus loved the church.
Think about how grand it would be if each person in the marriage was truly
living their lives to please the other and to encourage the other.
Unfortunately, many times we forget this basic principle and we treat each other horribly instead of with love and honor.
7. The golden rule also applies to our children. While it is true that we are their parents and they are to respect us and do what we tell them, but we must not treat them badly because however we treat them, they will treat us in the same way and it will be how they will treat others. In this same light, our children need to learn that if they are going to be rebellious and treat others in the family with disrespect, then they are not going to receive the respect of kindness they are looking for. Notice what Paul says in:
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.† 2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise:† 3 "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."† 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Much more could be said about prayer and the golden rule, but as we have seen in this lesson Jesus has challenged us once again to have an active prayer life and to learn to treat others as we would want to be treated. I just hope and pray that we can all do better in doing these things so that we can be more Christ like.