Series: Matthew: We Need a King
A Promise-Keeping God, Pt. 1
April 25, 2021 | Jeff Crotts
Passage: Matthew 7:7-8
A quick survey would show this passage was simultaneously comforting and confusing for most.
- Comfort knowing God has made a promise to answer when you ask. With good things.
- Confusion wondering how this promise works.
- What kind of praying opens this promise up?
- Which prayers take and which do not?
- Does this promise apply sometimes, not all the time?
- If my prayers are not answered, why?
- Not praying hard enough?
- Long enough?
- Sincerely enough?
- Is it my sin hindering God’s answer?
- If my prayers are not answered, why?
- Am I exercising enough faith, and do I need to ramp it up?
- Maybe take this like a Proverb?
- A best-case scenario to shoot for.
- Praying to shoot for a target.
- These mental gymnastics throw people out of a prayer life.
- Lacking clarity here makes you pray less.
- Prayer is a roller coaster where results come and go.
- God is unreliable.
- With questionable character.
- Lacking clarity here makes you pray less.
- God reduced to a Cosmic Genie.
Understanding how to relate to God must be solved to flourish.
- The remaining unsolved creates a vacuum.
- Some have turned to what is called the Word of Faith movement.
- What seems passé continues to get new life with new and old faces.
- The older crowd is made up of Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Hagan, and TD Jakes.
- A few of the newer faces are Bill Johnson of the New Apostolic Reformation (music being Jesus Culture).
- The Rastafarian-looking Todd White, a self-proclaimed faith healer.
- Joel Osteen, largely a motivational speaker who promotes the health and wealth gospel.
I watched a brief clip from Todd White rationalizing needing to go through with knee surgery when God had already healed his knee.
- Him needing to witness to his Jewish doctor because God had spoken to him in a still small voice, about laying his life down for his doctor.
- He said, surely this wasn’t the devil because the devil would not say something like this.
- White confessed that he needed to go through the surgery because he had already committed to having his medical bill paid through workman’s comp.
- He would have had to pay 1,100 dollars to have an MRI done and be released.
- This of course sounds spurious.
- I think the still small voice was the 1,100 dollars after his knee symptoms had let up.
- These dynamics and manipulations are powerful always money-related.
If you believe in what you want enough, you will get it.
- People claim healing from Isaiah 53:5, “by his stripes we are healed” etc.
- Satan is robbing you from your right to full health and prosperity.
- Financial prosperity, a good marriage, and full health are sold as expectations.
- Jesus cast as rich.
- Apostles were independently wealthy, traveling wanderers who hobnobbed with the upper class, high society.
- The key is to preach positivity.
- People love a good motivational speaker preaching, “trust in you!”
- Positive thinking is not new, and it sells.
- Being positive disguised as exercising faith, setting your course.
This is Dominionist Theology teaches you become “god-like” claiming dominion over people, events, angels, healing, and even weather.
- Miss casting Adam as a superhero who ruled the earth in a pre-sin limitless existence.
- Miss casting Christ as the second Adam, a sinless man, void of full deity, though fully empowered Spirit representing the perfect “little god” example.
- Kenneth Copeland taught in a sermon called “Force of Love” said, “You don’t have to have God in you. You are one!”
- Sloppy theology sets the stage for false teaching.
- They misuse verses to substantiate their teachings.
ESV Psalm 82:6 I said, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you
ESV John 10:34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? Psalm 82 is ironically a rebuke on ungodly judges (leaders) destined to be judged.
- Harmonizing this with Jesus’ statement from John 10:34, Jesus is making the point and rebuking the Pharisees that “If you could call ungodly judges ‘gods’ then why are you struggling with what I say, “I am the Son of God?”
- Jesus knew the Jews understood the point of Psalm 82.
Creflo Dollar from his sermon, “Suffer the Children” was making the case that since animals produce animals after their own kind and people are made in the image of God then people are little gods.
- “So if the Godhead says, ‘Let us make man in our image,’ and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?’
- The congregation responds, “Gods!” Dollar replies, “Gods, little gods. You are not human.
- The only human part of you is the flesh you are wearing.”
This is dangerous and false, nothing less than a new form of Mormonism.
It is important to come up for air and remember this is the exact opposite of what Jesus has been teaching thus far in his Sermon on the Mount.
- Word of Faith is pragmatic and results oriented, enticing people to rely on inward strength with an “I can do it” perspective.
