This week I did a little “google research” on campaign promises—things people who wanted to become President—people who wanted to be in charge—said they would do if they were elected.
- For example, in 1928 at the height of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover said if he were in charge of the country there would be economic prosperity. Do you remember his promise? “There will be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”
- In 1964 Lyndon Baines Johnson promised peace in Vietnam if he were elected. He said, “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” Of course, he did not keep this promise.
- In 1976 Jimmy Carter promised, “I will never lie to you.” After the Watergate scandal people hungered for honesty in their leader—and Carter was elected.
- In 1996, Bill Clinton promised that if he were in charge, the era of big government would be over.
- In 2012 candidate Herman Cain promised to veto any bill longer than 3 pages. I kind of like that one!
- Newt Gingrich said if he was elected—if he was in charge—there would be a colony on the moon by 2020.
- John Edwards promised to cure diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s
- Dan Quale promised if he were in charge American schools would put out the best educated people in the world
- Hilary Clinton promised that if she were elected everyone would know who wears the pantsuits.
- A man named “Vermin Supreme” promised everyone a pony.
No doubt if you were in charge—if YOUR will would be done—you would have your own ideas as to what you would do. I bring this up because today as we continue our study of the Lord’s Prayer that Kevin began last week—we come to a part where Jesus said that anyone who wants to grow spiritually—anyone who wants to SOAR toward Christlikeness—should learn to pray for God to be in charge—for His kingdom to come—for His will to be done. Take your Bible’s and turn with me to Matthew chapter 6. Follow along as I read these words in verses 9-10.
9 – “This then is how you should pray, ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name,
10 – Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
One thing that people find confusing about this part of the prayer is the fact that Jesus taught that the KINGDOM OF GOD or the RULE OF GOD both HAD come but WAS still yet to come. To put it another way He said that God was in charge—and that in the future God would finally be in charge.
In His very first recorded sermon Jesus said, “Repent for God’s KINGDOM has come NEAR.” (Matthew 4:17) Then, later, Jesus said that, with His coming, God’s reign was no longer near—but had actually descended upon the earth. But Jesus also said that God’s kingdom wouldn’t come with power and authority until His second coming at the end of the age. So, which is it? Has the Kingdom of God come or is it yet to come? Well if you were to ask me to give you the correct answer to this question I would say, “YES!” because through Jesus, God’s kingdom has come and is also yet to come!
If you feel a theological headache coming on, picture it in your mind like this: In Jesus’ first coming, He ESTABLISHED God’s Kingdom on earth. He opened the doors, inviting people to come into His Kingdom by trusting in His vicarious death and resurrection. In fact, Jesus said that He was the only Way anyone could get into God’s Kingdom. Do you remember His warning to ole Nicodemus? In John 3 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. No one can see—no one can experience—the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And when He said “born again” Jesus was referring to the spiritual birth we experience through faith in Him. In John 14:6 He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.”
So, God’s kingdom reign was ESTABLISHED through Jesus’ first coming as His future kingdom reign somehow invaded the present. Yet it is only when Jesus comes again at the end of the age when God’s kingdom reign will be CONSUMMATED in power. Only then will God’s kingdom reign be fully, completely established in the sense of abolishing evil and vindicating good. Only then will an ultimate sense of accountability be brought to all people, as every human being stands before the Creator of the universe and gives an account. Only then will every tongue confess and every knee bow.
So, the answer is YES—the Kingdom of God both HAS come and IS coming. Right now—you and I live in between the first coming and the second coming of Jesus in what is referred to as “the Church Age.” Or, to put it another way, we live in a time of tension between the ESTABLISHMENT of God’s kingdom and the CONSUMMATION of God’s kingdom.
Some Bible scholars call this a tension between the “already” aspects of God’s reign—and the “not yet” aspects of God’s reign. For example, Timothy Peck writes, “Through Jesus our sins are already forgiven—yet because of the ‘not yet’ we still struggle with the power of sin in our lives. Through Jesus our salvation is already guaranteed and we’re promised complete healing and restoration when Christ comes again, but because of the “not yet—our bodies still get sick and we still struggle with doubts and fears.”
In this “in between time” we know God—we know our Abba—but not fully—not clearly—not completely. As Paul put it, right now we “See through a glass darkly.” In this, THE CHURCH AGE, the powers of evil and darkness have been defeated by Jesus through His death and resurrection, but because of the “not yet” there’s still evil in the world. I mean, the devil is defeated—he’s on a leash—but it’s a long one. So, when we pray “Your kingdom come” we’re not asking for the “already” part—we’re looking forward to the “not yet” part. As Ortberg puts it we are praying, “God we want your ‘up there’ to come down here.”
