Ask, Seek, Knock!

Remember the acronym ASK as a summary of Matthew 7:7–11. The simple verse is profoundly comforting as you look at needs that seem overwhelming.

Ask, and you will receive! Keep on asking! Asking, seeking, and knocking can be distinguished, but the focus here is not on the differences between asking and seeking or knocking. Rather, they have a supportive and cumulative effect. Jesus himself encourages you to ask! The present imperatives have the force of “keep on asking… seeking… knocking.” Jesus commands persistence in your prayer. He made a similar point in the parable of the persistent widow, Luke 18:1-8. This instruction in prayer follows the command not to judge. How do you avoid the natural self-centeredness? Jesus says, “Ask!” How do you receive the wisdom to know when continuing to speak would be throwing pearls to pigs? Ask! Keep on praying. You are not just mechanically asking for certain things. Rather, you are communicating with your Father in heaven. “When we have tasted something of the breadth and length and depth and height of of the love that passeth knowledge there is a corresponding enlargement of heart and of mind, there is an establishing of communion, there is an exploring of the riches of the covenant of grace and of the treasures wisdom and knowledge that constrains to enlarging, ever-widening, ever rising prayer and praise. Make every experience of his mercy the reason and ground for increased more abundant prayer. ‘Ask and shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened unto him’ (Luke 11:9–10).” (Collected Writings of John Murray, Vo. 3, p. 171).

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Your ‘I’ Problem

“You are stubborn, but I have strongly held opinions.” “You are inflexible, but I am firm.” “You are wishy-washy, but I am compassionate.” How do you see yourself compared to how you view others? In Matthew 7:1–6 Jesus commands you not to judge.

Do not judge! Jesus is not prohibiting all judgments. This verse, taken out of context, is sometimes uses as a shield to reject any and all criticism, particularly in our relativistic society. The Scriptures encourage, even command you to be discerning, to exercise judgment: Proverbs 4:14,15; 1 Corinthians 5:9; Philippians 3:2. Later in the chapter Jesus tells you that you will recognize a tree by its fruit, v. 16 (part of a warning against false prophets). In the immediate context he warns you not to throw your pearls to the swine, ; Matthew 7:6. In Matthew 18:15–17 Jesus calls you to confront a brother who is sinning. “See, however, 18:15–17… for a proper desire to correct a ‘brother who sins.’ The balancing of such pastorally responsible criticism against the dangers set out in this pericope calls for a rare degree of self-awareness combined with unselfish concern for others.” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 274). You must exercise judgment and discernment. Exercise it in the choices you make in your personal life. Exercise discernment in political matters. Show sound judgment in choosing what you believe!

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Looking for Jesus in the Wrong Place

The spread of the coronavirus, our current lockdown, and the economic fallout are having a profound impact on our lives. But this morning, focus on something even more important: the question, where do you find Jesus? In Luke 24:5–8 the Gospel writer describes people looking in the wrong place, but then being corrected by angelic messengers.

Don’t seek Jesus among the dead. Jesus really was dead. The cemetery was the right place. The women were sure of it. Where else, but the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, would they find the body of Jesus, laid there reverently three days earlier? These women, who had followed Jesus, knew that he had died. They are specifically identified as witnesses to Jesus’s death, Luke 23:49. They had followed Joseph of Arimathea as he took down the body from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in his own, unused, rock-hewn tomb, Luke 23:55,56. Now they were coming to complete the task which had been interrupted by the Sabbath rest–the proper anointing of Jesus’ body for burial. Their motives were good. They were seeking to honor their Lord, even if they did not recall what he had said about his resurrection. In the women you see a commitment that is noticeably absent even in the disciples. You can be sure that Jesus died. The Roman authorities knew that Jesus was dead. Luke describes the reaction of the centurion to his death, Luke 23:47. He is silent about some matters we learn from the other Gospels: the spear thrust by the soldiers into Jesus’ side (John 19:34), the guard’s certification to Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44,45), and the posting of the guard at the tomb (Matthew 27:65,66). Alternative theories, such as Jesus merely being in a deep coma, do not fit the data which the Gospels present. The death of Jesus is an essential element of his work. He came to die for his people. He is the sacrificial lamb, offered in your place.

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Today in Paradise

In Luke 23:39–43 Luke takes you to the foot of the cross. Listen to the request made of Jesus on the cross–and to the Savior’s response.

Echo the cry, “Jesus, remember me!” Jesus is numbered with the transgressors. From the perspective of the soldiers, Jesus is just one more person they have to execute. We could speculate why the execution of the two criminals had been scheduled for that day—during the Passover week—but Jesus is just one more person subjected to an intensely cruel Roman execution. Isaiah had prophesied that the Suffering Servant would be numbered among the transgressors, and that is literally true as Jesus is crucified with a criminal on either side. But Isaiah is looking deeper than that. Jesus is not just a criminal among other criminals. He is being crucified as the criminal. As the sinless Lamb of God, he who knew no sin has been made sin for us. As painful as was the suffering of the two thieves, that of Jesus was infinitely more intense, for he was enduring the wrath of God for the sins of his people. Isaiah said, “the iniquity of us all was placed upon him.” It is in that capacity that he speaks solemn assurance to one of the thieves.

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