- It becomes common to “declare this or that.”
Whereas Jesus is calling his hearers to mourn, to be meek, poor in spirit, to suffer persecution, and to hunger the thirst for righteousness.
- The Word of Faith doctrine preaches living for prosperity.
- Conversely that suffering is synonymous to having a weak faith.And succumbing to Satan.
- Satan always comes armed with half-truths.
- We should expect perfect health and full prosperity…but not until heaven.
- Suffering is part of the plan until then.
- We know the path toward heaven is through persecution and suffering.
Maybe the subtler version of this within our circles is misrepresenting Paul words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (cf. Phil. 4:13). Context, being contentment with much or little.
If promised persecution and suffering and this is increasing, why pray at all? (2021? 2022?)
- Jesus sets the expectations for how God relates to his own.
- God, the ultimate promise-keeper, is the only true promise-keeper.
“How Jesus’ promise, to give us what we ask for, when we ask for things, is true?”
1. True prayer reacts to what God wants and is not God reacting to what we want (vv. 7-8)
To unlock this promise and see take it to be authentic, you have to take it in the context of an authentic relationship.
- God’s, “Father to child” relationship is the most authentic relationship any human being can experience.
- If you have been loved by a parent or guardian or have loved someone as a parent or guardian, then you have a taste of what Jesus describes.
Verse 7 describes Christians relating to their heavenly Father regarding “needs.”
- Jesus uses the same terms for seeking provision at the end of chapter 6 (cf. Matt 6:25-34, specifically verses 31-32).
- Our deepest needs for physical survival; eating, drinking, and cover.
- God knows what we need before we even ask, in this exact vein, God calls us to engage him.
- Provision is promised (God actively at work); we engage by asking, seeking, and knocking.
Often you can come clear on Truth by explaining what something does not mean.
a. Not pragmatic-based
The Word of Faith movement is man-centered.
- Appealing to man’s sense of self-worth; what they believe they deserve.
- What drives making demands of God.
- Posture of prayer is 180 out from Jesus’ teaching and focus.
- Beatitudes call a Christ-followers to a dependance toward our Sovereign God.
- He knows exactly what you need before we ask and we pray in light of this truth!
- What I mean by - reacting to God, not God reacting to you! When we ask…
b. Not precision-based
But what does this look like?
- Scripture does not teach us to make precision requests.
- As if we can define the terms of how God will answer us.
- God keeps us knowing exactly what to pray for, imprecise for a reason.
Neither verses 7-11 nor the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) offer detailed explanations of what to pray for or what the Lord will literally give you when you ask.
- We have generic categories as a prayer template. Nothing is spelled out.
- Where the Word of Faith movement steers off course.
- Word of Faith preachers teach followers to “demand precise outcomes!”
- To take dominion over circumstances.
- Being unwilling to claim what you want, lacks the faith to get it.
- Just provoking someone’s flesh!
- To believe, “You know what is best for your life” leaves no room for God’s providence.
- “In his Word, God gives enough truth for us to be responsible, but enough mystery for us to be dependent.” [MacArthur]
ESV Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
ESV Romans 11:33-35 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"35 "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Remember the prayer of James 1:5.
ESV James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
- Requesting for wisdom is backed up with a massive promise for God to be generous!
- To all! Without reproach!”
- No strings.
- “And it will be given him!”
- This does not mean we receive direct revelation or a specific word of knowledge as charismatic doctrine will teach.
- In the context of James 1:1-4.
- Supposed to consider it all joy when our faith comes under extreme testing?
- “How can I persevere and slog through immense suffering and trials?”
- God will give us wisdom for that!
- Like when Paul prayed for believers to increase in wisdom and knowledge of Christ and to know the depth of Christ’s love for them.
- These prayers were generic.
- Still, prayers were going to be answered.
- How is left unknown.
- But they are going to be answered because God promises to mature every real Christian.
ESV 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
ESV Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
This is the parent of a toddler. The two-year-old know what he wants do but the parent know what the child truly needs. The child needs a nap and that is what the parent gives.
The Christian’s worldview is either a worshipper or consumer.
When you yield to God’s agenda, you realize that our holiness, and his Kingdom are his agenda.
Not to mention his glory.
Now, what prayer truly is.
Finally, we pray expecting the answers to come based on his providence.
- When we pray, then we wait.
