Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1.14-15

That’s how Jesus began His ministry among us, by preaching about the kingdom of God. This is a bigger theme of His ministry than what most have noticed. And its importance to Jesus is reflected in this: Of all the items for prayer that He could have included in His model for prayer, He included a petition about the Father’s kingdom.

Thy kingdom come. Matthew 6.10

This morning we’re going to take a look at this petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Since the theme of the kingdom of God isn’t well known we’re going to start by spending some time exploring it. And to do that, as is so often the case, we need to go back to the Garden.

Listen to how God described what life was to be about for Adam and Eve.

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Genesis 1.26

The word that I want to look at here is ‘dominion’. Adam and Eve were granted dominion over creation. What does this dominion mean? It’s about lordship. Adam and Eve were created as lords over creation. They were to rule. And they were to do that in such a way that all the possibilities that God had built into His creation would come to full expression. God gave Adam and Eve a kingdom to rule - under His authority and for His glory. This was a kingdom that was to start in the Garden and spread from there until it filled all of creation. The kingdom of God.

But then, sadly, they sinned. And that ruined everything. As a result, they were exiled from that kingdom, the Garden, no longer to have dominion over creation as God had intended. You could say that they were dethroned.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the world was not ruled by anyone. Actually, there was a usurper who seized rule. He set up his own kingdom. And humanity yielded to his rule and followed him as their lord. And, of course, I’m referring here to Satan.

Listen to how Scripture labels him.

Jesus said,

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.  John 14.30

And note how Paul describes Satan and his demons.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness… Ephesians 6.12

There was still a kingdom after Adam and Eve forfeited their roles as rulers. But it was no longer God’s kingdom. It was Satan’s kingdom. Our first parents had lost the kingdom of God, and Satan took over. He built quite a kingdom, enslaving to his rule almost all of humanity.

But then, Jesus shows up. And what is His message? Most assume that His message was about the cross, that He preached the gospel of His death and resurrection. But was that what happened?

Listen to how Matthew describes what Jesus did.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom… Matthew 4.23

Jesus came to re-establish the kingdom of God. The cross was not a goal but a means to a goal. It was the means to restoring the kingdom. Consider what so many of His parables were about. They were descriptions of different aspects of the kingdom of God. The parables of the sower, of the weeds, of the mustard seed and many others - what are they about? They are all about the kingdom. Jesus taught about the kingdom much, much more than He taught about the cross.

This explains Satan’s temptations of Jesus. Consider this one.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4.8-9

Satan offered Jesus the rule of all the nations. He offered Him a kingdom. It would be just like Adam and Eve in the Garden - except Jesus would rule to the glory of Satan.

Take all this and listen again to how Matthew ends his Gospel.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. ​Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28.18-19

Having defeated Satan at the cross and the empty tomb, Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father. He has regained the lordship over all of creation that Adam and Eve had lost. Jesus is the new Adam, and He rules the kingdom of God.

So, as Matthew has written, Jesus tells His apostles, and the Church they led, to spread the news to all the nations about the new ruler. Jesus is Lord.

Jesus began to restore that kingdom while He walked this earth. He will complete that restoration using us, His Church. His return will occur when that restoration is complete. The ministry of Jesus, from beginning to end, is about the kingdom of God.

All of that was background so that you can understand what Jesus wants you to pray: Thy kingdom come. We are to pray that the work that Jesus began in re-establishing the kingdom of God would be completed, that the kingdom in its completed fulness would come.

This helps to explain the work of the Church. It is about more than getting a bunch of people into heaven. It is about retaking the world from Satan and those who are with him. It is about conquering so that

at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2.10-11

And Paul describes what happens when all the conquering is over.

Then comes the end, when [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15.24-26

The kingdom of God is to be fully restored under Jesus’ authority. Every opposing Satanic rule will be destroyed. And then, even death is destroyed. And that’s when Jesus’ mission is complete. That’s when the kingdom of God has come.

This explains what you are doing when you pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’. You are praying that that final day of Jesus’ complete conquest and full kingdom restoration would arrive.

So, do I end here by simply telling you to pray those words? Clearly not, because prayer is so much more than saying the right words. Prayer is to be an expression of the heart. For a Christian to properly pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’, those words need to come from a heart that is yearning for this work of Jesus, this restoring of the kingdom, to be completed. It is to come from a heart that longs to see the Father once again enjoy His kingdom.

