This is unashamedly stolen from my pastor’s talk this morning at church, as I thought it was great. Needless to say, it will be my own slant on what I heard, and I have no doubt if another church member were to blog it, it would be more blogtastic.
So here goes. To ask properly we have to ask according to the promises. As it says in Matt 21:22 that what we ask for, believing, we will receive. If we don’t ask, it leads to us having more ‘needs’ and not having resources for other people. If we haven’t got resources to give to others, it’s because we’re not asking enough. The parable of the man banging on his friend’s door in the middle of the night is a picture of the Body of Christ.
Sometimes we’re not practiced enough in receiving. In Mark 10:15 Jesus says that unless we become like a little child we will by no means enter the kingdom of God. This is quite strong. Because Jesus was taking the children in his arms, it is likely that they were young children, under five. The disciples got it completely wrong by suggesting that Jesus didn’t have time for children. We also should not put stumbling blocks in the way of children getting to Jesus.
Children are a key to understanding the kingdom of God.
Childlike qualities that we need in order to receive properly from God include:
1. Children trust. They don’t worry about food or drink. Trust is inbuilt.
2. Children receive gifts with no sense of obligation.
3. Children have no sense of self-importance (which is not the same as self-worth). The disciples were moving in derived self-importance. How many times have you seen a bureaucrat puffed up with self-importance, making a lot of the little authority that they are attached to? Unfortunately, it also happens around great ministers in the Body of Christ. Jesus blew it out of the water here.
4. Children live in the present.
5. C hildren are dependent, and they’re comfortable with that. Adults are not comfortable with dependence. What society teaches is that we should be independent, time after time. We need to relearn dependence to receive the kingdom.
Receiving from God means receiving from people. If you can’t receive from people some of your provision is going to be cut off. Ingratitude will also cut off provision from God.
Read through Matt 6:25-34, on how to live without worry. A little child can live this passage naturally. They simply receive. They simply trust.
1 Pet 5:7-8 captures the tension between being childlike and being vigilant that we need to achieve. Much of the most useful revelation in the Bible is paradoxical. We cast our cares onto Jesus, because he cares for us, but we are also vigilant and alert, so that we do not fall prey to the devil.
Pride and independence keep many out of the kingdom of God.
Grace is such a stumbling block to getting into heaven. People would queue up if you had to do something. If we had to walk from England to Uzbekistan, there would be queues of people; there would be books written on how to do it. If you had to have a degree to get into heaven, so many would be signing up. But no, “just receive it like a little child”, and that is too demeaning, too offensive, to human nature.
In case you think you can get into heaven on your own merit, at the very start of the Bible, in the seedbed, Genesis, we read that blood had to be shed to cover Adam and Eve’s sin. God didn’t reject Adam and Eve’s makeshift fig-leaf covering because it wasn’t quite to his taste. We can cover ourselves up perhaps, so others can’t see our sin. But only GOD can cover our sin adequately – without blood there is no forgiveness of sin.
You cannnot opt in to salvation by your own methods. Only God’s provision will do.
In 1 Cor 4:7 Paul asks us what we have that we did not receive! There is way too much self-righteousness and too much judgementalism in the church. We need to discern this and guard ourselves from it. The message of the Bible is actually that we should conduct ourselves with grace, not in judgment. First, when we receive something judgmental, we come under that judgment. Secondly those who have passed the judgment are judged, as it says. Finally the people of God think in terms of judgment. Leave judgment to God. Judgment either makes us self-righteous, because our lives are better than the other Christians /non-Christians around us. Or it makes us timid, restricted, because we feel that we are inferior to someone else. Neither is correct.
All sin has been dealt with by Jesus on the cross. The only thing that separates me and you from the worst sinner on the planet – whoever that may be – is the blood of Jesus. The problem with 1 Jn 1:9 is that some preachers insert “If we confess our sin – and are truly sorry – God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Being sorry cannot be the basis of forgiveness. The basis of forgiveness is Jesus’ death. That is why it says ‘faithful and just’, because the Father is recognising the legal claim that we have through the blood of Jesus.
Rather than festering in sin, and ignoring God, we can get straight back into fellowship with God, just in the way that when you have told off a young child they will immediately run off and carry on with what they were doing. If you’re in sin, you are useless for the kingdom until you confess that sin. The Greek word for ‘confess’ is ‘homologiou’, which simply means agreement. You are agreeing with God that what you have done is sin.
If confession is not part of your daily structure then you’re not taking your sins seriously enough, because all of us mess up in thought and word, and probably deed, every day.
Self-righteousness for Christians is crass because of the cross of Christ. We’ve got to get right thinking about each other. We can correct, but we can’t judge.
If we can’t receive forgiveness, the chances are that we will not receive the rest of the kingdom of God. This is the first hurdle. Become like a child – become trusting, dependent, live in the present, receive gifts without feeling obliged or in debt (how could you pay Him back?!), confess self-importance and turn from it, and receive, receive, receive.