Now, God’s “KINGDOM” and God’s “WILL” are both referred to in this part of the Lord’s Prayer and we need to understand that they are basically the same thing—but we look at them from two perspectives. As Peck puts it, we should “think of God’s KINGDOM as the BIG PICTURE perspective, like a telescope looking at the galaxies—God’s saving reign over all of His creation—the entire universe from the perspective of Christ’s work being applied and God’s plan fulfilled. Think of God’s WILL as looking at the same thing from a smaller perspective—like a microscope. God’s WILL is His reign in a SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCE OF LIFE—like an individual’s response to some situation.” So essentially the phrases “God’s KINGDOM” and “God’s WILL” refer to the same reality but from slightly different angles.
Now, living out our lives in this “in between—not yet” time—looking back to the triumph of the cross and the empty tomb and forward to Jesus’ return when God’s reign will be consummated—well this means there is a sense in which we live behind enemy lines—in occupied territory. We are kind of like the people who lived in occupied France during WWII in the days between D-Day and V-Day. I mean, the “invasion” has taken place but complete victory is yet to come. You see, at the moment there are two kingdoms and the kingdom that’s in operation right now doesn’t like the kingdom that’s coming. In these last days Satan runs most things—so when you pray this prayer sincerely get ready for war! Get ready to be noticed as you pray for God’s kingdom to come. It’s like trying to live in Berlin and operate against the rule of Hitler. I mean Adolph didn’t like it when he found out that people like Rommel and Bonhoeffer were working against his purposes—which is why he ended their lives.
In his classic book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis talked about this aspect of the Kingdom and said, “Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed in disguise and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” And there is indeed a sense in which to pray this part of the prayer is to engage in an act of sabotage. It’s calling for the overthrow of the evil being that believes he is in charge. I don’t know about you—but it makes me want to pray like this all the time. I like being a subversive agent working against the powers of darkness! I like asking my Abba to come and show Satan who’s REALLY boss! Andrew Murray wrote, “The children of the Father are here in the enemy’s territory, where the kingdom, which is in Heaven, is not yet fully manifested. What is more natural than when they learn to hallow the Father-name, that they should long and cry with deep enthusiasm, ‘Thy kingdom come.’”
My goal this morning is to help you understand that when we pray in this way, not only are we acting like members of the French resistance in WWII—we are also affirming three very important things.
(1) For example—we are saying we believe God’s will must always come FIRST.
We are stating that we are committed to doing what GOD wants us to do—instead of what WE want to do. This part of the prayer is a way of saying, “In my life Your will—Abba—Your will comes FIRST. Your will comes before mine.”
You know, so often we begin our prayers with a list of requests that are meant to satisfy OUR WILL—our desires. We plop to our knees and tell God we want a promotion at work or a pay raise or an illness cured or some difficult issue resolved. Max Lucado writes, “We typically say our prayers as casually as we’d order a burger at the drive-through: ‘I’ll have one solved problem and two blessings, cut the hassles please.’” But that is not how to BEGIN talking to the one True God is it? The Abba Whose name we have just hallowed! I mean, we don’t say, “God, You are great! Now—gimmee gimmee gimmee.”
Of course, we should bring God our petitions—but that is not where we START. No, meaningful, effective prayer begins with a commitment to do GOD’S WILL. You see, when we say, “Thy kingdom come” we are inviting the Messiah Himself to walk into our world. We’re praying, “Come my King! Take Your throne in my land. Be present in my office—my marriage. Be Lord of my family–my fears my finances—my relationships.” It’s an invitation for God to expand His rule over the territory of our hearts. It’s embracing the kingdom of Christ in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. We’re saying whatever God wants comes first—even if that means hardship for us. We’re saying, “My life is not my own. I belong to the Abba Who loves me.”
And, not to get ahead of myself in this study, but this is the way we END our prayers as well. Using the word, “Amen” is more than a way to say, “That’s all God. I’m signing off.” No—this word literally means, “My it be so in accordance with the will of God.” Hank Hanegraaff writes, “The word ‘AMEN’ is a marvelous reminder that any discussion on prayer must begin with the understanding—that prayer is a means of bringing us into conformity with God’s will, not a magic mantra that ensures God’s conformity to ours.”
