Jesus made something very clear in His Sermon on the Mount. The things that are great treasures for the subjects in God’s Kingdom are very different from the treasures of this dark and fallen world. The true blessings of this life are the blessings of the Lord that come through humility, mercy, and meekness. Their efforts in life will be turned towards storing up their treasures in Heaven. Through this deep surrender to God, the followers of Christ will become like a light on a hill. They will shine the brightness of His Kingdom in the same way His breathtaking surrender on the cross has amazed the human race for two thousand years. And Jesus promised that as they seek His Kingdom first, He would take care of all the other needs of life like food and clothes.
To them the Lord said:
“‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives; He who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’”
Do you see how Jesus wants his disciples to pray…there is a sense of persistence and longing. He wants us to do it constantly and with full faith that He is listening and ready to answer! Dependent faith is the currency of Heaven…faith is trust, and trust shows we believe in the character of God even more than we believe in our current circumstances. This is a breathtaking challenge to us, but it is also the thing we need to break us free from our love of this world and the ways we want to create security apart from God. The Lord wants His disciples to keep on asking and keep on knocking in the tireless pursuit of God’s will. In the midst of this leaning into Jesus, we are developing the intimate, rich relationship that God wanted to have with us from the beginning.
Do you see how this kind of prayer is different from the kind of prayer He condemned earlier in His sermon? Before, He declared that God did not want to hear endless babbling and repetition of words. That is what people in the pagan religions did to try to get their demonic idols to do what they wanted. But the Lord wants to hear from His children as they speak from the heart. He wants them to come to Him with honesty and hope and confidence. Jesus went on:
“‘Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!’”
Do you see how God promises to answer? He compares himself to earthly fathers and says that He is far better. Compared to God, even the most wonderful father on earth is evil, but even evil fathers want to bless their own children with good things. How much more will God the Father, who is complete love and goodness, bless His children?
As followers of Christ seek His will with all their hearts, God will answer them. They will find themselves in His Kingdom, right where they belong, doing exactly what He has called them to do. He will even lead and transform their desires as they ask, seek, and knock so that they find their hearts longing for the things He has planned for them.
But we have to remember that when God decides what is best for us, He has the big, eternal picture in mind. He wants to use the things of this world to transform our hearts in preparation for the True Life, everlasting with Him in heaven. He will allow things we don’t like, He will withhold things we think we need, and He will work to transform the kinds of prayers we pray so that we become more and more like Jesus.
The Lord God, the Great High King, has wonderful plans for the subjects of His Kingdom. But He wants for us to come to Him. He wants a deep, loving relationship that is happening every day through prayer and obedience and blessing. He wants His children to be continually depending on Him with their needs and their requests. And in the midst of this tender, powerful relationship between the King and His beloved, they are meant to show God’s lavish love for one another.
This is what Jesus said next:
“‘So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’”
Doesn’t that sound like an amazing Kingdom? The King’s subjects are to do for each other the very things what they would want for themselves…the very things they might come to God for help with. It is the law of love. If you want to be treated with respect, that is your guide for how to treat others. If you would want others to be generous with you when you are hungry, that is how you will treat those who are hungry. Jesus said that it was this love that is the core truth behind the whole Law and all the Prophets in the Old Testament. Wow. It is what God wanted for the people of His Kingdom all along. It is the opposite of the way we demand our own rights, our own honor, and our own happiness.
The followers of Christ from every era need to ask and seek the Lord continually for the strength to live with the radical love God calls us to. It is the only way we can pull it off. There are only two options in life because there are only two Kingdoms we can live in.
As He ended His profoundly purifying Sermon, Jesus talked about the choice each believer has to make. In His first example, Jesus told about two different paths. One path leads to His Kingdom. The other is the path of God’s enemy, and it leads to darkness and death. Here is what He said:
“‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’”
Jesus made it very clear. There are only two roads in life. Humans must choose. The wide gate is a symbol for a life that rejects God. It leads to the broad path. It is the one most people take. They will find all the pleasures of sin and rebellion on that road, and they will have a lot of people agreeing with them along the way. Yet that road will lead them to the devastation of total separation from God.
The other gate is small and narrow. It has to be searched out by those who take it. It is a hard gate to enter because it requires humility. The flashy, shining, wide gate nearby tempts each person in different ways. For some it is the draw of honor and glory. For many it seems like the best way to a Kingdom of prestige and power. To others it is a road to safety, comfort, or pleasure. To reject it and choose to go through the small, hidden gate requires a surrender of one’s life to God. It may even lead to persecution. Yet that narrow path also strips away the compromise, deceptions, and bondage that keep us from being who God created us to be. It is the journey where we learn how to live out the best kinds of goodness, drawing on God’s strength to become creatures of greater virtue, strength, and beauty. And in the end, it leads to bright, powerful everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who enter the narrow gate must go by faith in the promises of God about where the path will lead. But those who have gone before us have testified by their lives and their words that it is all worth it.