And this is where there is a problem. When you look at the Church in America, there isn’t the longing for that day that there should be. And why is that? It’s because far too many Christians are far too rooted in this life instead of the life to come, in this world instead of the world to come. And so, God’s kingdom can wait.

Listen to how John reacted to this sort of living.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2.15-17

I remember talking with a Christian some time ago about Jesus’ return. In response to what I said, she told me that it will be great when Jesus returns, but she would like it if He were to wait until after her daughters were married. She didn’t want to miss out on that. God’s kingdom can wait.

There are too many ways in which the saints can be so very tied to this life. Few understand and imitate John’s passion when he ended Revelation with these words.

Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22.20

There are those who misunderstand this desire for His coming. They see it simply as escape. Life is too hard, so pray for Jesus to return so that the difficulties will end. But that’s not what’s going on. That’s not what John’s passion was about. It’s about seeing Jesus’ mission completed so that the Father will be honored as He deserves. It’s about seeing the kingdom come to the glory of God the Father.

So, what are we to do so that we can pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’, and do that in the way that it needs to be prayed? We need to pray for our praying. We need to pray for a passion for His coming so that, like John, we can plead, with great feeling, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.

A big part of that is to pray that we would see the allurements of this world for what they are, things that are passing away, things that will be replace by what is better, much better. Does anyone really think that the joy and happiness of something like a wedding can happen only here?

At the heart of this is praying for a renewed mind to understand reality more accurately. That’s what John was talking about when he wrote about the foolishness of loving the world. That comes from a lack of understanding reality, a lack of understanding that such things do not satisfy and are fading away.

It is as we understand reality, as we understand this world and this life for what they really are, as we understand the Gospel of the kingdom, that there will be a passion to see Jesus finish His mission and return. It is when people see reality clearly that things change.

Paul understood that.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… 2 Corinthians 10.4-5

Satan has been busy deceiving people with his lies so that they cannot see reality. Their thinking has been twisted. The gospel of the kingdom spreads as thoughts that were once foolishly rebellious are taken captive, taken captive to obey Jesus as Lord of the kingdom.

And this change starts with us, with our thoughts. And that ‘us’ includes the kids here. They need to be trained so that their every thought is captive to obey Jesus. They need to see the reality of this world and the reality of the kingdom.

Now, how does this warfare that Paul wrote about happen? What does it look like? John was given a magnificent image of these battles.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. Revelation 19.11-16

Here is Jesus, and He is leading the armies of heaven. He is making war on the nations, those who rebel and reject God’s kingly authority. And what is His weapon? As Paul wrote, it is not of the flesh. John describes a sharp sword. But notice where it comes from: His mouth. Jesus’ weapon is His Word. Paul calls this ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’. Nations are conquered as thoughts are taken captive by the Word. The gospel of the kingdom conquers as the Word of God is spread. And that is what has been happening for the last two thousand years.

Jesus is spreading His Word by preaching and other forms of proclamation. But also He has another way that His Word is spread. He also uses changed lives, the changed lives of those whose thoughts have been taken captive.

There is a passage in the Bible that has fascinated me for the longest time. It’s from Peter’s second letter in a section where he is teaching about the end of this world.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… 2 Peter 3.11-12

What has stood out to me is that how we saints live can hasten the coming of the day of God. How we live can make it happen sooner. I find that mind-boggling. But there it is.

And Peter picks a couple words to describe the kind of living that he has in mind, holiness and godliness. Remember that holiness is about being special, set aside, different. And godliness is about being devout.

So, it is as we lead lives that are different from those who live for the sake of this world, as we lead lives of heartfelt devotion to Jesus that we hasten the day when Jesus’ mission to restore the Father’s kingdom is completed. This is part of our role in the coming of the kingdom.

So, let me pull this together. What are you to do? Well, that’s obvious. You are to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’. But understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to pray that. So, as part of your prayers you are to pray that you would believe the part of the Gospel that is about the kingdom. You are to pray that you would see reality more and more clearly, the reality of this world and the reality of the kingdom. You are to pray that you would be changed, that you would lead a life of holiness and godliness. And you are to pray these things so that when you pray the words, ‘Thy kingdom come’ you’re praying them in the way Jesus means for you to pray them. You are to pray these things so that you can say with the passion and understanding that John had, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’