And Jesus not only TAUGHT us to pray this way—He MODELED it as well. Remember His passionate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? Three times He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” That night, as omniscient God in the Flesh, Jesus knew what lay ahead. He knew He was about to experience suffering and agonizing death at the hands of professional Roman executioners. He knew He was about to experience the judgement of God on the sinfulness of all mankind. He knew He was about to be alienated from His Abba—as well as His friends and family—and so, He cried out to the Father for another way, some other method to accomplish the same goal—some other way to offer forgiveness and restoration to the human race. Yet He concluded His prayer by saying, “Not My will—but Thine be done.” This is the way we must learn to pray. For life to work best, we must honestly pray, “YOUR Kingdom come, YOUR will be done in my life—You be in charge—even if that means hardship.”
Richard Baxter, a great Puritan thinker and writer, understood this principle of discipleship well. I say this because he used to write these words whenever he was asked to sign one of his books: “Lord, WHAT Thou wilt, WHERE Thou wilt, and WHEN Thou wilt.” In other words, “Whatever, wherever, whenever—Your will comes FIRST.” Now begin to think about that. What could God do through your life if you were fully, totally, completely, unreservedly, immediately available to do whatever He asked you to do? How would your life change if you invited—REALLY invited—His kingdom in—if you really put His will FIRST?
(2) A second thing we are saying whenever we pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s will is BEST.
We’re saying we believe God knows better than we do when it comes to our eternal good and His eternal glory. He knows what furthers His eternal kingdom better than we do. We’re saying “God, I trust how You choose to answer all my requests. This is what I want—what I think I need—but I trust You and believe you see this situation far more clearly than I do. So, I want YOUR will because I believe it is BEST.”
Charles Swindoll tells the story of a young man who farmed a little piece of land with his dad.
Several times a year father and son would load up an old ox-drawn cart with vegetables and go into the nearest city to sell their produce. Now—other than their name and the patch of ground, father and son had little in common. The old man believed in taking it easy. The boy was usually in a hurry—more of the go-getter type. One morning very early, they hitched up the ox to the loaded cart and started on the long journey. The son figured if they walked faster, kept going all day and night, they’d make market by early the next morning. So, he kept prodding the ox with a stick, urging the beast to go faster. When he did this his father said, “Take it easy, son, you’ll live longer.” The son argued, “But if we get to the market ahead of the others, we’ll have a better chance of getting good prices.” Four hours and four miles down the road they came to a little house. The father smiled and said, “Here’s your uncle’s place. Let’s stop in and say hello.” “But we’d lost an hour already!” complained the hot-shot know-it-all son. The father answered slowly—patiently, “Then a few more minutes won’t matter. My brother and I live so close, yet we see each other so seldom.” The boy fidgeted and fumed while the two old men laughed and talked away an hour. Then when they were finally on the move again, the man took his turn leading the ox. As they approached a fork in the road, the father led the ox to the right. “The left is the shorter way,” said the son. “I know,” replied the old man, “But this way is much prettier.” “Have you no respect for time?” the young man shouted. “Oh, I respect it very much!” his father said, “That’s why I like to use it to look at beauty and enjoy each moment to the fullest.”
The winding path led through graceful meadows, wild flowers, and along a rippling stream—all of which the young man missed as he churned within, boiling with anxiety. He didn’t even notice how lovely the sunset was that day. Twilight found them in what looked like a huge, colorful garden. The old man breathed in the aroma, listened to the babbling brook, and pulled the ox to a halt. “Let’s sleep here,” he sighed. “This is the last trip I am taking with you!” snapped the son. “You are more interested in watching sunsets and smelling flowers than making money!”
“Why, that’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me in a long time,” smiled the dad. A couple of minutes later he was snoring—as his boy glared back at the stars. The night dragged on slowly, the son was restless. Before sunrise the young man shook his father awake. They hitched up and went on. About a mile down the road they happened upon another farmer—a total stranger—trying to pull his cart out of a ditch. “Let’s give him a hand,” whispered the old man. “And lose more time?” the boy exploded. “Relax son. You might be in a ditch yourself sometime. We need to help others in need. Don’t forget that.” The boy looked away in anger. It was almost eight o’clock that morning by the time the other cart was back on the road. Suddenly, a great flash split the sky. What sounded like thunder followed. Beyond the hills, the sky grew dark. “Looks like a big rain in the city,” said the old man. “If we had hurried, we’d be almost sold out by now” grumbled the son. “Take it easy, you’ll last longer and enjoy life so much more” counseled the kind old gentleman. It was late afternoon by the time they got to the hill overlooking the big city. They stopped and stared down at it for a long, long time. Neither of them said a word. Finally, the young man put his hand on his father’s shoulder and said, “I see what you mean, dad.” Then they turned their cart around and began to roll slowly away from what had once been the great City of Hiroshima—now a radioactive wasteland.
