SOTM-Prayer and the Golden Rule

“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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “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 what is good to those who ask Him! “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:7-12)

As we go through each section of The Sermon on the Mount it is hard at times to see the flow of thought that Jesus is teaching. It may be difficult to see how this week’s lesson relates to the week prior and how the verses 7-11 tie into verses 12. One of the important things to understand is that Jesus is revealing to us the character of His Heavenly Father. In these verses Jesus goes on to teach us the wonderful giving character of God the Father. Then Jesus closes with what has become to be known as the Golden Rule. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

How does the Golden Rule relate to what Jesus has just taught about trusting in the giving character of God and how does prayer relate to the previous section on judging others? Some previous points in His sermon we must remember are the lessons Jesus has taught us about the character and purposes of the Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father is the one who sees in secret and is ready to reward us in Heaven. His mercy endures forever and He will satisfy are longing for righteousness. The righteousness that God expects His children to have exceeds our morality that we can achieve. Jesus in His sermon is teaching us to have a trust in the God who has created us and loves us.

Jesus is teaching us to live with God first in our lives. Our Pastor calls this attitude third place. God first, others second, and us last. By placing God and His Kingdom first the rest of our lives will flow from that. We have been warned not to be judgmental towards others, as by the same measure we judge we shall be judged. We are not all knowing as God and therefore should not presume that we can have the last word on someone’s life. But there is a balance that we must achieve as Jesus teaches us to be discerning at the same time. We are to be participants with Jesus and His work in the life and lives of others by trusting that He has the last word. Jesus has the last word on them and He has the last word on us.

Without seeking His Kingdom and righteousness first we cannot have a clear relationship with others and we can’t clearly see ourselves either. When judging the character of others and our self we must know the standard is that of our Heavenly Father. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  We are given the opportunity to come into God’s presence through His Son Jesus. It is through Him that we receive our salvation. “Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)

If we know His purpose than we should know what our purpose is and that of others. Without this point of view then we will tend to be judgmental of others and become concerned with the speak in their eye without taking care of the log in our eye first. It has always been easier for me to judge others than to honestly judge myself. We cannot lose the presence of God with us and try to make decisions about others that are His to make.

Jesus is encouraging us to seek God with the assurance that God is ready to be found. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) He is also a Heavenly Father that is wanting to reward His children. When we seek Him and His righteousness then we can have the confidence that “all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus is telling His listeners to ask, seek, and knock that God’s good rule will be done and His reign will be active in our lives.

We are to be persistent in our prayer life to the Father. We are to continually ask, seek, and knock. We come to Him in faith that He is faithful and true and will answer our prayer in His times. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) We have the assurance of Jesus that His Father is a loving Father and will bless us with His good and perfect gifts. If we are lacking of the blessings of the Father, then are we persistently asking, seeking, and knocking? “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)

Jesus closes with this command, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus uses the word “therefore” which makes the connection between seeking the giving God to how we are to treat others. Because God is loving and giving we are free to treat other people as we would have them treat us. We do not have to have the last word on others or to condemn them, as we are not dependent upon them to provide the things we need nor are we needed to provide for them as it is only God who can give.

Neither do we need to fear their judgment upon us since they do not have the final word on us. Perhaps we become judgmental when others let us down. Could it be that we are asking something from them that only God can give? Do we try to do something for others that only God can do? So many times we have a tendency to wait for others to make the first move. Or do we want a guarantee that by our acts of grace there will be something good for us? When we have freely received from our Heavenly Father then we can freely give in grace because we are not dependent upon them and their response for our identity. This allows us to treat others as we would have them treat us regardless of how they treat us. When out lifeline is attached to God we do not have to depend on a lifeline attached to others.

Our relationship with God always comes first and then we treat others the way we want to be treated. It is then that we will be acting towards others as God wants us to treat our fellowman. This summarizes the teachings of the law and the prophets. To practice this in a truthful way we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Our love and devotion towards our God is reflected in our attitude towards others. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:2-21) It is the work of the Holy Spirit to fill the measure that we cannot do for ourselves. The Holy Spirit loves others through us.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, July 4, 2016

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