- Sometimes the answer is Yes, sometimes the answer is No, and sometimes the answer is Wait.
- Sometimes the answer is something entirely different than you wanted or expected.
It used to be that when you wanted something to come by mail you had to first hand write your request through the mail and wait. The postal service would send you letter out which would take a week, then the company would process your request, and then send you your package. As a six-year-old, I ordered a special toy set from a comic book advertisement and I still remember that lesson of patience where I would go out to the mailbox every day. My mother counseled me to allow time to pass and just put it out of my mind for a while until it comes. It took about six weeks.
Some of you, like me are waiting for your tax return to drop and it is best to take this same counsel. But this is how it is with God. God answers within his own timetable, in his own ways, and for his own purposes.
The language of verse 7 is “Ask” – “seek” – “knock” [literally to “strike”] are present tense, active voice, imperative mood, making these active commands.
- “Asking” is conversation-oriented, within our relationship, child to Father.
- The word “seek” is a passion word.
- Jesus came to “seek and save the lost.”
- When challenged, Jesus came back with the question, “Whom do you seek?”
- In John 4:23 Jesus said, “The Father seeks…His worshippers.”
- This speaks to our emotion.
- “Knock” speaks to persistence or constancy in prayer (cf. parable of Luke 11).
- These terms followed by promises like “it will be given to you” – “you will find” – and “it will be opened to you.”
- “Given” is future passive, drawing out beauty from this expression.
- God’s sovereign will is being done, while in real time.
- This outcome was in his mind before you asked.
- Yet dynamic fulfillment.
- Sovereignty and dynamism.
- “Find” is future active indicative meaning God’s promise is certain and determined for your life.
- “Opened” again is future passive picturing sovereignty as the backdrop constant prayer efforts to “knock.”
Why is it difficult to stay constant in prayer?
- We make it about us.
- Real prayer is in reaction to God, not the reverse. God reacting to you!
- The energy to keep asking, seeking, knocking comes from knowing, we are not forcing God’s hand, being pragmatic-based.
- Not making demands, being precision-based.
- Trusting in God’s sovereign will, which is Providence-based.
Remember Paul’s prayer requests he gave to the Ephesians and Colossians?
ESV Ephesians 6:19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel
ESV Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison
Paul as a missionary/prisoner viewed lived within the dynamic circumstances he was being dealt.
- When he led Lydia to the Lord by the riverside.
ESV Acts 16:13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.
- Or, when he and Silas sang hymns all night in prison.
ESV Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them
- When he went into Athens (cf. Acts 17:16-34) and was suddenly stirred to preach.
ESV Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
- All these dynamics were humanly unscripted, yet divinely orchestrated by God.
- Yet churches like in Philippi were born.
C.H. Spurgeon said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscles of divine omnipotence.”
C.H. Spurgeon also said, “Our prayers are in the predestination, and that God has as much ordained his people’s prayers as anything else, and when we pray we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts. Destiny decrees that I should pray – I pray; destiny decrees that I shall be answered, and the answer comes to me.”
- Our motivations to “ask” – “seek” – and “knock” tied together with God’s sovereignty become sustainable.
Verse 8 reiterates the promise of verse 7 but as an evangelistic call.
- Remember Jesus is speaking to a mixed crowd of disciples, skeptics, and enemies.
- Verse 8 confirms the promise but narrows its recipients.
- “For everyone who asks receives…”
- Everyone is not open-ended to anyone.
The Word of Faith twists this into a formula, anyone can apply.
- Jesus offers this promise to “everyone” who will pray to God as “Father” (v. 8).
- “Everyone” who trusts God as Father, who knows what is best for them.
- Confirming who are true believers.
- True believers, “asks” – “seeks” – “knocks” as an ongoing way of life.
- Praying without ceasing.
- Seeing God’s providence at every turn.
The normal Christian life, to ask, seek, knock and see God’s hand in it all.
“How do I distinguish my children from everyone else on the planet?”
When they ask me for something in the middle of the night, especially as infants, I always responded.
When they need me to pick them up from traveling in late at night, naturally, I was there.
When they have needs that are obvious for me to provide as a parent, you just do so, reflexively.
Jesus’ point. Why God is making good on his promise because his promise is based in his parenthood toward us.
The model of Jesus’ prayer life is the exact opposite of the Word of Faith movement.
Think of Christ at Gethsemane.
ESV Luke 22:42 saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."