Well, when we pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,” we are saying we believe what this impetuous son learned—that our HEAVENLY FATHER’S WILL—ABBA’S TIMING—is BEST.
(3) And then finally, when we pray these words we are saying, we believe that one day God’s kingdom will come at LAST.
We are saying, we believe in God’s purposes—We believe in His eternal plan. We’re affirming our conviction that someday—perhaps in our lifetime—Jesus will return—and when He does, God’s Kingdom will finally come in all its fullness. We are saying we believe God’s purposes will prevail—that He will “WIN” in the end. In fact, this conviction is what keeps us going as saboteurs living behind enemy lines. This is why missionaries like the Lees, and the Tiedemanns and Tara Lohwater serve in nations where it is illegal to share the Christian faith. They believe their sacrifice is worth it because in the end we will win.
Like you I’ve watched the horrible images that continue to come out of Houston. I’ve seen streets turned into rivers—filled not with cars—but with boats going back and forth to rescue people from the rising waters. I’ve heard the stats of how many thousands of people were saved by helicopters flying non-stop and by huge trucks that are higher than the water is deep going up and down streets and allies—working tirelessly to get people to safety. I’ve heard of churches opening their doors to flood victims and of a furniture store owner inviting people in to sleep on all the couches and recliners in his showroom. I’ve heard of celebrities donating millions to the relief effort. I saw how a picture of the elderly in a nursing home sitting in water up to their chests led to boats almost instantly coming to their aid getting them high and dry. Why do all these people do these things? Why not just give up and let things take their natural course?
There are many reasons but mainly they do all this because they believe in their cause. Houstonians like Beth Moore and Dennis Quaid believe their city will recover. They believe all the hardship and sacrifice will pay off in the end.
Well, when we pray this part of the prayer we are saying we believe that all the things we do for God behind enemy lines are worth it. We’re saying we believe that as 2nd Corinthians 4:17 says, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” We’re saying we believe we really can make an eternal difference. We’re saying we believe God’s Kingdom both comes whenever we do his will—and WILL come someday in its fulness!
Well, let me ask you—do you live like you believe in what we are doing as a Christian? Do you believe someday it WILL be worth it all? Do you believe that when we live for Jesus we are doing things that are ETERNALLY significant? I for one don’t think we can live the Christian life otherwise. In my mind, this is the only way we can keep on going—the only way we can keep working counter to the enemy’ purposes. This is what makes the struggles of life in this fallen world worth going through!
Friends, we must believe that someday—maybe not in our lifetime—but someday God’s kingdom reign will be fully consummated. One day we will stand before Jesus and—if we persevere—He will say, “Well done! Well done thou good and faithful servant!”
Now—to motivate you to keep going I want to remind you what it will look like when God’s kingdom comes in all its fullness—when Heaven literally comes down in all its glory. And to paint this picture I want us to “look” at a few of the images of God’s coming kingdom that we find in Scripture. My goal is that after we do this, we’ll be able to pray with intelligence and excitement and genuine longing, “Abba—Your kingdom come!!!”
First—the prophet Amos says that when God’s kingdom comes in all its fulness, “the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.” (Amos 9:13)
Now, this was written in a semi-desert context. The people who lived there would reap and then have to wait a long time for the rains to come again before they could plant once more. Well, there won’t be that kind of waiting in Heaven. No—in that Kingdom there will be the kind of abundance we would have here if the land was so fertile—that the one who harvests bumps into the one who plants because everything just keeps growing. Revelation 7:16 affirms this by saying that on that day there will be no more hunger or thirst. Think about what that would look like! No more pictures of little children with swollen bellies. No more stories of entire people groups suffering because they don’t have clean water to drink.
Isaiah 2:4 tells us MORE about what that kingdom will look like. It says that God, “will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” So, when God’s kingdom comes there will be no more war—no more fighting—no more ballistic missile tests—no more hatred, so swords and guns will be obsolete. We’ll beat them into plowshares! And with ground that fertile, we’d need a lot of plowshares! One writer put this in modern terms by saying, “Intercontinental ballistic missile silos will be converted into training tanks for inner-city kids to learn scuba diving in.”
