“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your 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 your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)
1. Sin makes us ask selfishly. We actually ask for snakes and stones. Our parents used to deny us snakes and stones, because they knew they were bad things, but now they are happy to give us snakes and stones.
2. So, when we don't receive from God, we were probably asking for things that seemed like bread and fish but were actually snakes and stones. God knows all things, and he withheld the bad thing that we wanted.
3. So the problem of sin turns the Golden Rule on its head: we treat others badly, because we treat ourselves badly. We don't seek out God's kingdom and his righteousness. When it is offered to us, we reject it. God, however, knows what is good for us in the long run, and so he disciplines us with temporal suffering. Suffering helps us tell the difference between bread and stones, and fish and snakes.
4. What are good things? Psalm 84 tells us that the Lord is the source of
d. Eternal Life, and
e. The destruction of sin forever.
5. What is a good thing? James 1:17 tells us that every good thing
a. is perfect,
b. is a gift from above,
c. is from the Father of Lights, and
d. is without shadow or blemish.
6. How can this be? Because there is only one good thing, and that is God himself. Here is the Luke variant of the Matthew passage:
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)
Notice what is read as "good gifts" in Matthew is read as "the Holy Spirit" here. The Holy Spirit, the down payment of eternal life, is given to us on this earth, in this life. The Spirit guides us in distinguishing between bread and stones, fish and snakes, eggs and scorpions.
7. Look at Romans 8:26-39:
a. The Spirit shows us the difference between bread and stones, between fish and snakes.
b. The Spirit asks, seeks, knocks on our behalf.
c. God knew beforehand whom he was to give his Spirit.
d. He predestined us to have his Spirit.
e. The Spirit calls us awake from the dead.
f. The Spirit justifies us.
g. Finally, the Spirit glorifies us (eternal life + destruction of sin).
How do we know that God has done this? Because he gave us the life of his Son first. This historical event, this sacrifice of the Son for the forgiveness of sins: if we can put our faith in that, we can certainly put our faith in the "easier" act of God that he predestined us to receive his Spirit.
In conclusion, the rest of the Romans passage says it all better than I ever could:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.