Summary: A look at on going growth in God and our understanding of his word.
With a New Year, you may have been one of many to have made a resolution. You know the sort of thing; I’m going to loose six kilograms, that’s one I probably should have made!
I’m going to work harder at my job, at school, at keeping the garage tidy. I’m going to give up this, that or some other thing. I think that I will improve my relationship with so and so; well I’ll do my bit anyway, you know the sort of thing!
I see that our Mayor Bob Parker said at his age “making a New Years resolution is like testing a bear trap with your own foot.”
Gary McCormick though took the approach that he intended to bring about world peace and stop global warming, as well as let himself go to the pack.
The interesting thing about starting a new year, resolutions or not is that we want it to be a good one. In fact with anything we do, it is our hope that it is successful.
Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount addressed ways in which we could live for the Kingdom of heaven here on earth and that we could do this successfully, being merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and the like.
Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount seems at times to be a bit disjointed in the way he approaches his preaching, bouncing from topic to topic.
Up until this point, and I’m looking at chapter seven verses seven and eight; he’s given a picture of what it would be like in the Kingdom of God, what is required for kingdom living, he’s addressed the law and how it should be carried out, he’s given the Lords prayer as an example of how to pray. He goes onto address how we should live in relation to fasting, money, anxiety, judging and prudence and other things.
Jesus then re-addresses prayer again. It is as if he needs to expand on his earlier teaching on the same subject.
Many in the Christian faith see the verses that he addresses the people with, as an excuse to ask for anything and everything and then either accept the blessing if those things arrive or to grizzle if they don’t, complaining that God is not faithful to his word.
We need to look at the context that Jesus was preaching in. He had just taught some very radical teachings, many of the concepts that he was putting forward, while not completely changing the law that the people he was addressing lived under, they did in some respects clash with the way the people were interpreting the law.
I would pick that a good deal of the people who were listening were sitting there with their mouths wide open at this teaching, a little shocked or even stunned.
All of a sudden they had gone from a teaching of gouging out peoples eyes in return for having ours gouged out to giving them our cloak when they ask for your shirt, what’s that about? From building up earthly treasure, to building heavenly treasures, remember there may have been some of those listening, to whom heaven was a very vague concept. For some life after death was something another Jewish sect believed in.
Jesus teaching then was completely radical, and countercultural, it still is.
So what Jesus is saying here is not along the lines of if you want this or that; the sports car or the block of ground that you can plant nut trees on, or top marks in your exam without the study, or all the money you can eat, just ask and God will give it to you.
What he is saying is I know this is hard to understand, let alone live up to. Along the lines of this whole Kingdom of God living is so radical that I know you are going to struggle with it, God knows his hearers are going to struggle with it.
So what he says is along the lines of, ‘You want understanding of this stuff; you want an understanding of how to live by Kingdom values, then ask!’ If we want to live in God’s kingdom we need to know who he is.
Let’s look at it again.
“Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
For us to truly experience the reality of his values, his Kingdom we need to be actively seeking after them. It’s not enough to just rock up to church on Sunday and get a weekly top up. It’s not enough to pray to God to release you from that sin that keeps tripping you up; it’s not enough to rely on the prayers of your friends to save you from yourself.