But basically, this word picture tells us that there will be no such thing as enemies when God’s kingdom comes! As Isaiah 11:6-9 says, on that day, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion, and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” God is using Isaiah to paint a picture of a Kingdom of true peace. After thousands of years of wars and rumors of wars—of conflict between races and spouses on this fallen earth—peace—REAL peace will come in Heaven! Doesn’t that sound wonderful!!!
God’s kingdom will also be a place where our hunger for beauty will be satisfied. John refers to this in his vision of the city of God when he says, “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Rev. 12:21) It will be a place where there is beauty everywhere. The creative genius that God has placed in people made in His image, the image of the Creator, would blossom and flourish, and every day will be a masterpiece—just beauty. The drawings little children give to their parents to hang on the refrigerator would each be a work of art like something from Michelangelo or Rembrandt or Picasso. Actually, they already look like something from Picasso, but then they will look like Michelangelo or Rembrandt.
And—there will be no more fear in God’s eternal kingdom. Revelation 21 says, “On no day will [Heaven’s] gates be shut because there is no night there.” In John’s day of course there were no electric lights so night was a time of vulnerability, a time when crimes were committed, a time of fear—but in Heaven those days will be over. No more locked doors; no gated communities; no security systems; you’ll never lose your keys because you won’t need any.
And—God will redeem family life in His kingdom. In Luke 1:17 it says, “And He will turn the hearts of the father to their children” No more separations, divorces, affairs, abuse, neglect.
And then my favorite part—as Revelation 21 says, God will be with us. “He’ll pull us close and wipe away our tears. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” Wouldn’t you want to live in a kingdom like that—no more Kleenex—no more funeral homes?! Ortberg writes, “Caskets will be turned into toy chests. Hearses will be converted into sports utility vehicles with names like ‘ETERNAL VOYAGER’ and ‘JEEP GRAND RESURRECTION.’” In short God’s kingdom will be a place of inexpressible joy. In fact, Isaiah 55:12 says that even, “the mountains and hills will burst into song and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Now—How will all these WONDERFUL things come about? What will make God’s WONDERFUL kingdom reign come? Well, it won’t be through economic growth. Wall Street won’t bring God’s kingdom to us. And it won’t come through politics. God’s coming kingdom is not affected by the number of red or blue states we have—so you can stop worrying about elections! I hate to pop your political bubble but the Kingdom of God has not arrived on Air Force One, and it never will.
So, how will it happen? Well Jesus says here that amazingly enough it starts with a thing called prayer. God’s kingdom comes a little closer every time one of His children says, “Father, THY WILL BE DONE—in my life.” Think about that. One day, years from now when we stand with God in His consummated kingdom we’ll be able to look back and see that the prayers of people like you and me—people who bent the knee and said, “God RULE my life.” We’ll see that prayers like this will have had more effect on furthering the Kingdom of God than anything else.
We’ll see that whenever we sincerely prayed THY WILL BE DONE, we did our part in making it come sooner.
Now I’ve enjoyed looking at all the Biblical images that help us to envision what it will be like when God’s kingdom comes—but as we come to our time of invitation, I want you to bring that image a little closer to home. I want you to take imagine what it would be like if you helped speed the coming of God’s kingdom. For example, what would it look like if you prayed, “Abba, Your will be done in my career?” What would it look like if you prayed, “Abba, Your kingdom come in my marriage?” How different would your relationship LOOK if as a husband or wife you really did submit to each other out of reverence to Christ? What would it be like if you prayed, “Abba, You be the king of my checkbook.” How would your bank statement change?
Teenagers, what would your life be like in the halls of your High School if you really let God be your king? I’m not talking about smiling as you get all the praise chorus words right at FUEL.
I’m talking about living the CHRIST life in the hardest place you can—in your schools in plain sight of your peers. How would your days in High School change if you quit living to please your friends and really made Jesus Lord? How would things change when it comes to the way you treat your siblings—your parents? What would happen if we prayed like that Gospel Singer did to the flood victims? Did you see that story? She sang, “God, LET YOUR KINGDOM come down here!” What would happen if we each prayed that in our individual lives?
Do you begin to get the PICTURE? Does it look good? If it does pray with me, “ABBA, THY KINGDOM COME! THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” If you meant that prayer—and if doing God’s will means making a public decision then do so by coming forward and sharing that decision with me as we stand and sing. Come and confess Christ as Savior and Lord. Come and join our church family—but come—respond as God’s will dictates.